It’s Carolina Hurricanes day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite changing their head coach and general manager, the 2014-15 season was more of the same for the Carolina Hurricanes.

For the sixth season in a row (and eight of their last nine campaigns), the Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs. Much like 2013-14, they were in the cellar of the East.

Granted, there are murmurs of hope; the Hurricanes subtly improved toward the end of the year and Carolina showed some signs of defensive improvement under head coach Bill Peters. Such patter sounds like baby steps in the grand scheme of things.

Despite some significant expenditures on that side of the puck, Peters identified scoring as a particularly glaring issue.

“We like where we are in terms of being able to take a step forward; it will depend on us having the ability to score,” Peters said, according to NHL.com. “We have to find a way to score more at 5-on-5.”

Off-season recap

GM Ron Francis faces tougher decisions soon, yet he was fairly busy this summer.

It was costly, but the organization cut ties with Semin via a pricey buyout.

In trading Anton Khudobin to Anaheim and acquiring Eddie Lack from Vancouver, Francis gives himself flexibility with Ward, as Lack could end up the No. 1 or even combine for a platoon situation. Swapping with Anaheim also netted an expensive upgrade to Carolina’s needy defense in James Wisniewski.

Optimists may cross their fingers that the Hurricanes will opt for a youth movement. Blueline prospect Noah Hanifin joins Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk, Victor Rask and Ryan Murphy as intriguing young talents who aren’t in limbo like Jordan Staal or Jeff Skinner.

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This time it really does feel like a fork-in-the-road season for the Hurricanes, even if it also seems like the organization has been procrastinating when it comes to making difficult (yet crucial) decisions.

Will things finally start to turn Carolina’s way in 2015-16?

The futures of four marquee Hurricanes players rest with one agent, one GM

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There is an interesting dynamic brewing with the Carolina Hurricanes when it comes to four of their top players, including Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and goalie Cam Ward.

All four are represented by the same agent in Rick Curran, and Carolina general manager Ron Francis will have some important decisions to make about the futures of all four players, most notably Eric Staal, who is entering the final year of his contract, which includes a no-trade clause.

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

Basically, every high-priced, popular, star player the Hurricanes might even consider trading as part of a rebuilding process has the same agent, and this summer brings a new kind of time pressure.

Both Eric Staal and Ward need to be either re-signed or traded, because their contracts are up after next season. Jordan Staal is signed to a long-term contract but came here to play with his brother and may not want to stay without him. Skinner has three years left on his contract but is one of the Hurricanes’ most marketable assets.

As the NHL Draft nears — it was only two weeks away, as of Friday — the speculation around the future of the elder Staal, the Hurricanes captain, could intensify. It’s worth noting that on Friday, it was reported that Francis is not seeking to trade Staal at this point.

Report: Big meeting coming regarding Eric Staal’s future in Carolina

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Eric Staal has said – repeatedly – that he would prefer to stay with the Carolina Hurricanes. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that an upcoming meeting between his agent Rick Curran and GM Ron Francis may determine the course of his (and really, the franchise’s) future.

There are some interesting facets to this situation, particularly these three factors:

Staal’s expiring, expensive contract

There’s no denying that Staal is an important piece for Carolina, but is he worth keeping around?

His $8.25 million cap hit is pricey enough, yet in the last season of his deal, his salary peaks at a whopping $9.5 million. That’s a lot of scratch for a guy who has scored 61 points or less the past three seasons (and isn’t particularly dominant defensively, either).

The good-and-bad news is that his contract expires after 2016-17. LeBrun believes that Carolina cannot afford to let him walk for nothing, so they’re at a fork in the road: either trade him or get an extension done at a discount.

No-trade clause

LeBrun reports that Staal may be amenable to waiving his no-trade clause under many circumstances, yet it’s just another thing that makes this a tricky situation for Francis.

Domino effect

Curran doesn’t just represent Eric Staal, he also is Jordan’s agent. Oh yeah, his client list also includes Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner. That accounts for almost $26.3 million of cap commitments for Carolina.

While Ward’s deal also expires after this coming season (was that a sigh of relief from Hurricanes fans?), Jordan Staal and Skinner have lengthy deals. Still, it’s more than reasonable to wonder if Jordan would want to stick with Carolina if his brother is gone.

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As LeBrun notes, Curran wants to know what direction this franchise takes. Considering his client list, he has a lot of say in what happens, too.

Eric Staal happy to stay with ‘Canes, but only if they want him

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Eric Staal might be the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, but he isn’t sure what their plans are for him going forward. As they wrap up their sixth straight playoff-less campaign, Staal has just one more season left on his contract. There have been no extension talks yet, but he’s not sweating it.

“There are guys who have done it,” the 30-year-old forward told NHL.com. “To me, [a contract extension] is not something I need to happen.”

His reasoning is that he knows he’s good enough to stay in the NHL and if Carolina doesn’t want him, then he’ll simply play for another squad. To that end, he would be open to waiving his no-movement clause if asked, although whether or not he ultimately says yes would still depend on the destination.

“But I care about a lot of people in this organization and these fans, so I would like to be part of getting better and taking another step,” Staal added.

Aside from being the only NHL team he’s ever played for, playing with the Hurricanes also presents him with an opportunity to work with his brother, Jordan Staal. It is worth noting that there was a report prior to the trade deadline suggesting that Jordan might be shipped back to Pittsburgh this summer, but Hurricanes GM Ron Francis responded by stating, “We are not moving Jordan Staal.”

Eric Staal has 23 goals and 54 points in 76 contests this season.

Get your game notes: Flyers at ‘Canes

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

MATCHUP/STOYRLINES

• Philly gathering points, making a playoff push: The Flyers have won 2 straight games, with those wins coming against teams currently in the playoff picture (3-2 SO win vs. NSH on Saturday and a 3-2 win vs. WSH on Sunday).

• While not known for having a successful penalty kill this season (76.5% – 28th in NHL), the Flyers PK was 5-for-5 vs. WSH. PHI has not allowed a PP goal in the last 3 games (10-for-10 on PK). On the flip side, PHI went 2-for-4 on the PP vs. WSH. The Flyers are 3rd in the NHL on the PP (23.6%).

• After PHI’s loss to NYI on Jan. 19, the Flyers were 11 points behind the 2nd Wild Card spot with 35 games remaining. Now, having gone 8-1-4 since, the Flyers have trimmed that deficit to 4 points.

• The Hurricanes are last in the Metro, second to last in the East, and look to be sellers as the March 2 trade deadline looms. It has long been rumored that 28-year-old defenseman Andrej Sekera (45 hits, 98 blocked shots) is on the trading block, and center Jordan Staal’s (3G-11A in 22 GP) name has recently been brought up in trade rumors with PIT. However on Monday, Chip Alexander of the News & Observer tweeted that CAR GM Ron Francis said: “We are not moving Jordan Staal.”

• Staal has a full no-trade clause in his contract, which is in the 2nd year of a 10-year/$60M deal.

• With 2 assists vs. WSH on Sunday, Jakub Voracek set a new career high in points with 63 (19G-44A in 60 GP). His previous career high was 62 points (23G-39A in 82 GP), which he set last season. It was his first multi-point game since Jan. 19 @ NYI (also 2 assists). He now has 3 points (1G-2A) in his last 3 games.

• Voracek ranks 3rd in the NHL, 1 point behind Nicklas Backstrom (WSH) and Patrick Kane (CHI).

• PHI has never had a player lead the NHL in scoring by himself in the 46+ seasons of the franchise (in lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, Eric Lindros shared for the NHL lead in pts w/ Jaromir Jagr, but he did not share the Art Ross Trophy title, as Lindros lost the goals scored tiebreaker to Jagr).

• Claude Giroux snapped an 11-game goal drought and 4-game point drought with 2 pts (1G-1A) vs. WSH.

• Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Giroux has the most points in the NHL (284 in 266 GP)

• He has 21 points (6G-15A) in 21 career games vs. CAR.

• Wayne Simmonds is catching fire after a 14-game stretch in which he had just 1 goal and 3 assists from late December leading into the All-Star Break.

• Since the All-Star Break ended, Simmonds has 14 points (8G-6A) in 12 games including an active 8-game point streak (6G-4A), the longest of his career.

• Leads PHI with 24 goals (13 on PP; 3rd in NHL); 3rd time he’s reached 20+ goals in 7 NHL seasons.

GOALIE MATCHUP

• Steve Mason hurt his knee on Feb. 8 vs. WSH, and had arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 10

• Ray Emery started the next 5 games going 1-1-3 with a 2.53 GAA. On Monday, PHI announced that he suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in practice, and is listed as day-to-day. He did not make the trip to Raleigh with the team.

• With the injury to Emery, PHI recalled goalie Anthony Stolarz from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL).

• This season he is 7-11-3 in 25 games played with a 3.17 GAA and .908 SV%.

• Robb Zepp has started the last 2 games for PHI, posting a 1.92 GAA and a .911 SV%.

• This season he is 5-1-0, with a 2.63 GAA and a .894 SV%.

• With his next start, Cam Ward will become the fifth active NHL goalie to play 500 games.

• This season he is 15-19-4 with a 2.39 GAA (career best), and a .913 SV%.

• Anton Khudobin has lost his last 3 starts (all in regulation) and is winless in his last 5 starts overall (0-3-1 record, 4.55 GAA, .829 SV%).

• This season he is 6-11-3 with a 2.73 GAA, and a .901 SV%.