For the third straight year, the Carolina Hurricanes entered the season with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations. A roster chock-full of talent, one of the best coaches in the league, and a strong home-ice atmosphere had many experts picking the Canes not only before the season began but also heading into the playoffs.
Carolina set franchise records with 116 points and 54 wins in the regular season and cruised to a division title, their second straight. They had multiple 30 goal scorers, 11 players reach double-digit goals, and 14 with at least 28 points. Plus, they’d been getting strong goaltending from Freddie Andersen.
Then, the playoffs came, they won a round (albeit not as easily as expected) and then flamed out in the same way they had the year before and the year before that. A team that was built on a balanced offensive attack, tremendous defense, and good goaltending had bowed out in the 2nd round for the third season in a row. The scoring dried up, the depth was exposed, and the goaltending couldn’t save the day (this year due to injury more than anything else).
It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it?
Of course, the Golden Knights and Hurricanes are not all that similar in their construction nor in the way they’ve operated as an organization, and the problems facing each team are vastly different heading into this offseason, but there are enough similarities that could make a perfect partner for each other this summer.
Carolina have plenty of decisions to make on important players like Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Max Domi, Tony DeAngelo, Martin Necas, and Ethan Bear. Lucky for them, they have much more cap space to do it than the team we cover on this site.
But, like the Golden Knights, they can’t simply bring everyone back and expect the results to be different this time around. They could use some sort of a shake up and they’ll want to do it by brining in usable Cup-contending pieces.
I always think we’re good. It’s just, do we have elite goal scorers? Maybe not, but we have great players. We’re built a little differently than some teams. -Rod Brind’Amour, CAR coach
While Vegas’ issue has also been goal scoring, the acquisition of Jack Eichel may allow the front office to look towards a player like Max Pacioretty or Jonathan Marchessault as expendable, and the Canes might be the perfect fit.
In return, Carolina is stocked up on young talent, both that have broken through at the NHL level, and who haven’t. What the Golden Knights really need is a player on an entry-level contract that can come in and contribute at a high-level next year. Seth Jarvis obviously jumps off the page after his stellar year and excellent postseason, but realistically it might cost an elite goal-scorer plus a 1st round pick to pry him away.
Noel Gunler, Ryan Suzuki, and Jamieson Rees are three players all potentially ready to break through and Ville Koivunen is maybe the most expeciting prospect in their pool that may take an extra year but could be a game-changer.
It would be an enormous risk for each of these teams to make what would essentially be a hockey deal as opposed to the Golden Knights trying to shed cap by doing the least damage to the roster or the Canes looking to add by using futures, but it could be exactly what one or both of these teams need.
Something must change in both Vegas and Carolina if they ever expect to get over the hump and the change probably needs to be of fairly great significance rather than working around the edges. Maybe the answer isn’t preying on the teams with the most cap space or in rebuild mode, maybe it’s finding someone in a similiar situation and shuffling the deck a bit between the two franchises.