Not content with retooling the forwards, Hurricanes GM Don Waddell set about shaking up the backend over the summer and into training camp. On June 24, Calvin de Haan was packaged off to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling.
Waddell followed this up by making a splash in the free-agent market, signing former Toronto defender Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract on September 6.
With the arrival of Gardiner, a left-shooting and offensively inclined blueliner, the writing was on the wall for Justin Faulk‘s future in Carolina. After a rumored deal with the Anaheim Ducks failed to materialize, Faulk was shipped to the St. Louis Blues along with a fifth-round pick in 2020 for defenseman Joel Edmundson, forward prospect Dominik Bokk, and a seventh-round pick in 2021.
Faulk’s departure opens his place on the first power-play unit, a spot that should be filled by Dougie Hamilton, who is coming off an 18 goal, 39 point season. Gardiner’s arrival will lessen the blow of Faulk being gone while Edmundson brings a defense-first game with plenty of physicality.
Slavin has been the more consistent point producer, averaging just under 29 points per season, but Pesce is finding that part of his game with more regularity. Last season saw him post career-highs in goals (7), assists (22), and points (29).
With Trevor van Riemsdyk sidelined following shoulder surgery, two spots (at least temporarily) were open during camp. Vying for those coveted spots were Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean, Roland McKeown, Chase Priskie, and Forsling. Now, with Bean and Priskie being assigned to Charlotte and Forsling on waivers, the defensive picture is much clearer:
How Fleury handles himself will loom large until van Riemsdyk can return to action. If the Hurricanes can maintain their defensive acumen from last season, it’ll go a long way towards another playoff berth.
Now, on to my biggest area of concern…