Bad news: it’s still not October yet. Good news: August means we’re one month closer to hockey season so yay for that. Better news: this is the first Ave’s Faves summer feature, where I’ll be looking at off-season moments like trades and free agency. Normally I write about my Faves during games, where I rank the best and worst moments, but here it’s just regular old commentary.
Guess Who’s Back, Back Again?
- That’s one way to celebrate a birthday! Forward Sebastian Aho was signed to an eight-year, $78 million deal. Since his NHL debut in 2016, Aho has scored nearly 500 points for the Hurricanes and led in goals with 36 in the 2022-23 regular season. It’s a no-brainer that Aho is a key offensive player for the Hurricanes and has earned his title as alternate captain given how he exceeds expectations every year. I can’t wait to see what else he’ll accomplish during his extension.
- It’s safe to say there’s a reason why Jordan Staal is captain for the Carolina Hurricanes and was re-signed on a four-year, $11.6 million extension. To quote Don Waddell, “‘[Jordan’s] leadership has been an integral part of our success, and the impact he has made on our organization cannot be overstated.’” An important part of a team’s dynamic is a strong leader and Jordan Staal is a prime example. Since being traded to Carolina from Pittsburgh in 2012, Staal has earned 397 regular season points for the Canes and 32 postseason points. Considering that the average age of retirement for a hockey player is between 35 and 45, I can see Jordo retiring in Raleigh if he chooses to do so.
- Jesper Fast was signed to a two-year, $4.8 million extension after a period of free agency. This year’s playoffs proved Fast’s capabilities as a forward since in the 2022-23 postseason he scored the most goals for the Hurricanes. As for total points, he was tied with Brent Burns at nine. Fast is definitely a player that impressed me during the playoffs, and I look forward to watching him play this year.
- At first, I wasn’t too sure about Frederik Andersen and how well he would do in the playoffs. He definitely proved me wrong after the 4OT game, where he made 57 saves and had a .950 save percentage. Meanwhile, I could barely stay awake while I was writing about my faves from that game. Now that he’ll be back for another two years, I’d like to see him keep stepping up in the regular season, not just in the playoffs.
- In the 2022-23 regular season, Antti Raanta had a 19-3-3 record with the Hurricanes and a .910 save percentage. He also set a franchise record for single-season points percentage by a goalie. I wonder what new records he’ll set during his extension.
- Dylan Coghlan only played in 17 games and scored 3 points for the Hurricanes in the 2022-23 regular season. To be fair, that was his first season playing for Carolina, but I wasn’t too impressed by him. Maybe he hasn’t proven himself yet, and hopefully, he will this upcoming season because I like to think that everyone has potential.
- The last time I wrote about TDA stuff hit the fan so all I’m going to say is that I hope he does well on defense this go-round.
New Canes On The Block
- Michael Bunting totaled 112 points since starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021-22 season and scored 64 goals. He was also ranked fifth on the team in goals and points and set multiple career highs in power-play goals, power-play points, and game-winning goals. Every time I see career highs or personal records for a player I think “Ooh, can he top that?”, and I’m definitely wondering that for Bunting. With these stats, he’ll fit in nicely with players such as Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, all of whom have shined offensively for the Hurricanes this previous year.
- Dmitry Orlov earned 36 points with both Washington and Boston last year, in addition to 29 assists. In the 2022-23 playoffs, Orlov had 8 points with the Bruins. Perhaps most notably, he won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018. What I like about the Hurricanes’ defensive players is how versatile they are since they can keep the puck away from opponents but also easily step into offensive roles. Orlov is a fantastic addition to the Canes for similar reasons.
- Over the course of 275 games played, Lemieux boasts 69 points, nine of which were gained during the 2022-23 season with Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Given that he also has 100 hits and 31 fighting majors, I can see him being an enforcer for the Hurricanes if necessary. In such a role though, you want to be scrappy but not play dirty. Reading about Lemieux’s signing, I also thought that it was really cool how the Hurricanes were originally the Hartford Whalers and Lemieux is the nephew of former Whaler Jocelyn Lemieux.
- Mendel scored a career-high (so far) nine points with the Chicago Wolves last year. From 2017-22, he played college hockey for Denver and Quinnipiac, serving as an alternate captain while he was a senior at Denver during the 2020-21 season. Over the course of 176 college games, Mendel earned 35 points. He reminds me of Jaccob Slavin, who’s earned 235 points in 584 games played and is also an alternate captain for the Hurricanes.
Honorable Mentions: Ondrej Kase, Mackenzie MacEachern, Shayne Gostisbehere, Calvin de Haan, Max Lajoie, Cavan Fitzgerald, Max Pacioretty, Zach Sawchenko, and William Lagesson. Good luck to them on their new respective teams!
I will say that I am disappointed that Shayne Gostisbehere and Mackenzie MacEachern did not return to Carolina because I felt that their time as Hurricanes was short and would have liked to see them develop on the team. But, that just means new players get to show their talents and add to the team dynamic. I can’t pick which newly signed player I’m most looking forward to watching. Given their respective statistics and experience, I definitely have high expectations.
Frederik Andersen is another player I have high expectations for, but I feel confident that he will do well in the net. Sure, he’s a fan favorite, but woohoo, Sebastian Aho is a Hurricane for eight more years! If (and that’s a big if) Jordan Staal retires, I can see Aho potentially becoming captain for the Hurricanes.
When I write about my Faves, I like to sometimes include a Hurricane Watch, which is a player whose talent I feel is most demonstrated, whether (pun intended) it be for the Hurricanes or a different team such as the Chicago Wolves. Here, my Watch is Griffin Mendel because he is playing on an entry-level contract and I can see him potentially becoming an official Hurricane based on his experience.