Petr Mrazek

What is the long-term outlook for the Hurricanes?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

This has the potential to be one of the best long-term situations in the league given their collective age (one of the youngest teams in the league), the talent and potential on the roster, as well as the fact that so many of the key players are already signed to long-term deals.

The Montreal Canadiens did them a huge favor this offseason by signing Sebastian Aho to an easily matchable offer sheet, locking him in place for the next five years.

Meanwhile, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, and Brett Pesce are all signed to long-term deals for at least the next two seasons. Several of them signed beyond that, while only two of those players (Aho and Staal) count more than $5.5 million against the salary cap individually.

Add in the fact that Dougie Hamilton is signed for another year, while Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas are both still on their entry-level deals and will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency for another six seasons and all of the most important players are locked in place.

Out of that core group, Staal is the only one over the age of 30 (currently 31), while the majority of them are still age 26 or younger. That means they are all either in the prime of their careers right now, or are just about to reach their prime years in the coming seasons.

Aho, Svechnikov, and Necas are already outstanding players, and all might still have their best days ahead of them.

Long-Term Needs

Goaltending has been the single biggest question mark for this team for almost a decade now, and that still might be the case.

That is not meant to be a knock on the current duo of James Reimer and Petr Mrazek. They have been solid this season when healthy, and a team could certainly do worse than having those two as their regular goalie tandem.

Given the overall strength of the team — and especially the defense when it is healthy — they do not need a game-saving superstar between the pipes to give them a chance. They simply need solid, steady, consistent play. They are getting that.

The question comes from the fact that I just do not know if either one is a true long-term solution in net, and if they have that solution somewhere else in their organization right now.

Both players are signed through the end of next season.

Other than maybe finding a potentially better long-term option in net, there are not a lot of truly pressing needs here. As mentioned above, their core group is locked in place and the addition of Trocheck from the Florida Panthers just before the trade deadline adds what could be an ideal long-term fit in the second-line center spot.

Long-Term Strengths

This current core has been built around its young defense, and that is still by far the team’s biggest strength both now and in the immediate future.

Slavin, Pesce, Skjei, and Gardiner are all signed through at least the 2022-23 season, while the former three all go through the end of the 2023-24 season. Add in Hamilton, who is signed through the end of next season, and that is as good of a top-five as you will find in the NHL right now. They are all in the prime of their careers, they are all outstanding players that fit the modern NHL game with their mobility and puck skills, and they are the backbone of what has been one of the league’s best teams when it comes to limiting shots and scoring chances over the past four years.

If they can manage to get Hamilton re-signed that would be another major piece in place.

Along with the defense, they also have what look to be two of the most important pieces for any contending team already in place with the duo Aho and Svechnikov — impact forwards that can carry the offense.

Aho is already a sensational player and a top-line star, while Svechnikov might end up being the best of the bunch. Aho’s contract could end up looking like a steal over the next four years, while Svechnikov still has one more year on an entry-level contract, giving them a huge advantage when it comes to adding pieces next season.

MORE:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Hurricanes
Hurricanes surprises and disappointments
• John Forslund tells his quarantine story

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.

Looking at the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 38-25-5 (68 games), Fourth place in Metropolitan Division; first Wild Card spot in Eastern Conference
Leading scorer: Sebastian Aho 66 points (38 goals, 28 assists)

In-season roster moves

  • Acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils for Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrik Claesson, and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick.
  • Acquired defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers for a 2020 first-round draft pick.
  • Traded for Vincent Trocheck by sending Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen, and Chase Priskie to the Florida Panthers.
  • Veteran forward Justin Williams returned mid-season after using the first half of the season to contemplate his future.

Season Overview

After their surprise run to the Eastern Conference Final during the 2018-19 season, expectations were sky high for the Hurricanes at the start of this season.

The results so far have been a bit of a mixed bag.

At the time of the NHL’s hiatus the Hurricanes occupied the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference but were in the middle of an intense fight alongside the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and Florida Panthers for those two playoff spots. They still seem to have the inside track for one of them, but the overall results may not be exactly as good as they hoped given their success last year and the improvements they attempted to make to the roster in the offseason (additions of Jake Gardiner, Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel) and internal improvements from young players like Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.

One of the biggest things that has held them back — injuries.

Specifically, the injuries to top defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce.

Prior to breaking a bone in his leg in mid-January, Hamilton was not only having a Norris Trophy caliber season, he may have been the best all-around defensemen in the NHL this season. It was a completely dominant performance and one that was not going to be easy to replace.

When Pesce was injured a month later — along with James Reimer and Petr Mrazek, the teams top two goalies — it put a pretty significant dent in their greatest overall strength.

They attempted to address the defense at the trade deadline by acquiring Vatanen and Skjei in separate trades, while also adding another potential impact forward in Trocheck. The latter joins an already impressive core of forwards that includes Aho, Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen.

Assuming everyone on defense is healthy, that is a potentially imposing roster.

Highlight of the Season

What else could it be other than 42-year-old David Ayres, a zamboni driver by day, entering a game and getting the win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

MORE:
Hurricanes’ biggest surprises and disappointments
Hurricanes long-term outlook
John Forslund tells his quarantine story

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.

Goaltending help on the way as Mrazek returns for Hurricanes

Hurricanes
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Injuries have been a pretty big hurdle for the Carolina Hurricanes recently in their push for a playoff spot.

Not only are they without two of their top defensemen — Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce — but they have also been down to their third-and fourth-string goalies due to the injuries to James Reimer (lower-body) and Petr Mrazek (concussion).

They will be getting one of them back on Tuesday when Mrazek gets the start against the Detroit Red Wings.

Both goalies were injured six games ago in Toronto, resulting in emergency goalie David Ayres taking their spot and getting the win.

With Mrazek and Reimer sidelined, the Hurricanes then went on to lose the next four games before finally snapping that streak with back-to-back wins against the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins this weekend.

In 39 appearances this season Mrazek has a 20-16-2 record with a .904 save percentage.

Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg split the playing time over the past couple of weeks. Together, they had a sub-.900 save percentage in the six games.

Reimer has also been back on the ice this week and has accompanied the Hurricanes on their current road trip.

They enter Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings sitting in the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, owning a tiebreaker over the New York Islanders.

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.

Hurricanes’ Reimer, Mrazek, Pesce all ‘longer term’ injuries

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce and goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek are all dealing with “longer term” injuries suffered in a weekend win at Toronto, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday.

Brind’Amour said it was unclear exactly how much time the players will miss. Reimer left with a lower-body injury, while Brind’Amour said Mrazek is dealing with a concussion and Pesce has a shoulder injury.

“Obviously nobody’s, I would say, short term,” Brind’Amour said. “Longer term for, really, all of them. That’s about all I can tell you.”

Later Monday, team president and general manager Don Waddell said the team has moved Pesce to the long-term injured reserve – aiding the team with salary-cap moves – but that he didn’t think the goaltenders would be out “long term.” He also said Mrazek is going through the concussion protocol and has “more of a neck injury,” though he hasn’t had a headache.

“It’s weeks at the most,” Waddell said of the goaltenders. “Petr might be less than that.”

The injuries to Reimer and Mrazek forced the Hurricanes to turn to 42-year-old emergency goaltender David Ayres in the 6-3 win.

Reimer’s injury occurred when Toronto’s Zach Hyman pushed Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin into Reimer’s left leg, sending both falling into the net. Mrazek was hurt in the second period on a collision with Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford, leading to Ayres’ entry.

The Hurricanes have since recalled goaltenders Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic from Charlotte of the American Hockey League ahead of Tuesday’s home game against Dallas.

As for Pesce, Brind’Amour said the 25-year-old defenseman was scheduled to be evaluated again later Monday. But any extended absence would be another hit for a team that lost All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton indefinitely to a broken left leg in January and is jostling for position in the Eastern Conference playoff wild-card chase.

The Hurricanes acquired center Vincent Trocheck from Florida ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline Monday afternoon, parting with forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark along with a pair of prospects. They also added defensemen Sami Vatanen from New Jersey and Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers, with Waddell saying the Skjei deal parts with what will be the lower of Carolina’s two first-round picks.

Hurricanes recall two goaltenders after losing Reimer, Mrazek

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled goaltenders Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic from their American Hockey League affiliate after losing two goaltenders to injury and relying on an on-call emergency netminder Saturday night in a victory at Toronto.

The Hurricanes announced the move Sunday. That came after they lost James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injuries the night before, forcing them to use 42-year-old David Ayres in net to finish the 6-3 win.

The 27-year-old Forsberg has posted a 15-9-2 record with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 27 appearances with the Charlotte Checkers this year. The Hurricanes acquired Forsberg in a trade last June.

The 24-year-old Nedeljkovic has posted a 15-10-2 record, 2.51 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage with four shutouts in 28 appearances with the Checkers this year. The Hurricanes selected him in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Ayres will attend Carolina’s home game Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

”See you Tuesday, Davey!” the club said on its Twitter account. ”Ayres will be in the building on Tuesday and will be our (at)VectorSecurity Siren Sounder!”

”They’re flying me down to Carolina for their game on Tuesday so I’ll get to spend more time with the guys, which is good,” Ayres said Toronto on Sunday at the Leafs’ practice facility. ”They’re a great team, great organization.”

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin also announced Tuesday will be ”David Ayres Day” in the city.

The Hurricanes started selling shirts with Ayres’ name and No. 90 after the game. The team says Ayres will get royalties and a portion of the proceeds will go to a kidney foundation in honor of the goaltender, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004.