Hurricanes the team to watch as trade deadline approaches

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The Carolina Hurricanes are a team worth watching right now for a lot of reasons.

By winning eight of their past 11 games they have inched their way back into the playoff discussion in the Eastern Conference. At least enough to be considered on the bubble. Yes, five points back in mid-January is still a pretty big hill to climb, but they’re making a run at it.

They also have the Storm Surge celebrations after wins on home ice as they add a little excitement to the league. Great stuff.

[Related: Ranking the Hurricanes’ victory celebrations]

One of the other reasons you should be keeping an eye on them is they are one of the most intriguing teams in the league when it comes to the upcoming Feb. 25 trade deadline because of the contract situations, the makeup of their roster, and their position in the standings.

The contract and roster situations include…

  • Almost all of their long-term commitments being on the blue line. All of their regular NHL defenders are signed through at least the end of next season, while four of them run through at least 2021 (and two of them go beyond 2024).
  • Their only goalie under contract beyond this season is Scott Darling … who is currently buried in the American Hockey League. Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney are both unrestricted free agents after this season.
  • Almost all of their forwards are some kind of a free agent after this season. The only forwards under contract beyond this season are Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele, and Lucas Wallmark. The latter three are still on their entry-level deals. They have four potential unrestricted free agents (including captain Justin Williams) and five restricted free agents, including two of their top offensive players in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Then there is the place in the standings. Like a lot of the teams in the Western Conference wild card race, the Hurricanes have to figure out exactly what they are this season — a team that has a legitimate shot to make the playoffs and might want to add something, or at least stay the course as currently constructed? Or are they a team that is too far back and needs to go into “sell” mode, especially with its current crop of free agents?

One thing is certain, the Hurricanes have a lot of intriguing players when it comes to potential trade chips.

For one, they still have a ton of depth along the blue line and could still flip one of their defenders for help elsewhere around the roster. Justin Faulk‘s name was all over the rumor mill during the offseason (especially after the addition of Dougie Hamilton) but remained with the team. There was also a rumbling in recent weeks that they might — might — be willing to listen to offers on Hamilton, but that seems like a real long-shot given that they are barely a half of a season into it and they would probably be dealing him at his lowest possible value. The best bet there is to hold on to him and trust that he regains the form and production he has shown throughout his career.

The forwards are where the real intrigue comes in because, again, so many of them are on expiring contracts.

It is probably pretty safe to say that Aho and Teravainen are not going anywhere. Not only are the team’s two best forwards, they are both young and just now entering their primes. Even if you assume the Hurricanes are not going to be a team that spends to the salary cap they still have all the flexibility in the world to get them signed.

The most likely player to get moved would seem to be forward Micheal Ferland (the other part of the Hamilton trade) who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season and is probably in line for a fairly substantial raise from his current $1.75 million salary. He would also probably be able to get that on the open market because he’s the type of player that appeals to pretty much everyone in the league. He has size, is physical, is probably going to be a 20-goal, 40-point player for the second year in a row and once again has strong underlying numbers. He’s a good player that a lot of teams would want — especially around playoff time.

The other variable in all of this is just where the Hurricanes sit in the standings as we get closer to the deadline.

They have been a patient team that has always kept the long-term goal in mind, and even with the recent surge they really haven’t picked up that much ground in the standings when it comes to wild card positioning. It’s still asking a lot for them to get in or to expect them to try and actually add to this roster this season by giving up younger, future assets.

But it is also a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008-09, and if they can stack a few more wins together and keep staying afloat in the race it might change how much they are willing to trade or sell off in the short-term.

There are a lot of different directions this can go in the coming weeks, and a lot of it will probably depend on how long they can keep up this recent strong play.

More: Who has the inside track in the Western Conference wild card race?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Backstrom, Kopitar, Laine, Skinner highlight NHL All-Star Last Men In vote

The players representing the four divisions in the 2019 NHL All-Star Game been announced, but the full rosters are still to be determined.

New this year is the “Last Men In” vote where fans will be able to select another forward or defenseman for each division. There are plenty of worthy names who did not make the initial list, so here is another shot for the likes of Brayden Point, Jeff Skinner, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrik Laine, and Anze Kopitar to find their way to San Jose.

Voting opens Thursday at 12 p.m. ET and closes Jan. 10 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Fans able to choose as few as one player and a maximum of four players per ballot. Maximum number of ballots casts in a day for each fan is 10. (Fans can vote at NHL.com or on a mobile interactive ballot on the NHL App.)

[NHL reveals 2019 All-Star Game rosters]

Atlantic Division
Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron
Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner
Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov
Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber
Ottawa Senators: Mark Stone
Tampa Bay Lightning: Brayden Point
Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly

Metropolitan Division
Carolina Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nick Foligno
New Jersey Devils: Kyle Palmieri
New York Islanders: Anders Lee
New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello
Philadelphia Flyers: Jakub Voracek
Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang
Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom

Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews
Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog
Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin
Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise
Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko
Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine

Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf
Arizona Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano
Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar
San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture
Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser
Vegas Golden Knights: Jonathan Marchessault

The 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 25 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

MORE: Ovechkin chooses rest over 2019 All-Star Game

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Bob continues heater; Aho stars on Whalers Night

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Three stars

1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

When Bob is hot, the Blue Jackets seem unbeatable. And Bob is certainly on a heater right now.

Bobrovsky picked up his second shutout in his past four starts, turning aside 39 shots the New Jersey Devils sent his way in a 3-0 win.

Things weren’t looking good for Columbus’ crease hero, but over the past six games, he’s been back to his winning ways, taking victories in five of those starts and losing in overtime in the other. His save percentage on the season has jumped up to .913 to go along with his 16-10-1 record.

Bob has won four straight, as have the Blue Jackets.

2. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Two goals, four points on Whalers night? Someone showed up to make sure the men back in green collected a nice win in those beautiful threads.

Aho was spectacular in the game, scoring shorthanded and assisted on both of Teuvo Teravainen‘s goals as the ‘Canes bounced back from a 2-0 deficit with four unanswered goals.

It’s been an up and down year for Carolina, but it was nice to see them pick up the win after honoring their heritage on Sunday.

3. Jayce Hawryluk, Florida Panthers

Through his first four NHL games, Hawryluk hadn’t sniffed the scoresheet.

All of that changed on Sunday, however. The 22-year-old made the most of his limited ice-time, scoring twice — including on a breakaway — to get his first NHL goal and then his second right after it.

Highlights of the night

This was solid:

Hawryluk’s first NHL goal was just a product of hard work:

He did him dirty:

Factoids

Scores

Blue Jackets 3, Devils 0

Hurricanes (Whalers) 5, Bruins 3

Panthers 6, Blackhawks 3

Flyers 3, Rangers 2 (SO)

Maple Leafs 5, Red Wings 4 (OT)

Kings 4, Golden Knights 3 (OT)

Islanders 3, Stars 1

Coyotes 4, Sharks 3 (OT)

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Whalers Night brings back fond memories, beautiful threads

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It’s been over 20 years since the Hartford Whalers took the ice for a hockey game in the National Hockey League. On Sunday, their spirit was resurrected one more time on Whalers Night at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

The Carolina Hurricanes — who moved from Hartford for the 1997-98 season — paid homage to their former selves by donning their old threads and green helmets as they faced off against former Northeast Division foes in the Boston Bruins.

And my, oh my, did those sweaters look great on the ice once again.

“The motivation was primarily around [the fact that] it’s interesting, it looks great and it’s a way do something different,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon told NHL.com. “It’s a long season and we’re in the entertainment business and this is going to make this night different and enjoyable and connect with fans whether it’s in Hartford or anywhere else. So, I hope they enjoy it.”

Of course, no Whalers game would be complete without that iconic goal song, the Brass Bonanza.

Teuvo Teravainen did the honors, scoring at 12:55 of the first period to get fans into the groove.

And then it happened three more times in succession as the Whalers… err… Hurricanes battled back from being down 2-0 to lead 4-2.

The Hurricanes went on to win 5-3. Teravainen added another goal for a two-goal night, and Sebastian Aho had two of his own in the win.

Petr Mrazek, who had a beautiful special mask made to mark the occasion, made 27 saves.

Other highlights included the return of Pucky the Whale, Hartford’s old mascot (who was never a physical mascot during their time in Conneticutt.

There, of course, was a ceremonial puck drop to be had, too.

Whalers legend Mike Rogers was on hand to do the honors.

The Whalers have quite the history and a who’s who of some of the greatest ever to play the game in their lineage — from their days in the World Hockey Association to their integration into the NHL.

Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Dave Keon are among the legends to wear Whalers green.

The Whalers uniforms will be back on the backs of the Hurricanes in March when they face Boston at TD Garden.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blackhawks prospect gets 13-game KHL ban after brutal headshot, punching official

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One of the wildest scenes in hockey this season played out in the KHL this past week when Chicago Blackhawks prospect Artur Kayumov delivered a brutal headshot to an opponent, punched a referee, and then attempted to pump up the crowd as he was escorted off the ice.

All of it resulted in a 13-game suspension that the league handed down on Saturday.

The incident happened on Friday when Kayumov, currently playing for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, hit Jokerit’s Jesper Jensen in the second period of Jokerit’s 3-0 win. He was assessed a five-minute major for the check, and two game misconducts (presumably for the hit and the punch to the referee).

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

In 35 games this season the 20-year-old Kayumov has four goals and seven assists. What is especially odd about this is he only recorded two penalty minutes a year ago in 20 games, and before this incident had just 10 in 34 games this season.

The Blackhawks selected Kayumov with the pick they received from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen trade.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.