Burns, Pacioretty trades give Hurricanes what they badly needed

Burns, Pacioretty trades give Hurricanes what they badly needed
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The Carolina Hurricanes are no strangers to pulling off smart moves during the offseason — in free agency, and at the NHL Draft. So, to an extent, maybe this is business as usual. Yet, when you consider how aggressively — and brilliantly — they addressed goal-scoring issues by trading for Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty, this is one of the Hurricanes’ most exciting offseasons.

Sure, losing a versatile forward like Vincent Trocheck hurts. And, after brushing off the ugly elements of a Tony DeAngelo signing, he rewarded them with good bang-for-the-buck.

From a big-picture perspective, though, those losses don’t necessarily change the team’s trajectory. While the Hurricanes take on certain risks with both Burns and Pacioretty, those trades could be breakthrough moments for a team constantly knocking on the door to contention.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

After falling to the Rangers in a tight series, Rod Brind’Amour acknowledged the possibility that the Hurricanes needed that extra bit of finish.

“Do we have elite goal scorers? Maybe not,” Brind’Amour said, via the Associated Press. “But we have great players. We’re built a little differently than some other teams. That’s OK. You’ve got to play to your strength.”

For years, the Hurricanes have consistently scored less goals than expected. They’ve often been doomed by a double-whammy: bad shooting luck mixed with goalies who gave up more than they seemingly should have.

Like diligent craftsmen, the Hurricanes have added layers of polish and nuance each offseason. In some cases, that meant addressing glaring issues, such as goaltending. But it often still felt like a band getting heavier and louder, rather than exploring different sounds and genres.

In adding Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty, the Hurricanes could hit both notes: playing to their strengths to a better degree, but maybe adding a new wrinkle. Maybe it ends with a “Ballad of Stanley Cup?”

A team in love with point shots adds a point shot machine

If you follow the Hurricanes, you likely know that they play a very straight-line, sometimes “smash mouth” game. Where other contenders prize control — of the puck, and when they risk losing the puck to gain scoring chances — the Hurricanes overwhelm. Maybe they should be called the Blizzard, as they try to bury opponents under flurries of chances and pressure.

(They don’t give you delicious-if-strangely-salty ice cream, though.)

Hockey Viz’s heat map for the Hurricanes captures that attack in detail:

Burns, Pacioretty trades give Hurricanes what they badly needed Hurricanes point shots
via Hockey Viz

Normally, such an abundance of point shots would be a concern. Those shot attempts often qualify as hockey’s version of “empty calories.”

Yet, as you can see from all of that heat in front of the net, the Hurricanes still create a lot of “high-danger” chances. They just do so in their own, unusual way.

At various times, I’ve opined that the Sharks could’ve used Brent Burns’ dangerous shot to better success if he was shooting from more dangerous places. To an extent, I’d love to see the analytics-leaning Hurricanes also encourage him to occasionally wonder to Alex Ovechkin‘s “office.”

(Even if it’s just temp work, so to speak.)

But the delight with Brent Burns’ penchant for point shots is that it mixes so well with the Hurricanes’ style. Maybe his point shots could be the Reese’s peanut butter cups to that already-tasty blizzard?

Pacioretty may actually be the most enticing Hurricanes addition

Considering his array of exotic beasts and trophy case including a Norris, it’s not surprising that Brent Burns is the biggest name of the Hurricanes’ big additions.

Personally, though? Max Pacioretty actually seems like the most important addition.

Since joining the Golden Knights in 2018-19, Pacioretty averaged .87 points per game (194 in 224 games), tying him with Nicklas Backstrom and Ryan O'Reilly for 48th-best. Only Sebastian Aho (1.01) and Teuvo Teravainen (.88) averaged more during that span.

Of course, goals are what the Hurricanes sought most of all, and few score quite like “Patches.” During the past three seasons, Pacioretty ties Aho and others for 18th-place with 47 goals at 5-on-5.

Correct for time missed, and he’s even more impressive. Since 2019-20, Pacioretty averaged a 1.26 goals per 60 minutes, a top-10 rate. He’s not just a player who scores goals or does nothing else, either, as his underlying stats are promising.

Honestly, I believe that Mark Stone‘s ascent to more mainstream recognition might have kept Pacioretty’s outstanding work in the shadows a bit. Maybe sprinkle in numbers that were diluted by injuries and COVID-shortened seasons, and you get to a fuller explanation.

In free agency, teams might find snipers. However, those players often skew toward the one-dimensional. You’re unlikely to find a truly elite option. By going the trade route, the Hurricanes landed a more likely upgrade — and potentially a big one.

Low-risk, potentially high rewards … but there are SOME risks

To an extent, these trades really feel like free agent moves because the Hurricanes gave up so little to land Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty. At least, in immediate terms. (Perhaps the Sharks will treasure the goalie prospect they received?)

Even the contracts aren’t as scary as you’d see in free agency.

  • Work through the name recognition, and Brent Burns at $8M is a bit steep. Yet, with salary retention, his cap hit’s now a more digestible $5.28M per season through 2024-25 (the same year Jaccob Slavin needs a new contract).
  • Pacioretty’s $7M cap hit only runs through the 2022-23 season.

On paper, you’re not going to make much better bets at about $12.3M in salary cap space. Particularly without massive term.

But there are risks here. As much as one praises Pacioretty for producing when healthy, he carries risks of additional injuries. You could argue he’s an “old 33” considering all he’s been through.

For those who don’t delve into Cap Friendly on the reg, it might be shocking to realize that Brent Burns is already 37.

Ideally, someone like Slavin can be the stay-at-home defenseman while Burns roves like one of his exotic beasts. But there’s the risk that Burns roams to such a degree that he gets lost — to the point that even Slavin could get compromised.

As time goes on, the risk:reward ratio with Burns’ game has become less of a net-positive. It doesn’t mean that Burns isn’t worth it — especially at a reduced price — but it’s something to watch. After all, the Hurricanes are hoping to contend, so high-profile mistakes could sour a situation.

Most of all, Burns is a big beast of a man, and he’s put a lot of miles on his body. Injuries and general decline both loom as credible threats.

Hit all the right buttons, and this could be the best Hurricanes team yet

So, yes, there’s some fine print here and there. But the larger point remains: the Hurricanes addressed some of their biggest (few remaining) concerns with trades for Burns and Pacioretty.

Really, even if this all translates to fairly similar results, this should be exciting to watch.

Other teams could learn from this mixture of patience (keeping some salary cap space available) and aggression (jumping on an opportunity when a team needs to shake a contract loose). For all we know, they may be taking notes trying to chase what the Hurricanes become in 2022-23.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.