The next game for the Carolina Hurricanes will officially be the season's halfway point. It is a good time to reflect on some of the moves made in the off-season by general manager, Don Waddell. The players and team have plenty of reasons to go in any direction.
The normal thought when grading an off-season would be looking at the new faces brought in by the front office but let's look at all the players that were brought back to Raleigh this past summer. The biggest transactions of the summer were the return of the captain, Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast, and the goaltending duo of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
In bringing back the familiar faces, Waddell committed $10.2 million this season in salary cap space. Every player but Raanta was brought back on multi-year contracts as well. That means $8.7 million is committed for next year's salary cap too.
To put things in perspective, the new faces arriving this summer were given just under $15 million and those players are considered in their prime as compared to the returning unrestricted free agents.
The two goaltenders were past their prime and injury-prone. The team has Pyotr Kochetkov ready to take the reigns and for Waddell to bring back both veterans certainly raised an eyebrow or two in the hockey community. Raanta back on a cheap, one-year deal made the most sense at the time. Raanta has struggled with a stint in the AHL as well. Andersen is unfortunately out of commission with a serious condition.
The injuries are no player's fault, but the management needs to make an educated decision with the medical staff. The advantage that Waddell had this summer was that his staff had a first hand look at Andersen and Raanta, who both missed significant time in the prior campaign.
The free agent and trade market options for the goalkeeper position were decent and two cheaper options have been brought into Carolina on PTOs this season. The decision to bring back two is my problem. Even if Raanta was let go and Andersen signed the same deal it would have made more sense with Kochetkov around.
The two veteran forwards being brought back was somewhat expected but not for the salary amount and term. To put their roles politely would be third-line, defensive forwards. Those players can be found any time of the year and some with upside. Look no further than free agent acquisition, Brendan Lemieux.
The locker room aspect of these signings meant almost as much as what is produced on the ice. Fast and Staal are leaders that have been around for a while. Similar to the goaltender situation, bringing them both back was not necessary. However, my bigger gripe is the term and money given to these two.
The little spark given by a player like Vasily Ponomarev recently shows that this group could use some fresh faces in important roles. Unfortunately for the captain and Fast, it appears their better days have passed them. Both players are not judged by their stats but it has not been a good season with a combined 23 points and a much more concerning -13 rating.
Ultimately, this team is in a good position right now being closely behind the division-leading New York Rangers. But the true judgment will be when the players are cleaning out their lockers this summer.