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Carolina Hurricanes Free Agent Targets: Defense

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Part two dives deeper in to the free agent class for the back end and some names the Canes may be interested in.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Much like with part one of this series, part two will focus on players the Carolina Hurricanes could potentially be interested in during the free agency period. Today we will focus on defensemen. The free agent market for the back end is not overwhelmingly sexy and truly only one really big name is available.

Please keep in mind that Tom Dundon and Don Waddell have already alluded that they are not in love with the idea of overspending in free agency. Therefore it is unlikely the Canes will make a big splash with some of these names. Some of the smaller names may not be the headline signing many fans want, but they are much more logical. Also, almost all of what the Canes try to do in free agency will depend on potential trades of players such as Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, and Noah Hanifin. Should any of these players be dealt it opens up a much stronger possibility that the Hurricanes would be more apt to go get a guy in free agency to replace what they lost. With all that being said, let’s dive in to the list.


NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson

  • Shoots: Right
  • Age – 28
  • NHL Seasons - 9
  • 2017-18 scoring– 82 GP, 15 G, 53 A, 68 Points
  • Career scoring – 608 GP, 77 G, 256 A, 333 Points
  • Previous Contract – 6 years, $3.966 Mil AAV

Much like John Tavares is the cream of the crop for potential free agent forward, John Carlson tops the market for defensemen. While he awaits his name being etched in to the Stanley Cup, Carlson will have to make a very tough decision on his future.

It is no secret Washington wants him back but they will struggle to afford him. The Caps only have $11 million left in cap space for next season with 10 total free agents, including many guys who really helped get them to the pinnacle. When asked about his future after the season, Carlson said “I love it here and all that. I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”

Enter a bidding war for the best available defenseman. He’s a right shot, scores like a elite defender, and logs lots of minutes. Should the Canes deal Justin Faulk then they absolutely should get in on the bidding war. He can step in from day one and be light years better offensively than any current Hurricanes defenseman and would be a major upgrade from Faulk defensively.

With Oliver Ekman-Larsson just signing an eight-year, $64 million extension, expect Carlson to get at least that if not more. Odds are very much against a guy like Carlson wanting to come to Raleigh when plenty of Cup contenders going after him should he reach the market. But should he get there, just like with Tavares, it makes no sense for the Canes to not throw everything they have at him. Maybe Justin Williams can convince another former Capital to come south?


NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Green

  • Shoots: Right
  • Age – 32
  • NHL Seasons - 13
  • 2017-18 scoring– 66 GP, 8 G, 25 A, 33 Points
  • Career scoring – 787 GP, 142 G, 322 A, 464 Points
  • Previous Contract – 3 years, $6 Mil AAV

The only other free agent defenseman that even comes close to Carlson is his former teammate Mike Green. The 32 year old was an All Star this past season and put up 33 points in just 66 games. He did however have cervical spine surgery in early April and missed the end of the year due to this injury. This is going to make some teams wary of whether his health is 100 percent.

There is no denying Green is one of the best offensive defensemen of the past decade dating back to his time in Washington. Twice putting up 70 plus points, there will be teams who will covet his services especially once Carlson signs somewhere.

For the Hurricanes, Green, like Carlson, would be an instant upgrade offensively over anyone they have and would easily replace Faulk should he be traded. He won’t cost as much as Carlson and could be lured to Raleigh with a little extra cash incentives, which the Canes can afford. CBS Sports says Green has been offered both one and two year contracts by Detroit to remain a Red Wing but most seem to think he will test the market for a longer deal. Should Faulk remain a Hurricane, then getting another right handed defenseman would make little sense for the Canes, so going after Green would be very dependent on the team’s plans for Faulk.


NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at New York Rangers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin de Haan

  • Shoots: Left
  • Age – 27
  • NHL Seasons - 6
  • 2017-18 scoring– 33 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 12 Points
  • Career scoring – 304 GP, 12 G, 69 A, 81 Points
  • Previous Contract – 1 year, $3.3 Mil AAV

After missing the majority of the 2017-18 season due to shoulder surgery in December, the big payday Calvin de Haan had hoped for this off-season likely will not occur. He will need to prove he still has the offensive promise he showed in 2016-17 when he put up 25 points. He’s also a career +26 on a notoriously bad defensive Islanders team.

A bridge deal for one or two seasons at a reasonable rate seems likely for de Haan. At only 27, he is one of the younger free agent defensemen available and would make sure up any teams top four assuming he’s healthy.

Raleigh would be a good fit for him to get back to form after his surgery. He can escape the bright lights on New York and focus on hockey. The Canes need more offense on the back end so taking a shot on de Haan could prove smart. Noah Hanifin has been rumored in trade talk and if he was to be traded the Canes would absolutely have to add another left handed defenseman for the top four. Haydn Fleury did little this past season to make anyone feel comfortable giving him a top four role so this scenario would create a perfect opportunity for a guy like de Haan to come in and fill the gap.


NHL: New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Hickey

  • Shoots: Left
  • Age – 29
  • NHL Seasons – 6
  • 2017-18 scoring– 69 GP, 5 G, 20 A, 25 Points
  • Career scoring – 409 GP, 22 G, 89 A, 111 Points
  • Previous Contract – 3 years, $2.2 Mil AAV

There was a time many people did not think Thomas Hickey would play 400 NHL games. The former 4th overall pick suffered a plethora of injuries battling his way in the AHL while in the Kings system. When he was claimed off waivers by the Islanders in 2013 his career was given new life. He’s since become a dependable defenseman who won’t win you over with flash, rather sturdiness. This past year he scored 25 points and was a +20. But it appears the Islanders, who are more focused on signing John Tavares, may be content with letting both de Haan and Hickey entering the free agent market.

Coming off his best offensive year he will be seeking a raise. Some in the New York community don’t believe he is worth the money he will want, but rest assured some GM will pay him. The case for Hickey goes back to the Hanifin deal. Like de Haan, Hickey could come in a fill a role vacated by a potential Hanifin trade. On a short term deal it may be worth a shot while the Canes wait for Jake Bean to develop.


NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

John Moore

  • Shoots: Left
  • Age – 27
  • NHL Seasons - 8
  • 2017-18 scoring– 81 GP, 7 G, 11 A, 18 Points
  • Career scoring – 447 GP, 32 G, 67 A, 99 Points
  • Previous Contract – 3 years, $1.66 Mil AAV

John Moore has had a career revitalization since arriving in New Jersey three seasons ago. After bouncing around between three previous teams, Moore settled in and became a key contributor on the Devils’ back end. He’s a second or third pairing defenseman who can provide some offense. He can also log a decent amount of ice time which would help relieve the burden put on Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.

Should the Canes not feel comfortable with Fleury playing every game or Trevor Carrick starting the year in the NHL as a number seven guy, getting another left handed defenseman makes sense. Moore has already said he wants to stay in New Jersey but for the right term and dollar amount he may be persuaded to come to Carolina.


NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Cole

  • Shoots: Left
  • Age – 29
  • NHL Seasons - 8
  • 2017-18 scoring– 67 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 Points
  • Career scoring – 405 GP, 20 G, 77 A, 97 Points
  • Previous Contract – 3 years, $2.1 Mil AAV

Ian Cole is probably best known for his time with the Ottawa Senators this past season. (If you don’t get the joke there, it’s okay.) Cole was a Senator for all of three days after the Penguins traded him to Ottawa in February. He was then dealt to the Blue Jackets where he finished the season. Quietly the two time Stanley Cup champion is in for a pay raise this season, which is why the Penguins traded him to begin with. He’s a steady defenseman who can log minutes. His offensive game isn’t the best but it isn’t the worst either.

Cole has made his intentions clear that he would like to stay with the Blue Jackets providing the right offer. However, he is willing to find greener pastures should a team come calling. He makes a lot of sense for Carolina should Hanifin be traded or if the team is not sold on Fleury.


NHL: Dallas Stars at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Hamhuis

  • Shoots: Left
  • Age – 35
  • NHL Seasons - 14
  • 2017-18 scoring– 80 GP, 3 G, 21 A, 24 Points
  • Career scoring – 1031 GP, 59 G, 284 A, 343 Points
  • Previous Contract – 2 years, $3.75 Mil AAV

Of all the free agent defensemen potentially available this off-season, few if any make more sense than Dan Hamuis. He is a veteran guy who can log a lot of minutes while providing a much needed voice in the locker room. Ever since Ron Hainsey was traded to Pittsburgh, the Canes’ penalty kill unit has suffered. The defensive core as a group was stumbled and appear desperate for a leader like Hainsey. It is clear Justin Faulk is not that guy despite his being named Co-Captain.

Hamuis is eerily similar to Hainsey when he first arrived in Carolina. He’s been around for 14 seasons and never won a Stanley Cup. He’s undervalued and can immediately upgrade a team in more ways than just on the ice. For a team desperate for leadership, Hamuis makes perfect sense and one has to think Rod Brind’Amour would love to have a veteran guy on the back end.


NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Andrej Sustr

  • Shoots: Right
  • Age – 26
  • NHL Seasons - 5
  • 2017-18 scoring– 44 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 Points
  • Career scoring – 318 GP, 10 G, 53 A, 63 Points
  • Previous Contract – 1 year, $1.95 Mil AAV

With the departure of Klas Dalhbeck to the KHL, the Hurricanes may be in the market for a depth defenseman. Andrej Sustr had a down year in Tampa and appears on his way out. He needs a change of scenery and Raleigh could be a good fit for the 6’7” 220lb right handed defenseman. He would bring some extra grit to the lineup and could easily be signed to a very affordable contract. This would also allow Roland McKeown another year to develop in Charlotte.


NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Falk

  • Shoots: Left
  • Age – 29
  • NHL Seasons - 8
  • 2017-18 scoring– 46 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Points
  • Career scoring – 269 GP, 3 G, 30 A, 33 Points
  • Previous Contract – 1 year, $650K AAV

Come on, admit it, this would be the second funniest addition the Hurricanes could make this off-season. Aside from acquiring Sebastian Aho from the Islanders, signing Justin Falk would drive John Forslund crazy. He’s a capable depth guy who can bounce between Charlotte and the seventh man spot in Raleigh. The bonus is if the Canes trade Justin Faulk they still have Justin Falk! Mr. Dundon, please make this one happen.


That concludes part two of the free agent target series. The final piece to this puzzle will address the goaltending options and there should be quite a bit to enjoy in that one. Feel free to drop a comment on who we missed for the list of defensemen!