The Carolina Hurricanes Could Pluck Players from the Stanley Cup Champs

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

Congratulations to the Florida Panthers for winning the Stanley Cup. After reaching the finals last season and losing to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the Panthers learned and got hungrier for this past season and it showed in the playoffs. Many teams, including the Carolina Hurricanes, will look to imitate the blueprint of Florida. As they say, if you can't beat them, join them.

Like every Stanley Cup winner, the team will have to part ways with important pieces to maintain the core that took them to the promised land. This Panthers group has quite a few depth pieces hitting the free-agent market. Additionally, top-scoring forward, Sam Reinhart is an unrestricted free agent.

I don't believe that the Canes will be going big-game hunting in Florida this summer, although potentially losing Teuvo Teravainen and Jake Guentzel could create some desperation.

Speaking of potential players to walk from Carolina, the defensive trio of Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce, and Tony DeAngelo may be more realistic for departing. This would leave some big skates to fill on the blue line to make Rod Brind'Amour's system excel. Even losing one of Skjei or Pesce would require a reputable replacement.

Florida has three free-agent defensemen; two could be ideal replacements for Skjei and Pesce. The two were a great defensive pairing and a perfect match of left and right-handed players. The left-handed Florida free agent who would be a similar player for Skjei is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The right-handed Florida free agent to replace Pesce would be Brandon Montour.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

The former captain of the Arizona Coyotes has had a crazy couple of years since leaving the franchise that drafted him 6th overall in the 2009 NHL draft. Ekman-Larsson was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for the 2021-22 season to take the Canucks to the next level. Unfortunately, the Swede had a rough two seasons in British Columbia and the team struggled mightily.

The $8.25 million contract was too much for a team looking to restructure. Ekman-Larsson was bought out and looking to find the right spot for him at this point in his career. At 32 years old, the left-handed defenseman found the right fit in Florida and won a Stanley Cup.

Ekman-Larsson played 80 games and registered 32 points. 9 of those points were goals and 11 of his points were on the man advantage.

The always slick skating defenseman found his defensive game under Paul Maurice and continued to produce offensively as he has soft hands and great vision. Having played almost 1,000 NHL games, Ekman-Larsson could lose a step in the coming years but his skating ability is too strong to be a problem.

A player who can play in every situation while putting up points would be a seamless transition from Skjei. Making just $2.25 million last year, it might cost close to $4 million to sign him this summer. However, that would be far less than what Skjei will command.

Brandon Montour

The younger of the two options, Montour is a right-handed defenseman who can play in all areas and has some serious grit and meanness to his game at times. A little smaller in stature than Pesce, Montour adds more offensive skill to the game. He can anchor a power play while playing on the penalty kill.

Similar to Ekman-Larsson, Montour has shown the ability to score goals while his skating keeps him in position. He finished this year with 8 goals and 33 points in just 66 games.

The two prior seasons, the former Anaheim Ducks draft pick scored double-digit goals. In 2022-23 he put up an unbelievable 73 points with 16 goals. 31 of those points were on the man advantage. If he had produced at that rate this year, he would be far out of the Canes price range.

With Montour entering his 10th season in the NHL and having had some injuries in the past, his price value is not quite as high but he may be looking for a big payday to drag him out of Florida after winning the title.

The Ontario native just finished a 3-year contract with a salary cap hit of $3.5 million per season. His new contract could be over $6 million. In the case that Pesce and Skjei walk, it might be the best option to cover the missing skillset. Although Montour would bring much more than Pesce ever brought the team the contract could be justified.

Obtaining a player like Montour would help the power play so much that it would lessen the blow of losing the forwards to free agency. The options are out there so it is almost time to see what tricks Eric Tulsky has up his sleeves.