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Grading Canes’ first day of free agency

Recapping the Canes’ moves on the first day of free agency, which is always the busiest day of the year in the NHL.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The landscape in the Caniac universe shifted a lot on Wednesday, as the team went through some turmoil on the way to get to what should largely be considered a successful day for the franchise. They started off by acquiring Sharks defenseman Brent Burns in a deal that initially divided fans, before watching Ian Cole, Brendan Smith and Vincent Trocheck sign with opposing teams within minutes of the free agency window opening.

What’s sure to become a classic moment in Hurricanes fandom came a bit after all of that, though, when Mason Marchment became the quickest fan-favourite-turned-hated in team history. After multiple analysts reported that Carolina was signing him to a four-year deal and the parade started — he left as quickly as he arrived. The deal was never signed and he was hijacked by the Dallas Stars, leaving a Canes-career in the rearview that could rival that of Patrick Marleau.

However, the Canes (and the fanbase that was largely in shambles) were able to rebound from the Marchment disaster when the team made a couple of shrewd moves after the disappointment. They brought in an elite goal-scoring winger in Max Pacioretty, and also took a low-risk flier on a high-upside talent in Ondrej Kase. So let’s analyze the moves the Canes made on day one, and decide how much the group has improved.

Move #1: Acquired D Brent Burns and F Lane Pederson in exchange for F Steven Lorentz, G Eetu Mäkinemi and a 2023 third-round draft pick

Brent Burns: Adding Burns as the top offensive defender to replace Tony DeAngelo looks to be a solid move on paper. When the team was first linked to Burns in trade rumors, I was initially skeptical. After all, he’s 37-years old and has never been known to be a great skater, so I had some concerns with his pace being a fit in the Canes’ up-tempo system.

After some careful consideration, the acquisition of Burns has grown on me. I mean, he scored 54 points on a very weak and offensively inept Sharks team last season. In the Canes’ D core, he should be tasked with playing fewer minutes than he was in San Jose, and that’ll keep him fresh. On the ice, he’s a shot-heavy talent who moves the puck very well and can handle tougher defensive assignments than DeAngelo was able too.

He’ll run the top power play, and won’t hesitate to get the puck on net. Beyond that, he’s a guy who’s running out of opportunity in the NHL — at age 37, he’s on borrowed time. He’s sure to be extra motivated, and brings a wealth of experience into the locker room. Overall, I think he has the potential to be an improvement on TDA as a whole, even if he’s not the superstar-level talent that he once was.

Lane Pedersen: Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about this guy. He played 29 games for the Sharks last year, but was unable to find the scoresheet for more than just two assists. I feel like he’s strictly an AHL body, but the fact that he has prior NHL experience makes him a reliable call-up option in case of injury and he’ll provide a stable presence to the Chicago Wolves.

The Loss: Of course, losing Lorentz is tough considering how great of a kid he is and his energetic play style will surely be missed, but I don’t think he’s irreplaceable. Mäkiniemi is a really good prospect and has a bright future, but he was stuck behind Pyotr Kochetkov and this trade should give him a quicker route to becoming an NHL regular. The 2023 third-round pick is rather insignificant. The Canes added a ‘23 third rounder in the DeAngelo deal, and are already in a position where dealing picks for current help makes sense considering their wealth of prospects in the system.

Conclusion: Overall, it’s hard not to like this trade for the Canes. They didn’t give up anything of real significance from their main roster, and added a legitimate top-4 offensive defender in the process. Even with Burns counting for over $5M on the books, he’s a guy that should help move the group forward. The 3 years remaining on his contract is the loan risk in this deal, but he played the most minutes in the NHL last season and is showing no signs of slowing down yet.

Grade: A

Move #2: Acquired F Max Pacioretty and D Dylan Coghlan in exchange for future considerations

Max Pacioretty: I mean, what do I even need to say here? The Canes just added one of the best snipers in hockey for free. FREE. Pacioretty, even while dealing with some injury issues last season, managed to score 19 goals in 39 games and added 18 assists for 37 points. Nearly a point-per-game player and has scored at near a 40-goal pace for each of the last three seasons in Vegas. He’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

He has one year left on his deal and the Canes absorbed his entire $7M cap hit, but that’s the price you have to pay for a guy who offers what he does. In the Canes’ top six and on the PP1, if he stays healthy I genuinely think he has the chance to be the first Hurricane to score 40 goals since Eric Staal did it in 2009. He drives play, creates a ton of scoring chances and finishes as well as almost anyone in the league. Just an absolutely excellent addition to this roster.

Dylan Coghlan: I’m not too familiar with Coghlan, but he’s a 24-year old right-shot defender who played 59 games for Vegas last season. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has good size and from what I’ve heard has good skating ability. He’s probably a third-pairing D or even a seventh D at best, but he adds nice depth to the group and I refuse to believe he’s any worse than Brendan Smith or Ian Cole. He’s signed for the upcoming season at a league-minimum $762K cap hit, so this is a worthy flier to gamble on.

Conclusion: Losing the super star future considerations is tough, but that guy has been passed around more than a blunt at a high school party. — In all seriousness, this is a major win for the Canes. An elite goal-scoring winger and a capable depth defender, free of charge. It literally doesn’t get any better than this.

Grade: A+

Move #3: Signed forward Ondrej Kase to a one-year, $1.5M deal

Kase is a guy that I’ve really liked for a while. If you’re old enough to remember the Justin Faulk days, Kase was a guy that was widely rumored the be the potential centerpiece in a Faulk trade for Carolina. Obviously that never materialized, but I became familiar with the player during the process. He’s a speedy winger who has good hockey sense, slick hands and is creative with the puck. He’s also developed into a solid defensive winger, with good penalty killing metrics and a willing battler.

The lone issue with him is an extensive injury history, with prior concussions being a concern. He’s kind of been categorized in the same way that Jeff Skinner used to be — with observers saying that one more concussion could end his career. I’m not a medical expert so I can’t comment on that, and of course his health is the top priority. But if he can stay healthy and is committed to play, he can be a welcomed addition to the bottom six. He scored at a 23-goal pace in Toronto last season, is a right-shot, and has the versatility to play on both wings. It’s a high-upside flier that’s worth rolling the dice on.

Grade: B+


Even with the departures of Vincent Trocheck, Tony DeAngelo and potentially Nino Niederreiter having a large impact on the group, I think it’s fair to say the team has upgraded as a whole. Jesperi Kotkaniemi will go into trial-by-fire as the 2C, but he’s being equipped with legitimate top-six wingers that should give him a great chance at success if he’s up to the level. Jack Drury will also likely elevate to the NHL level, and he’s another young piece with a bright future and a lot of skills to offer in a bottom-six role. As a whole, the team looks to have taken another step forward on paper, and there’s still some potential moves to be made.