The Carolina Hurricanes have been no strangers to roster turnover over the past few seasons, and I would expect that trend to continue this summer after a season where the team failed to meet (albeit lofty) expectations.
With the future of so many key pieces in question — including the likes of Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck and Tony DeAngelo, the Hurricanes are sure to continue the trend of cycling through effective players. Without further ado, let’s examine some potential options that could entice the team in free agency!
Filip Forsberg: I think it’s pretty apparent to any avid watcher of Hurricanes hockey last year, that the main biggest piece the team was missing was a pure, lethal finisher. Forsberg, who scored 40 goals last year, fits that mold. A right-shot winger with a wicked release and a nose for the net, he would be a seamless fit with a group where the likes of Teuvo Teravainen would be feeding him passes. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent next month; so he could come to Raleigh as a coveted “free” asset. The biggest question with Forsberg is price — he’ll surely command max-length term and a hefty AAV. He’ll be 28 in August, so he definitely has some good years left; it’s just hard to gauge just how many — and how many teams may be involved in the bidding war.
Nazem Kadri: Straight off the bat, let me say the chances of Kadri ending up in Carolina is extremely thin — but man, can you imagine a better fit? As a pesky, annoying do-it-all center, he would be an amazing fit behind Sebastian Aho in that 2C role. He’s coming off a career-best season and, despite facing his 32nd birthday in October, has shown zero signs of slowing down. He would bring a dynamic presence that the Hurricanes have lacked for years, and could play in all situations for the team. Unfortunately, he won’t come cheap and the competition for him will be fierce. He might be the best fit for this group on paper, but the presence of both Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the free agent market makes this signing an extreme longshot.
Valeri Nichushkin: If the Hurricanes are unable to sign Nino Niederreiter, I can’t think of a better replacement than Nichushkin. He’s 27 years old and has exploded as a player. He’s a physical force at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, and scored at a 33-goal and 70+ point pace this past season. He’s also been phenomenal in the Avs’ playoff run, with eight goals in 18 games thus far. He’ll surely cost more than Niederreiter in free agency, so the real question is whether he’s a legitimate upgrade for the increase in cost.
Vladislav Namestnikov: I’ve been saying for the past couple of years that I feel Namestnikov would be a great fit in the Canes system, as he’s a guy that plays a Brind’Amour-approved style. He can play both center and on the wing, he’s a fantastic penalty killer, a responible 200-foot forward and he does have skill. He’s a guy that can move up or down the lineup and fit in with skill guys, grinders or an energy role. He scored at almost a 20-goal pace last year as well. He’s a guy that can help in all situations and add some much needed depth scoring, without breaking the bank.
Andre Burakovsky: I feel like Burakovsky would be a seamless fit in a Canes’ system that plays with high speed and skill. My biggest worry about him if the effort level and consistency, so I feel like he could be a prime candidate to end up in RBA’s doghouse if he can’t work out the kinks in his game. But strictly when you examine the skillset — he scored 22 goals and scored over 60 points in Colorado this past season, and has been a valued offensive contributor for them over the past few seasons. He’d be a nice player to have, but as predominantly a playmaker — it’s fair to wonder if he’s too similar to the majority of the core that the group already has in place.
Josh Manson: At age 30, Josh Manson has grown into a rugged, reliable defender over the years. He’s 6-3 and 220 pounds, and has the versatility to play big minutes on the blue line even as a defensively-inclined player. A veteran of 475 NHL games, Manson has been a key piece to Colorado’s playoff run — which currently has them one game away from hoisting the Stanley Cup. My big reservation with Manson would be contract term — he’ll be 31 in October and has an extensive injury history. But if he would come at a contract length that you can live with — even if it means a higher AAV — I feel that he’d be a phenomenal addition to the Canes’ blue line.
Nikita Zadorov: As a towering 6-foot-6, 235-pound defenseman, I feel like Zadorov is exactly what the Canes need on the back end. He’s actually consistently physical and empowering, unlike the likes of Joel Edmundson, Jani Hakanpaa and Ian Cole that have failed to grow into that role over the past few seasons. His identity is solely as a physical force, who can kill penalties and play an honest game. If the price his right, he’s a guy that I think would really solidify the third pairing and bring the X-factor that the team has clearly been searching for.
John Klingberg: A right-hand shot who’s been an extremely effective offensive play driver over the course of his career, Klingberg could be a solution for a team that has had well-documented power play issues. He’s posted 374 points in 552 NHL games — which is fantastic production for a defenseman — but his biggest flaw over his career has been doing what his job entails — you know…defend. However, Jaccob Slavin would be the closest thing to a lock-down defender that Klingberg has played with in his career, so there’s a lot of potential for an elite pairing should those two be linked up together. But on the verge of his 30th birthday and coming off of what many considered to be a down year, it’s fair to wonder how much the Canes would be willing to dish out for the player.
Beyond these guys, the Canes will have plenty of options to improve their roster should they look to do so. Andrew Copp, Rickard Rakell, Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Janmark and numerous others also make sense for this group in one way or another. Beyond free agency, also the entire trade market available to explore. In what’s a very important offseason coming up for the Hurricanes as a whole, they’re sure to have ample options available at their disposal to improve their group this summer.