Stanley Cup or Bust for Canes?

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers - Game Three
Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers - Game Three / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Well, the playoffs are here and the Carolina Hurricanes have the number 2 seed in the Metro Division which lines them up with a repeat of last year's first-round matchup against the New York Islanders. We all know how last year ended in the Eastern Conference Finals but the time for redemption is about to begin.

The off-season was a strong indication that management believed this group was close to taking the next step and winning a Stanley Cup. The trade deadline was doubling down on that notion with the key acquisitions of Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Every aspect of this team has been addressed since being eliminated by the Florida Panthers last spring.

With great talent comes great expectations. What will be acceptable for all Caniacs this spring? Naturally reaching last year's success is the very least of the goals for this team but is that enough?

It is not the time to go into it but the upcoming off-season is going to be a difficult one for general manager, Don Waddell. A plethora of young stars are set to hit restricted free agency and they deserve a big pay raise, especially Seth Jarvis. Some key unrestricted free agents are set to command more salary than this prior season, which will conflict with the talented youth.

The goalie crease is crowded with a mix of veteran and young talent. It is difficult to see a three-goalie rotation for an entire season next season. Every team faces dilemmas in the summer but it is a lot easier to make decisions with the Stanley Cup being the predecessor.

The pressure is on this group to be able to reach the promised land together. Next season will ultimately see a change in the locker room.

It will be difficult to argue with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals but raising an Eastern Conference Champions banner may not be enough to warrant the exit of some long-time, talented players this summer just to get under the salary cap.

So what are your expectations for the next few weeks?