Top 5 Free Agents the Carolina Hurricanes Should Target

Jun 1, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Sebastian Aho (20) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game two of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Sebastian Aho (20) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game two of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /
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May 29, 2021; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) (not pictured) scores a goal past New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) while defenseman Adam Pelech (3) and center Brad Marchand (63) battle in the crease during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2021; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) (not pictured) scores a goal past New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) while defenseman Adam Pelech (3) and center Brad Marchand (63) battle in the crease during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Adam Pelech

This will be the only defenseman on this list, but for good reason – I believe that Adam Pelech is the literal perfect fit for the Carolina Hurricanes on defense. The Hurricanes are almost certain to lose a left-handed defenseman in the expansion draft, whether it be Jake Bean, a former Francis pick who is starting to play like the 13th overall pick he was selected with, Brady Skjei, a top 4 guy who has played well in his time with Carolina, whether that be because of the Brett Pesce effect or not, or Jake Gardiner in a trade where the Canes give the Kraken something for taking him.

Adam Pelech, currently 26, was drafted with the #65 overall pick in the 3rd round in the 2012 NHL entry draft. In his draft year, Pelech put up 20 points in 44 games for the Erie Otters in the OHL, though his -20 +/-, which is never a good stat to judge players, wasn’t wonderful. The next year, wearing the A, Pelech had a better year, scoring 40 points in 59 games.

Pelech would continue to improve, as in 2013-2014, he would notch 54 points in 60 games with a plus/minus of 52, to go along with 7 points in 14 playoff games. This would be his last year in Juniors as in 2014-2015, Pelech would make his AHL debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, playing the full season and putting up 11 points in 65 games.

Pelech would make his NHL debut in the 2015-2016 season, putting up 2 points in 9 games before only playing 27 games at the AHL level, having 7 points to boot. Another year of bouncing around the NHL and AHL level, with 10 points in 44 games and 5 points in 13 AHL games. Pelech would finally become a full time NHLer in 2017 and in the span of 4 years, would play 303 games and put up 75 points.

Now, his point totals aren’t great. “Why would the Carolina Hurricanes go after him?”, absolutely no one asks. Pelech is truly one of the many good Islanders defenders who have elite defensive skill. Pelech, along with Devon Toews (when he was an Isles player) and Ryan Pulock, are absolutely insane defenders that Lou Lamoriello has had for far too long without issue.

Pelech’s advanced numbers prove this true even more. According to Moneypuck, in the regular season, Pelech blocked 73 shots, which is in the top 50% and has 25 takeaways, which is good for 14th in the NHL among defensemen. As a pairing with Ryan Pulock, in the regular season, they had the 10th lowest goals against among defensemen that played over 500 minutes together.

What would a contract look for someone like Pelech? Does he even hit the open market? Well, this would be the time for the Carolina Hurricanes to again take advantage of a team with no cap space. The Islanders have a solid $-14,168 in cap space heading into the offseason, needing to re-sign Ilya Sorokin, Anthony Beauvillier and Casey Cizikas. Pelech doesn’t have to be protected in the expansion draft either, which means the Isles are a little screwed.

Now, the Carolina Hurricanes should take full advantage of this situation by either trading for the rights to Adam Pelech, or getting revenge and offer sheeting a team that had no effect on the Sebastian Aho offer sheet dilemma (aside from having a defenseman named Sebastian Aho who some people thought the Canes took in the 2015 NHL draft). A contract for Adam Pelech would probably look like 4-5 years and about $4.5-5 million in cap space.

What would the defensive core look like with Adam Pelech? For starters, it would maintain the narrative that the Carolina Hurricanes have the deepest defensive core in the league, with a lineup of:

Slavin-Hamilton*

Skjei-Pesce

Pelech-Keane/Sellgren/FA pickup

*- being that he re-signs with the Canes (which he should)

Now, tell me another team that can even come close to this lineup. There isn’t one. Colorado might the closest team but they fall at the bottom pairing. The Carolina Hurricanes would also still have around $8 million (assuming Hamilton is re-signed and Gardiner is traded/taken at the draft), which is enough to do most things you need to do to finish the lineup.

Now, do the Carolina Hurricanes really need Adam Pelech? Not at all. Truthfully, the Canes’ last need is a defenseman, especially one that is left-handed. But would Adam Pelech be really good for the Canes, or any other team to have? Absolutely. Giving Keane a guy who can cover for you when you make a boneheaded move is a key piece in development; just look at Dougie Hamilton with Jaccob Slavin and again without him. Plus, it wouldn’t be hard to get him, as the Islanders don’t have any cap space and need to move some money quickly.