The Carolina Hurricanes have taken leaps and strides in the roster over the last two season. This iteration of the team boasts one of the best rosters the team has seen in years.
Since Tom Dundon became primary owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, the team has made one brilliant move after another, both on and office the ice. If the offseason and preseason are an indication, expect that trend to continue this year.
A team that finished one step shy of the Stanley Cup Finals last season did not rest this summer. Six players who were critical pieces of the postseason roster are no longer with the team. Micheal Ferland, Greg McKegg and Curtis McElhinney left via free agency, Justin Williams to retirement (temporarily at least) and Justin Faulk and Calvin de Haan were traded. Almost all the holes were filled by veterans.
Waddell traded for forward Erik Haula (replacing Ferland) and defenseman Joel Edmonson (de Haan). He signed defenseman Jake Gardiner (Faulk), forward Ryan Dzingel (Williams) and goalie James Reimer (McIlhenney) as free agents. The only player he didn’t find a replacement for—veteran journeyman McKegg—will now be replaced by rookie Martin Necas.
Last year’s Opening Night roster included rookies Warren Foegele, Necas, Valentin Zykov, Lukas Wallmark and Andrei Svechnikov. Combined, those five players had 34 games of NHL experience heading into the campaign. Zykov turned into a bust, and Necas made the roster only because of injuries. He played in seven games before being sent to Charlotte for more seasoning.
This year’s opening roster is much deeper in terms of NHL talent. Necas is the only rookie who cracked the lineup, holding off a spirited challenge from Julien Gauthier, the team’s 2016-first-round pick.
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Look at the players who didn’t make the team. Veterans Gustav Forsling (122 NHL games), Anton Forsberg (45 games), Fredrik Claesson (150 games) and Brian Gibbons (189 games) brought considerable experience to training camp but will begin the season in Charlotte, further proof of the deep and talented roster compiled by GM Don Waddell.
The five least-experienced players on the 2019-20 Opening Night roster (Necas, Hadyn Fleury, Foegele, Svechnikov and Wallmark) will have played in more combined Stanley Cup playoff games (48) than the five least-experienced players on last year’s roster had played NHL regular season games (34).
The team is deep, talented, hungry and still young, with half the 20-man squad 25 or younger and a bevy of prospects waiting for their chance.
While the team is making the right moves on the ice, it’s also making great decisions off the ice as well.
Throwing open the doors for the final exhibition game attracted a capacity crowd that brought playoff-like energy to the contest (when’s the last time an exhibition game featured multiple fights, a player earning a 10-minute misconduct penalty, the crowd doing the Wave and long lines at the concession stands?).
Last year’s Bunch of Jerks campaign unified the team and the fanbase. A series of offseason moves and decisions has ensured the momentum is carrying over into this season. Where will you be to enjoy it?