July 1st is coming upon us and that means two things: it’s hot as hell outside and NHL free agency begins. While Carolina made a controversial splash during the NHL draft trading their 8th overall pick, prospect Brian Dumoulin and center Brandon Sutter to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jordan Staal, there are still several holes to fill on the team. While Jim Rutherford stated on Twitter that, “We will continue to look to add another piece or two before the season starts,” it is unclear whether Rutherford will make another trade or fill those holes via free agency. Either way, there are holes to fill on the team, including:
- Another true stay-at-home defenseman. With Carolina having so many offensive defensemen on their roster and in the system (Pitkanen, McBain, Murphy, etc) and with the strong possibility of unrestricted free agent Bryan Allen taking his talents elsewhere, the Canes need to look to add another strong defenseman that will solidify the core. With a goaltender like Cam Ward and Carolina’s goals against being one of the worst in the NHL, that’s an issue. With Ryan Suter most likely going to a bigger market (i.e. Detroit), look for Rutherford to go after Matt Carle or Dennis Wideman.
- A gritty, strong fourth-liner. Let’s be honest with each other. Carolina needs team toughness. They had several players in the past who would play that role including Tim Conboy and Troy Bodie. However, they have shied away from that type of player in the last couple of years and it has shown. Defensemen Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison are currently the likely candidates to scrap, but the problem with Gleason and Harrison fighting is that they’re also two of our best defensemen and Carolina can’t afford having them sit in the sin bin for 5 minutes.
- Another strong scoring winger. With Jordan Staal added to the mix, it will be up to head coach Kirk Muller how he’s used. He can either play center on the first line with his brother, Eric, or get placed as a second line center. Either way, adding another top 6 scoring winger will help the club out tremendously. This can be done via trade or free agency, but it can also mean that some of the players’ that have been waiting to get a legitimate shot at playing in the big leagues (Dalpe, Bowman, Boychuk, etc.) will need to step it up if they want to be considered for a top role with the club going forward. If Carolina looks to go the free agency route, I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see a familiar face come back (“Say hello to my little friend”).
- A third line center. With the departure of Brandon Sutter, Carolina loses key depth down the middle and one of their best (if not THE best) defensive forwards. While many assume that Jeremy Welsh will assume that role at some point, it’s unclear as to whether “some point” will be this season or not. The Canes will also look at Riley Nash, who received some playing time last season with Carolina before finishing out the season with Charlotte. Both Welsh and Nash will most likely be battling out for the third line center spot in training camp, assuming Rutherford doesn’t go out and acquire one via trade or pick one up through free agency.
As big of a deal it is to bring Jordan Staal into the mix, it certainly leaves us with more questions then it does with answers. Some of those questions will be answered over the next couple of weeks with whomever Rutherford decides to bring into the fold. My guess is that he stays true to his word and adds one or two key pieces (hopefully a forward and defenseman) and hopes that some of the players from Charlotte bring it during training camp. The Hurricanes are as desperate as ever to make the playoffs now than ever before and management knows that. They have given up one of their core guys to bring in a potential superstar, but there are still a few key pieces that need to be added to make them a legit playoff contender. We’ll see over the next couple of weeks if those holes can be filled.
How do you think Carolina will fill the needed holes? Will players from Charlotte who have been knocking at the door finally break through in training camp and pre-season in order to stick around? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter: @CardiacCaneFS, @Caniac176, @Caniac_John, and @PJT_Caniac