Carolina Hurricans Team Report
by Neil Becker
The Carolina Hurricanes made what could be classified as a gutsy off-season move when they signed former Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a lucrative offer sheet.
Kotkaniemi, who was selected by Montreal third overall in the 2018 draft, was a restricted free agent who on August 28th signed an offer sheet for one year at $6.1 million. This past season Kotkamiemi, who is only 21 years old, scored five goals and 20 points in 56 games. In his career, he has played 171 games and registered 22 goals along with 62 points. Perhaps a change of scenery can jump-start his career.
In adding some scoring depth and veteran leadership, Carolina in late July signed unrestricted free agent center Derek Stepan to a one-year contract valued at $1.35 million. Stepan, who was originally drafted 51st overall in the 2008 draft by the New York Rangers, has played 759 career games where he has scored 168 goals along with 485 points. Last year, he only played 20 games with the Ottawa Senators where he scored a goal and six points.
The biggest off-season move Carolina made came in the house when they re-signed 21- year-old Russian right-winger Andrei Svechnikov to a lucrative eight-year contract worth $62 million. Drafted second overall by Carolina in the 2018 Draft, Svechnikov is coming off a season that saw him score 15 goals and 42 points in 55 games. His best season came in 2019-20 when he registered 24 goals and 61 points.
Looking to shake up the goaltending, Carolina signed unrestricted free agents Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta to two-year contracts. Andersen, who spent the past five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, signed the two-year deal which is worth $9 million dollars. Last year Andersen was plagued with injuries as he played only 24 games where he posted a 13-8-3 record with a 2.96 GAA.
Meanwhile, Raanta, who is 32 years old signed a two-year $2 million dollar deal. Last year with the Arizona Coyotes, this veteran goalie posted a 5-5 record with a 3.36 GAA.
Carolina also signed goaltender Alex Lyon to a one-year two-way contract. Lyon spend the past five years in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. Last year, he played six games with the Flyers where he registered a 1-3-1 record with a 3.33 GAA.
Leaving Carolina is 33- year-old veteran free agent goalie James Reimer who in late July agreed to a two-year contract with the San Jose Sharks worth $4.5 million. He is coming off a season that saw him play 22 games and post a 15-5-2 record with a 2.66 GAA.
Another unrestricted agent goalie leaving Carolina is Petr Mrazek who signed a three-year deal worth $11.4 million dollars with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mrazek who last year missed a lot of time due to a thumb injury, competed in 12 games where he posted a 6-2-3 record with a .923 save percentage.
Last year back on October 22, 2020 goalie Antoine Bibeau agreed to a one-year two-way contract with the Hurricanes. During what was a shortened season, Bibeau posted a 5-2-1 record and a 2.49 GAA with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. His time with the Hurricanes organization proved to be short-lived as the free agent agreed on August 20, 2021, to a one-year, two-way contract with the expansion Seattle Kraken.
A familiar name coming back to the Canes organization is 27- year-old centerman Andrew Poturalski who in early August inked a one-year two-way contract with Carolina. Poturalski has played two NHL games in the 2016/17 season with the Hurricanes. Eventually, on July 2, 2019, he signed a one-year two-way contract with the Anaheim Ducks. Following two seasons with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls, Poturalski has come back as a free agent to the Canes organization.
Other forwards to sign one-year two-way contracts were right-winger Stefan Noesen, center Maxim Letunov, left-wingers Sam Miletic and C.J. Smith, right-winger Spencer Smallman and center Morgan Geekie.
Forward Cedric Paquette who played 38 games with the Canes signed on July 28, a one-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens for $950,000. Meanwhile, right-winger Sheldon Rempal and left-winger Brock McGinn became unrestricted free agents. Other unrestricted free agents include left-winger Max McCormick, right-winger Saku Maenalanen, center Drew Shore and right-winger David Gust.
Carolina signed in late July left-winger free agent Jordan Martinook to a three-year contract. Also, veteran left-winger, Josh Leivo signed a one-year contract worth $750,000 dollars.
On defence, the Canes made lots of moves including acquiring in late July Ethan Bear in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. The Hurricanes surrendered forward Warren Foegele. Bear, who is 24 years old, scored 2 goals and 8 points in 43 games last year with the Oilers.
Following last year’s training camp with the Ottawa Senators, defenceman Maxime Lajoie was traded to the Hurricanes. He was assigned to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves where Lajoie scored 6 goals and 21 points in 27 games. This past off-season the Canes signed him to a one-year two-way contract. Another defenceman who signed a one-year two-way contract was Josh Jacobs and Jalen Chatfield. Also coming to Carolina was veteran defenceman Brendan Smith who in July signed a one-year deal worth $800,000. Carolina made a big signing with defenceman Ian Cole who signed a one-year 2.9-million-dollar contract. They also made what could be looked at as controversial with the signing of former New York Rangers defenceman Tony DeAngelo for one year at a million dollars.
The biggest loss on the blueline was unrestricted free agent Dougie Hamilton who ended up signing a seven-year $63 million dollar contract with the New Jersey Devils. Last year the 28 -year-old scored 10 goals and 42 points in 55 games played.
It was recently announced that veteran Hurricanes defenceman Jake Gardner will miss the season due to back and hip surgery.
The big question heading into the new season is Anderson’s health and whether he could handle what should be a heavy workload. Also, the loss of Hamilton will definitely hurt the blueline. Still, expect Carolina to make the playoffs.