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After short summer, Hurricanes optimistic to start camp

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Defenseman Brett Pesce and the Carolina Hurricanes zipped up and down the ice again, less than four months after wrapping up last season way later than usual.

For a team that suffered through plenty of long summers, they can get used to these quick turnarounds.

The Hurricanes opened preseason camp Friday looking to build off the momentum they generated during last season’s run to the Eastern Conference final – their first playoff appearance since 2009.

All those years of missing the postseason meant plenty of Aprils and Mays away from the rink. But of course, they’re happy to trade that extra recovery time for deep playoff runs.

”You play the game not to have long summers, right?” Pesce asked.

The Hurricanes are hoping a few changes lead to even better results.

”We’ve got to find those eight extra wins,” second-year coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

Carolina, one of the NHL’s hottest teams during the second half of last season, upset Washington in a seven-game series and swept the New York Islanders in the second round before the Hurricanes themselves were swept by Boston in the conference final series.

”It was a good experience for all of us to get the playoff run and to get close to doing something special,” forward Teuvo Teravainen said. ”I like this team a lot, so I feel like even with a shorter summer, the guys are pretty young – a lot of young players who have taken care of their bodies and are ready for this year.”

Sebastian Aho was here – and the 22-year-old forward probably will be here for a while after the Hurricanes matched the $42 million offer sheet extended to him by Montreal. So was veteran defenseman Jake Gardiner, who last week signed with Carolina for four years after spending much of the summer looking for a deal.

”Another great piece to our club,” Brind’Amour said. ”The sooner he can feel comfortable, then he’s going to be at his best.”

Defenseman Justin Faulk was there, too, once again as the subject of trade speculation brought about by the acquisition of Gardiner and the salary cap concerns it created. Faulk said his preference is to stay with the Hurricanes.

”It happens. I’m not the first person in the league to see their name’s thrown out there,” Faulk said. ”I’m still here and ready to work and show up and do my thing.”

The most noticeable absence: Justin Williams. The captain of last year’s group drug out his decision for this season into September before deciding to “step away” from the sport to start the year, leaving the door open to a possible return eventually. The move could leave a leadership void in a still-young dressing room.

While players and coaches have insisted they’re proceeding as though Williams won’t be back, reminders of him remain at PNC Arena: A larger-than-life photo of Williams remains affixed to the glass outside one entrance.

”I’m sure he’s enjoying himself,” Brind’Amour said with a smile, ”and happy not to have to grind it out right now.”

PHT Morning Skate: Jets not sweating RFA deals; Orpik’s new role with Capitals

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Training camp is just days away and Winnipeg Jets forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor remain unsigned. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is not yet sweating it. (Winnipeg Sun)

• After winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals, Brooks Orpik has taken on a new player development role with the Capitals and will work with defenders. (Washington Capitals)

• Sabres coach Ralph Krueger expects defender Rasmus Ristolainen to be in camp when it begins this week. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Darren Dreger believes that unless something drastic changes with Mitch Marner‘s contract negotiations before the third week of this month he is expecting the RFA forward to travel to Switzerland to train with the Zurich Lions. (TSN)

• Exploring some bottom-six options for the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. (St. Louis Game Time)

• After having no captain for the 2018-19 season, will the Vancouver Canucks name one this season? (Pass It To Bulis)

• Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby reflects as he closes in on 1,000 games played. (Sportsnet)

• What is Dominik Kahun‘s long-term upside for the Penguins? (Pensburgh)

• NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan talks Twitch deal, interactivity, and making fun contagious. (The Hockey News)

• Tampa Bay Lightning defender Mikhail Sergachev used his time off to see the world. (Tampa Bay Times)

• How San Jose Barracuda players deal with the high cost of living in San Jose. (EP Rinkside)

• Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid said over the weekend his knee feels great but he is not sure about his availability for opening night. (Edmonton Sun)

• Dale Hawerchuk takes leave of absence from the Barrie Colts for health reasons. (CBC)

• San Jose Sharks defender Erik Karlsson says his injured groin is “back to normal” after surgery. (NBC Bay Area)

• Another Anaheim Ducks perspective on that potential Justin Faulk trade we wrote about on Monday. (Anaheim Calling)

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

 

Potential Faulk trade wouldn’t solve Ducks’ problems

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As soon as the Carolina Hurricanes signed Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract it seemed to be a matter of when, and not if, they made a move involving defender Justin Faulk.

Faulk’s name has been mentioned in trade speculation for years now, and with his contract up after this season and the Hurricanes suddenly having an even bigger log-jam on defense the time seems right for that long-rumored trade to finally go through.

According to multiple reports on Monday, the Anaheim Ducks may be the team emerging as the favorite to land him.

Elliotte Friedman reported that the Ducks and Hurricanes were having intense trade talks and that a potential deal would depend on Faulk’s willingness to waive his no-trade clause to play in Anaheim. The Ducks are one of the teams listed on his limited no-trade clause. After spending almost his entire career playing on a losing, rebuilding team and finally getting a taste of success this past season it might be awfully difficult to give that up to go to a team that was one of the league’s worst a year ago.

Friedman’s report was followed by Luke DeCock of the News & Observer Tweeting that he believes there is a deal between the two teams in place and that it wouldn’t be a surprise if Anaheim’s Ondrej Kase — a player the Hurricanes have long been interested in — was one of the players going the other way.

That would be a fairly significant score for the Hurricanes. Faulk is an unrestricted free agent after this season and might be a luxury they don’t really need. If there is a deal to be made that can improve the forwards, it would make sense to pursue it. Kase, 23, has been limited by injury the past two years but has shown 25-goal potential, posted outstanding underlying numbers, and would be a great fit to a rapidly improving group of forwards.

As for the Ducks … well. It’s hard to see the motivation here. Faulk is a fine player and brings plenty of positives to any team he would play for. But the Ducks aren’t a Justin Faulk away from being good again. This is a team that pretty badly needs to overhaul its roster and get younger with an eye toward the future, while also finding a way to add more young, skilled forwards. Not subtract them.

The Ducks already have a lot of money tied up in Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson on defense, a core that hasn’t really done a good enough job insulating their goalies from shots. Will Faulk be good enough to drastically improve that? He is known more for his ability to provide offense than his ability to suppress shots.

Given where the Ducks organization is right now Kase just seems to be the type of player that would have more long-term value to them as a young, still cheap, potential top-six forward. The recent injury history is a concern, but this team needs someone that can score goals up front more than it needs another late 20s defender that may not fix their actual defensive woes.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

NHL Power Rankings: Biggest stories of the offseason

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With NHL training camps set to begin and the 2019-20 season just around the corner, this week’s NHL Power Rankings will be taking a look back at the biggest storylines of the offseason.

Offer sheets, restricted free agents, a Metropolitan Division arms race, the general manager and coaching carousel in full swing, and even a few oddities.

What were the biggest stories of the summer? To the rankings!

The big stories

1. The rise and fall of Paul Fenton. Simply the most stunning story of the offseason. After one mostly disastrous season in charge of the Minnesota Wild, Fenton was fired this offseason and replaced by Bill Guerin. It’s not just that he was fired after a year, but that the Wild waited until after the draft and free agency to make the move.

2. Sebastian Aho‘s offer sheet. It had been six years since a restricted free agent signed an offer sheet with another team, and it was starting to feel like it was never going to happen again. Then Aho and the Montreal Canadiens actually went through with the process. Only problem was the Canadiens made it a contract that was ridiculously easy for the Carolina Hurricanes to match.

3. Unsigned RFAs. With the start of training camp just days away almost all of the top RFAs remain unsigned. Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Kyle Connor, Charlie McAvoy, Ivan Provorov, Brock Boeser. It is unprecedented to have this many top-tier RFAs still unsigned this late in the summer. Many of these negotiations will continue throughout training camp and the preseason, but how many will spill over to the regular season?

4. Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s IIHF suspension. Three months after a social media video surfaced of Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov in a room with white powder on a table, he was handed a four-year suspension by the IIHF due to a positive cocaine test in May. Kuznetsov voluntarily sought help through the NHL’s education and counseling program and is expected to meet with commissioner Gary Bettman before training camp.

5. Metropolitan Division madness. The Devils and Rangers re-ignited their rivalry with big offseasons that saw them land the top two picks in the draft and acquire some big name veterans, the Flyers overhauled their defense and gave Kevin Hayes a ton of money, the Blue Jackets lost several key players, the Penguins traded Phil Kessel and Olli Maatta, and the Hurricanes added to an already outstanding defense.

6. Florida goes all in Bob. The worst kept secret at the start of the summer was Sergei Bobrovsky going to the Florida Panthers. He fills their biggest need and could be the piece they need to get back in the playoffs, especially after hiring Joel Quenneville as head coach in April.

7. The GM and coaching carousel. Decades after he revived the Red Wings as a player, Steve Yzerman returns to Detroit to try and do the same as the general manager. That paved the way for Ken Holland to leave Detroit to try and rebuild the charred remains of the Peter Chiarelli era in Edmonton. Behind the benches, six teams will have new coaches as Quenneville (Florida), Alain Vigneault (Philadelphia), Todd McLellan (Los Angeles), Ralph Krueger (Buffalo), D.J. Smith (Ottawa), Dave Tippett (Edmonton), and Dallas Eakins (Anaheim) get their chances. For many, it is a second (or third) chance behind an NHL bench.

8. Nashville’s big change. The Predators needed another game-breaking forward to help fix a dreadful power play that failed them all year. They hope to have found that in Matt Duchene. To make room for him they had to deal from their depth on defense and dump P.K. Subban‘s salary. Are they a better team with Duchene over Subban? David Poile is taking a big gamble that they are.

9. Ron Francis takes over Seattle. This is going to be a tough job, not only because he is starting an organization from scratch, but because expectations will be almost unreachable given what happened with the Vegas Golden Knights.

10. New rules. Video review is being expanded to cover major and match penalties, as well as goals scored as the result of a hand pass, high stick on the puck, or pucks that should have been whistled for being out of play. There are also some new player safety rules in place. Read all about them here.

The oddities

11. Robin Lehner‘s New York “Rangers” Masterton Trophy. Lehner won the 2018-19 Masterton Trophy, awarded annually to the player that shows perseverance and dedication to hockey, and gave an inspiring speech at the awards ceremony. When he actually received the physical trophy it had him playing for the New York Rangers. He played the 2018-19 season for the New York Islanders. Fans of those teams do not like being confused for the other.

12. NJ Devil goes through the glass. What was the mascot trying to accomplish? No one knows, but it spoiled a child’s birthday party by running through a giant glass window.

13. Connor McDavid‘s skate lace belt. Not really sure what else to say here, other than when you are the best in the world you can dress however you want.

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14. Phil Kessel’s one-room theatre. After putting his Pittsburgh home on the market, the Internet pounced on a random photo of what looked to be the loneliest movie theatre room in the world … a single desk chair in front of a big screen TV. Kessel said he never actually used the room, it had been empty, and his realtor thought they should put a chair in it to give the feel of a theatre. It was still fun while it lasted.

15. Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s reaction to Keenan Thompson’s Lightning joke. He did not find it amusing (Victor Hedman, however, cracked a smile).

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

Other NHL teams could learn from Hurricanes’ great offseason

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The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t perfect (points to Petr Mrazek and James Reimer), but the rest of the NHL could learn a thing or two from their masterful offseason.

On the heels of signing Jake Gardiner at a surprising discount, let’s take a look at some of the key decisions, and how other GMs and front offices can learn from Carolina’s impressive blend of patience and opportunism.

The biggest job was done for them: While big names like Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, and Brayden Point remain in contract limbo, the Hurricanes have Sebastian Aho locked down at what will almost certainly be a team-friendly rate of $8.454 million per year, all thanks to Marc Bergevin’s perplexingly modest offer sheet.

Hey, sometimes you just get flat-out lucky.

The power of patience: Instead of bidding on free agents on July 1, when asking prices are at their highest, the Hurricanes instead played hard to get, and remarkably found ways to potentially improve in areas of weakness.

It might be strange to view July 12 as exceedingly late, but it must have felt like an eternity for Ryan Dzingel, and the Hurricanes took advantage of a tepid market and that urgency to sign Dzingel for chump change (two years, $3.375M cap hit). Dzingel isn’t perfect, yet he could bring some finishing touch to Carolina, which is noteworthy because while the Hurricanes have a reputation for hogging the puck, they’ve sometimes lacked the sniping skills to put that puck in the net at the same rate as the NHL’s deadliest teams.

Gardiner is the most obvious example of the Hurricanes being patient, as his contract situation somehow lingered into September, and the Hurricanes exploited that for big gains. Gardiner could provide a potential boost to one of the Hurricanes’ other areas of concern, too: the power play.

Striking at the right moment: The Hurricanes weren’t just playing hard to get. Sometimes they seized the moment, and the results were promising.

Carolina wisely took advantage of the Golden Knights’ cap crunch to get Erik Haula for a pittance in a trade. If Haula works out — there are some health concerns — then he’s another forward who could help Carolina score goals, supplementing that sniping alongside Dzingel.

To be continued: It remains to be seen if Carolina was wise in taking on Patrick Marleau’s contract in exchange for a first-round pick.

Either way, the Hurricanes deserve credit for being proactive in trying to identify value, and they really could have set a template for teams like the Red Wings and Senators to accrue assets. (Ottawa and Detroit did not get the memo, at least not yet.)

Valuing flexibility: The Hurricanes could have panicked and overpaid to feel more secure about their goaltending situation, but considering the very limited options on the market beyond Sergei Bobrovsky (and how expensive Bob ended up being), Carolina could have made a big blunder.

Instead, they played it safe, and found a way to move on from the Scott Darling era of errors.

Interestingly, while the Gardiner addition arguably gives Carolina the league’s best defense, it’s not certain that we’re done seeing them make changes. Most pressingly, Justin Faulk is entering a contract year, and the Hurricanes may understandably go the trade route to solve that riddle.

Either way, the Hurricanes are in a position of rare luxury: they can do something there, but they don’t have to. Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane notes when you have to do something, “you’re screwed.” Other NHL teams know that pain all too well.

***

The Hurricanes are on a short list of the smartest NHL teams alongside the Sharks because they consistently find value in a variety of ways. They’re patient when they should be, but not passive, showing the ability to jump on opportunities when other teams might get trigger shy.

Many other NHL teams are so behind the curve that they come across as downright dull, yet the Hurricanes look cutting edge. We’ll see if that pays dividends with more big steps forward in 2019-20, but it’s impressive stuff either way.

(Oh yeah, and their drafting also drew rave reviews. That team is just on fire lately.)

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.