New Blueline crew
We’ve seen Carolina boast one of the strongest bluelines in hockey for some time. With the loss of Hamilton, there’s now some uncertainty about what is going to happen on the back end. Who will be the quarterback on the first powerplay unit? Who will step in shorthanded? What is happening with the extra defensemen on this team?
I think we assume the blueline will look something like the following:
Now, Jake Gardiner is going onto the long-term injured reserve for the foreseeable future after undergoing back and hip surgery. That was announced by Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell a while ago now. He’s going to be out for some time with the recovery time after these surgeries.
Slavin is Slavin. Do I need to say anything else? One of the best defensive defensemen in the sport, Slavin can hide the blemishes of almost any partner. While Slavin isn’t a traditional powerplay quarterback, his ability to move the puck around at even strength certainly isn’t a weakness. He can provide offense too and knows how to get pucks through traffic or aim for tips.
DeAngelo is someone I’ve tried to avoid talking about to the best of my capabilities. His off-ice history is very concerning, but from a pure hockey perspective, he is a potential 50 point defenseman and someone very capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. He’s a fantastic puck mover. The trick with DeAngelo will be making sure he keeps his nose clean.
Skjei is yet another former New York Ranger helping to make up the new core of this team. Yes, Skjei has been in Raleigh since the 2019 NHL trade deadline but the big defenseman has made a positive impact with the team since coming down from the big apple. Skjei has become a vital penalty killer and even played a large role in the team coping without Slavin during the playoffs.
At 2RD, we find Pesce. I’ve said this time and again, I believe Brett Pesce is the single most underrated player in the entire NHL. This is a player who finished top 20 in Norris voting last season. Yes, it was probably undeserved, but he’s still far more deserving of the praise he gets. A staple on the penalty kill, his versatility cannot be overstated. He’s a premier piece on the Carolina back end.
Ian Cole is someone I am so excited to see in Raleigh. His character is just the living embodiment of everything the Carolina Hurricanes have tried to be under Tom Dundon. Cole brings the experience he gained as a back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. He also brings a physical edge the Canes haven’t had in years.
Finally, we get to the only new trade acquisition of the summer. Bear is a very promising young player that Carolina acquired from the Edmonton Oilers. With Bear, the Carolina Hurricanes have acquired a young defenseman with great skating ability and a very good ability in his own end. There’s a lot of upside with this player, mainly due to his fantastic awareness defensively.
This defense core is a lot different from last season, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s certainly deeper in terms of the personnel, and it’s very unique in its ability to role three stable pairings. There are questions about the production from the backend, but it’s got the framework to succeed again. There’s a lot for this D core to live up to, and it’s got the pieces it needs to do it.