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Offseason road map: Key dates and what they mean for the Hurricanes

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July is going to be a busy month for every team, the Hurricanes included.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Welcome to the Hurricanes’ offseason. The 2021 season included a lot of highs, including a division championship, but ultimately ended in disappointment with a five-game second-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Now the work begins on taking the next step to being a true Stanley Cup Contender. This will be a very important offseason for the Hurricanes, with a lot of key decisions to be made, as Brett outlined yesterday.

This offseason will continue to be a bit unconventional schedule wise due to the COVID-era shortened season before the NHL hopefully returns to a normal calendar, and, of course, the Seattle Kraken making their selections in the expansion draft will play a huge role in most decisions teams make.

We’ll have much more in-depth, individual looks at each of these in the coming weeks, but here’s a timeline of the key dates in this offseason and what they mean for the Hurricanes.

July 17: Deadline for teams to submit protected lists for 2021 expansion draft: As a reminder, teams can choose to either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. It’s possible the Canes go for the eight skaters option, but the first is much more likely.

The team has to protect Jordan Staal due to his no-move clause, and Martin Necas is exempt. The likes of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are locks to be protected. Alex Nedeljkovic, who looks like the Canes’ goalie of the future, will be protected.

The interesting spots will be the last couple forwards, and the last defenseman. Do the Canes extend Dougie Hamilton before the expansion draft and protect him? Do they protect Brady Skjei, who stepped up in the second half of the season and showed that he’s a key member of the blue line? Do they bet on Jake Bean’s potential and protect him?

The Hurricanes could also try to entice Ron Francis to take a player like Jake Gardiner, but that would likely cost them a premium asset such as a top prospect or draft pick.

July 21: NHL Expansion Draft - One of the unprotected players, most likely either Bean or Skjei, will be packing their bags and heading to Seattle.

July 23: First round of NHL Draft - Unless the Hurricanes trade it, according to our calculations, they will have the 26th overall pick this year. They’ll look to add another high-end player to their strong prospect pool, with the early returns on last year’s top pick, Seth Jarvis, already looking quite promising.

July 24: Rounds 2-7 of NHL Draft: The Canes are currently slated to make seven picks on this day, with one pick apiece in the second, third, fourth and sixth rounds and three in the seventh. For a team like the Hurricanes that is about to have to commit big chunks of cap space to its core players, hitting on draft picks and being able to cycle through players on entry-level deals is important. The team will need to land some future contributors on this day.

July 28: Restricted free agent/unrestricted free agent signing period begins: It should be noted that we don’t have the exact deadline date to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents, but it will be before the protected lists for the expansion draft are due.

The Canes have a number of key restricted free agents, including Svechnikov, Nedeljkovic, Bean and Foegele. Svechnikov and Nedeljkovic are the two biggest ones, with both likely headed for bridge deals. The Canes will get both done, but having them unsigned ahead of this date could at least open the possibility of an offer sheet.

UFA wise, Hamilton is obviously the big name. The Canes will likely have made their decision by now, and have either extended Hamilton, or they could be looking for a replacement (as with everything else, expect to see much more regarding the Hamilton decision on this corner of the Internet in the coming weeks).

Other UFAs include bottom-six forwards such as Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn and Cedric Paquette. The team could bring back one or two of them, but, as Brett pointed out, can’t and shouldn’t bring back all three. Trade deadline pickup Jani Haknapaa is also set to hit the market.

In net, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer both need new deals. If the Canes can’t re-sign one of them, they’ll need to find a new goalie partner for Nedeljkovic.

Addition wise, if the Canes have the cap space, they could use another goal-scoring forward.

This will be a busy offseason, with a lot of action crammed into the month of July. Be sure to stay tuned to Canes Country for much more pre coverage of each key event, plus live coverage when those days come.