The Carolina Hurricanes are coming into the 2013-14 NHL season after a pretty slow offseason, where like most NHL teams, they focused on retaining their own restricted free agent players. The Hurricanes will be joining the newly formed Metropolitan Division in the realigned Eastern Conference.
Their offseason activity will have a direct impact on the New Jersey Devils because the two teams will now be division rivals in the realigned NHL. The two teams have a history already, and they have met in some excellent playoff series over the years, so this new divisional lineup will serve to deepen this growing rivalry.
The offseason activity for the Hurricanes was a sign of a franchise that was clearly watching their spending. The front office made a small number of transactions, and with the exception of the acquisition of Nathan Gerbe, they brought in no players with any real NHL experience.
The Hurricanes are going to be a very young team heading into the 2013-14 season. The youth movement is certainly not a foreign concept in the NHL, it is one way nearly every franchise will go at a certain point in their history. The obvious reason this direction is taken more often by the smaller market teams is that it is a way to save money.
The Carolina Hurricanes have gone through some challenging periods since moving to North Carolina from Hartford in 1997. The team has had difficulty with sponsorship deals on the business side, and has also had some lean attendance years as well.
This offseason they did very little to upgrade the roster, making the following offseason moves:
- Signed Sergey Tolchinsky – an undrafted winger, 18 years old, to a 3 year entry level contract (www.nhl.com)
- Re-signed Zac Dalpe – Center – he has 5 career goals (www.si.com)
- Re-signed Jared Staal – 0 career goals (www.nhl.com)
- Signed Nathan Gerbe – I year contract – 29 career goals / 43 career assists / 5 goals in 42 games in the abbreviated 2013 season for the Buffalo Sabres (www.si.com)
- Signed their 1st Round pick from the 2013 Draft – Elias Lindholm – Center/Left Wing – he is scouted as an elite prospect – 3 year deal (www.nhl.com)
- Re-signed Riley Nash – Center – 2 year contract – 4 career goals (www.si.com)
- Signed Zach Boychuk – Center – 1 year contract – Boychuk was a former 1st round draft pick of this team back in 2008. He was with the franchise until January 2013 when he was released. He signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins and played in 7 games scoring 0 goals so he was released. He signed with the Nashville Predators in March 2013 at the end of the season became a free agent. He is back now with Carolina (www.nhl.com)
The roster as it is currently made up could have some issues with scoring goals. A comparison by position to the Devils roster was very interesting.
The Hurricanes line up at this position with: Jiri Tlusty, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, and Drayson Bowman. Tlusty had the most goals on the team last year with 23 (www.si.com). Skinner was pretty good with 13 goals in 42 games in 2013. The other guys are solid role player types.
The Devils counter at this position with the following group: Patrik Elias, Ryan Clowe, Andrei Loktionov, and Rotislav Olesz.
I would give New Jersey the advantage at this position, Elias is a complete player, Clowe is going to have a bounce back season, and I think Loktionov and Olesz are better players than Ruutu and Bowman.
The Hurricanes have some issues with depth at this position: Alexander Semin, Patrick Dwyer, Zac Dalpe, Jared Staal, and Elias Lindholm.
Semin had a decent season in the condensed 2013 schedule with 13 goals and 31 assists in 44 games (www.si.com). However, he is capable of being the top scoring player on this team, so that could be considered an off year by his standards.
The rest of the players in this group have very limited experience, and provide very little scoring production, which could be an issue for the Hurricanes this season.
The Devils line up at right wing with: Stephen Gionta, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, and Steve Bernier. This group of players is balanced with Ryder and Jagr providing the goal scoring, and Gionta and Bernier providing the grit and aggressive play.
In my opinion, after Semin, the Hurricanes are at a big disadvantage, the Devils easily have better and more experienced players at this position.
This position is probably the one area where the Hurricanes have the most depth: Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Riley Nash, and Jeremy Welsh will work the middle of the ice for Carolina.
The Staal brothers both had good performances in 2013. Eric was second on the team with 18 goals and he also had 35 assists (www.si.com). Jordan had 10 goals and combined that with 21 assists in the lockout shortened campaign.
I mentioned Riley Nash earlier, the team believes he is a young player with a great deal of upside.
New Jersey will line up at center with: Dainius Zubrus, Travis Zajac, Ryan Carter, and Adam Henrique. This is a very talented group with some very gifted offensive players, and I think Henrique is going to have a strong season in 2013-14.
If Henrique can give them more goals than he gave them in 2013, and if Zubrus can provide some strong offensive production as well, the Devils could have a slight advantage at this position.
The Carolina Hurricanes protect their blue line with: Tim Gleason, Justin Faulk, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Murphy, Jay Harrison, and Andrej Sekera.
Now, it should be noted when I was researching for this article, Joni Pitkanen, was reported to be suffering from a heel injury that was projected to keep him out for 1 or 2 months (www.nhl.com). He is, by far, their best defensemen.
However, as of today, the reports are that Pitkanen is going to miss the entire season with this injury (www.si.com). This is a huge problem for the defensive unit of this team.
Initially, Ryan Murphy was listed as his replacement in the lineup and in the top power play unit (www.nhl.com). Murphy is a top pick from the 2011 Draft (12th overall player selected) but he has just 4 games of NHL experience.
The rest of the defensive unit is not good, as they ranked 29th in goals allowed in 2013. I do not know how they can replace Pitkanen at this point, this close to the start of the season.
The Devils line up at the defense end with: Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Peter Harrold, Eric Gelinas, Mark Fayne, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, and Marek Zidlicky. The Devils have a much better group of defensive players, especially with Carolina losing Pitkanen, they have a decided edge at this position.
The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off a season where they finished 19-25-4. They lost their starting goaltender, Cam Ward, to a terrible injury in 2013. The interesting note about their record is that with Cam Ward healthy in goal they were 12-8-1 in their first 21 games (www.nhl.com).
That illustrates fully both the skill and value of Ward to this Carolina team. His backup is Anton Khudobin, who was brought in from the Boston Bruins, to address the depth at this position. The other goaltenders on the roster last season obviously struggled after Ward went down with the injury. Khudobin has limited playing time over his 4 NHL seasons (www.si.com).
The Devils tend their goal net with Martin Broduer a future Hall of Famer and among the all-time great goaltenders in the rich history of the NHL. The team brought in Cory Schneider, who is young and had terrific numbers last season with the Vancouver Canucks. He will be able to start games so that Brodeur can get additional rest in between his starts.
The Devils have the decided advantage at this position.
The Hurricanes are coming off of a poor finish in the 2013 season, and they did not take much action in upgrading the roster in preparation for the upcoming 2013-14 campaign. The loss of Pitkanen is also a huge blow to this team, which already had the second worst defense in goals allowed in the entire NHL.
The Devils are also coming off of a disappointing 2013 season, where they missed the playoffs, and lost some key personnel in the offseason. New Jersey was fairly active in the offseason to replace the production that they lost as best as they could under the circumstances.
I give the Devils the advantage over the Hurricanes, and I look forward to those games as this already growing rivalry takes on new importance; these teams will now be divisional rivals.