Justin Faulk, Alexander Semin, Eric Staal

Poll: Should the Hurricanes move a big name?

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The Carolina Hurricanes have missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, yet they have the bloated core contracts of a perennial contender.

The combined salary cap hits of Eric Staal ($8.25 million), Alexander Semin ($7 million), Cam Ward ($6.3 million), Jordan Staal ($6 million), Jeff Skinner ($5.725 million) and Justin Faulk ($4.83 million) make up a whopping $38.1 million in cap payroll for six players. Again, it would be easier to swallow that bitter pill if the Hurricanes were getting what they’re paying for, yet a good chunk of that money seems ill-placed … at least at the moment.

Carolina’s new management team seems comfortable with sticking with the status quo for now … but should they?

For the sake of fun, let’s ponder this question: who should the Hurricanes get rid of? In the interest of brevity, let’s eliminate Ward (who’d probably be a unanimous choice and carries negligible trade value) and Faulk (too early to really judge his contract compared to other options) from the equation and focus on the forwards.

Feel free to add nuance in the comments, but here’s an abbreviated case for/against moving each guy before you get voting:

Eric Staal – For: He’s really expensive and not quite worth the money. He’s failed to come through for “his team” for long enough that it might be time to part ways, much like Rick Nash with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Against: His trade value is at or around its all-time low.

Jordan Staal – For: The two-way center doesn’t score like most $6 million players are expected to. Against: He tilts the ice in Carolina’s favor quite a bit and might not grab value because of those aforementioned modest point totals.

Semin – For: Even his strongest proponents will admit that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. There are certainly a lot of people who seem to sour on the guy. Against: He still owns one of the deadliest shots in the game and the advanced stats tend to smile upon him, which would likely surprise his biggest detractors.

Skinner – For: He’s had some concussion issues and seems to leave a lot to be desired defensively. Against: His blazing offensive skills could leave the Hurricanes with post-trade regret (see: Seguin, Tyler).

Blow it up – Let’s consider this the “hit rebuild” option, in case you think Carolina should remove three or more prominent players (counting Ward and Faulk, if you feel that’s appropriate).

Stay put – If you agree with new GM Ron Francis that a major makeover isn’t necessary.

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OK, that’s the quick version for and against each option, so have at it and feel free to discuss things further in the comments:

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.

Brouwer mulling signing with Canucks in free agency

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Troy Brouwer grew up in North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver.

We mention this because, on Monday, Vancouver’s News 1130 spoke with Brouwer — a pending UFA — about his plans for the future. And, lo and behold, Brouwer has thought about a return home.

“I have thought about it, for sure,” Brouwer said. “Family and friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.”

The 30-year-old added his father is a “huge” Canucks fan and that Mark Messier, who spent two ill-fated seasons in Vancouver, was a “big influence” on Brouwer’s career.

So, file that one away for the future.

Brouwer will likely have a number of suitors come July 1. A Stanley Cup winner with Chicago in 2010, he’s been a very reliable goalscorer — at least 17 in seven straight seasons — and is coming off a terrific playoff, in which he scored eight goals and 13 points in 20 games for the Blues.

The Blues, of course, would probably like to retain Brouwer. They paid a high price to get him — T.J. Oshie, in last summer’s deal with Washington — and used him quite a bit this year. Brouwer averaged 16 minutes per night in the regular season and nearly 19 during the playoffs.

Problem is, St. Louis might not have the cap space to retain him. Brouwer will almost certainly be getting a raise on the $3.66M he earned annually on his last deal, and the Blues have some other financial decisions to make this summer (like captain David Backes, for example.)

“Not sure what the Blues plans are,” Brouwer told News 1130. “I’m assuming we will talk with them before July 1st.”

Bettman: The ‘word’ on expansion should come June 22

NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, after attending an NHL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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PITTSBURGH — Mark June 22 on the calendar. That’s when the NHL’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas, and that’s when we should get word about the league’s expansion plans.

“That word,” commissioner Gary Bettman said today at his annual Stanley Cup Final press conference, “will probably come in one of the following forms:

“Whether there will be no expansion; whether expansion will be deferred until a later time in the future; or whether there will be expansion, and if so whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.

“I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen. But again, when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”

The NHL is currently considering two expansion bids, one from Las Vegas and another from Quebec City. The former is optimistic about its chances, while the latter’s fortunes may have been dashed by the decline of the Canadian dollar.

On Las Vegas, the commissioner and his deputy, Bill Daly, were asked if the NFL’s potential foray into that market could affect the NHL’s decision. The answer to that question was no.

The other theme of today’s press conference was the Olympics. Specifically, the IOC’s decision to stop covering millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players.

On that, Bettman had a strong message for the IOC and IIHF.

“I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” he said.

In other words, if the IOC and IIHF can’t resolve the “expense issue,” it’s practically a certainty that the NHL will not be sending its players to Pyeongchang‎, South Korea.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE