The Carolina Hurricanes have been very busy this offseason. Which of their moves have been the most important for the team going into the 2019-20 season?
The Carolina Hurricanes went into the offseason knowing they needed to add to the offense and address the goalie position. The Hurricanes were able to do both and did so by increasing their spending. The front office realized they needed to capitalize with a roster that is so young and spending money to maximize that is a no-brainer.
But out of all the moves the Hurricanes have made, who is the most important for the team’s success?
Sebastian Aho could be the right answer, but isn’t. Although Aho is the Hurricanes most lethal player on offense, the Hurricanes always knew that they were going to match any offer sheet he was given. That means the team had plans for him to be on the roster for the long-term, which is why he isn’t the most important offseason move.
The correct answer is Petr Mrazek. The Hurricanes thought they were going to lose both Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this offseason, but Mrazek signed a two-year contract to stay in Carolina. Solidifying a number one goalie was key for the Hurricanes to have a chance to get back to where they were last year. Mrazek is that guy.
Having a hot goaltender in the playoffs can take you a long way and last seasons regular season and playoffs can be proof of that and is the main reason why Mrazek is the more important of a signing. Here are a few examples:
The Hurricanes wound up running into a hot goalie in Tuukka Rask, who stymied Carolina’s Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Offense is important in the playoffs, but having a goalie that is locked in will steal you multiple games in a series. It was unfortunate because the Hurricanes were playing so well and they couldn’t find a way to solve Rask. The Boston Bruins didn’t need to play their A-game on offense because Rask was capable of shutting things down completely.
And that’s when the Bruins ran into a hotter goalie than Rask, Jordan Binnington. Binnington was able to bring the St. Louis Blues from last place in the entire NHL to eventual Stanley Cup champions. He posted a 24-5-1 record during the regular season with 1.89 GAA and a .927 save percentage. He wound up being first in the NHL in GAA and eighth in save percentage. Binnington was then 16-10 with a 2.46 GAA and a .914 save percentage. The play of Binnington and the addition of a new coach were able to catapult the Blues into the postseason.
The Carolina Hurricanes even saw a goalie get hot last season. Just like the Blues, the Canes were at the bottom of the league and needed an impressive run to get into the playoffs. The beginning of Mrazek’s tenure in Carolina was shaky at best, but just like the offense, something clicked in Mrazek’s game. He became a more comfortable goalie playing to his strengths and seemed to be completely locked in.
From February 16 to March 11, Mrazek didn’t lose a game in the six he played in, saving 182 of 192 shots. And from February 16 to April 4, Mrazek went 11-2-0 and completely separated himself as the clear-cut number one goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes going forward. He was able to prove to himself that he could still perform at a good level in the NHL. Mrazek got hot at the right time for the Canes and it paid off with one surprising campaign in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes, for the longest time, were unable to find any consistency in the crease. Finding a way to get Mrazek under contract, even when they thought he would be gone, was a huge win for the front office this offseason. Hurricanes fans are well aware of having teams with talent being derailed by horrific goaltending.
Go back to 2017-18, for example. The goaltending duo of Cam Ward and Scott Darling were supposed to propel the youthful Hurricanes forward. But things took a bad turn. Ward, who was meant to be the backup to Darling, wound up outperforming him in that season. Darling after a successful 2016-17 as the backup for the Chicago Blackhawks, was an utter disappointment in Raleigh. He finished the 2017-18 season with a 13-21-7 record, a .888 save percentage, and a 3.44 GAA.
The Carolina Hurricanes are notoriously known for going as far as their goalie can take them. That being said, that gives Mrazek the edge as the more important move over Sebastian Aho. The Huricanes do need a capable number one goalie to compete, and they got one.
Question for CC Readers: What do you think was the most important move for the Carolina Hurricanes 2019-20 season?