It has been a decade now since the Stanley Cup spent the summer in the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, and six years since the Hurricanes even qualified for the playoffs. Success looks quite bleak in the near future, but could brighten up soon. As for this season, I wouldn’t count on a Hurricane making landfall, but maybe a tropical storm or two.
Former Hurricane great and current General Manager Ron Francis has some big decisions on his hands, decisions that will impact the franchise for years to come. Eric Staal, current captain of the Hurricanes, is in the final year of his contract and has expressed a considerable amount of interest in returning. Ron Francis on the Staal contract situation, “I’ve had a general and open and honest conversation with Eric’s agent on things… Eric has indicated he wants to be part of the Hurricanes moving forward, and we’ll see if we can get that worked out.” This should leave fans optimistic, but is retaining Eric Staal the right move for the franchise? Staal is an excellent leader and was a big part of Carolina’s Cup win ten years ago, but he’s thirty years old and his production isn’t what it once was. It would be in the best interest of the Carolina Hurricanes to trade the former number two overall pick NOW. Everyone and their mother knows this is not the year for the Hurricanes, so why not trade him now and get an even better trade package and an increased shot at the number one overall pick. Auston Matthews is looking pretty good in the Swiss National League with eight goals in ten games.
Next up is Cam Ward, a guy who will also be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season. Ward is a shell of a goalie he once was. This could also be contributed to the lack of quality defensemen playing in front of him. But With Eddie Lack signing a contract extension the writing is on the wall for Ward. Lack is the goalie of the future for the Canes. On the trade market Cam Ward would bring experience and a pretty good back-up option for most contending teams. If the price is right, Ward will be shipped out of Carolina by the trade deadline if not sooner.
However, what Ron Francis needs to realize is that this shouldn’t be a total rebuild for the Hurricanes. That means guys like Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner need to stick around. Don’t go and trade them just because you can. Jeff Skinner has fallen on some hard times the past couple years, but he’s a former Calder Trophy winner who is twenty-three years old. Give him another season or two before you give up on the kid.
The night is darkest just before the dawn, and the dawn is not far off. Carolina has a plethora of young talent on the blue line. Justin Faulk is still a young anchor on the blue line and lets not forget Ryan Murphy, Haydn Fleury, Trevor Carrick, Jaccob Slavin, and Roland McKeown. Not to mention Noah Hanifin, the Canes first round selection this past draft. Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth lead the goalie prospects for the Hurricanes. Both of these young goalies have the skill and potential to be starting goalies in the NHL. Offensively speaking the Canes are a little sparse on that shelf of the prospect cupboard, but that shouldn’t be cause for concern. Sebastian Aho and Sergey Tolchinsky are two of the most talented forwards in the Hurricanes system and could crack the NHL roster as early as next season. With these prospects, not to mention the prospects that will come over in the Eric Staal and Cam Ward trade, the Hurricanes will be in great shape for the foreseeable future.
So Hurricanes fans, this may be a year of just tropical storms at PNC Arena, but soon we could see a category five hurricane make landfall in Raleigh in a couple of seasons.