Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been a hot topic of discussion lately amongst the Caniac faithful. The Carolina Hurricanes chose to sign the 21-year-old Finland product despite a down 2020-2021 season. The contract he received alongside the lack of production raised eyebrows after the Hurricanes traded away Alex Nedeljkovic over the money he was due. Dougie Hamilton also received an exorbitant amount of money from the New Jersey Devils, something the Hurricanes also felt was too pricey for their taste. The scrutiny and the concern about the direction of the team are understandable as the Hurricanes had the 3rd best record in the NHL last season before their season was ended by the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The organization had to shake things up, albeit there were some head-scratching moves, this organization has been on the right track in recent years while currently possessing the 2021 Jack Adams award winner, Rod Brind’Amour.
Kotkaniemi is a 21-year-old player projected to man the 3rd line. Now, this may bring the question of why would you pay a 3rd line player six million? Kotkaniemi is a talented young player that did underperform last season, however, he is under the wing of arguably the best coach in the NHL, he is not being asked to be the guy but rather produce relatively stress-free. Think about what Tampa Bay has done with talented players manning lower lines, rounding out the offense as opposed to asking the first line to do everything. As great as the Hurricanes were last year the lack of depth showed in the playoffs and the pressure caught up to the 1st and even 2nd lines. Kotkaniemi, as pricey as he may be is still a former 3rd overall pick that fell into the Carolina Hurricanes laps.
2020-2021 is gone and that Hurricanes team was not good enough to win a Stanley Cup. Role players were Achilles heel and right now it looks like the approach to 2021-2022 is it will take a total team effort to dethrone the gold standard Tampa Bay Lightning.