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30 in 30

Optimism abounds in Carolina after offseason moves

Sunday, 08.12.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

When Kirk Muller was hired as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes last November, he acquired a team spiraling out of control and in need of direction.

The Hurricanes were not only next to last in the Eastern Conference, but stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward were in the midst of seasons to forget. It would take three months before Muller would ultimately right the ship -- the Hurricanes rebounded from a 14-23-7 mark at the All-Star break to finish the season 33-33-16.

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, general manager Jim Rutherford knew something had to be done in an attempt to instill some sense of pride and optimism for fans and players.

The acquisitions of center Jordan Staal and left wing Alexander Semin did just that.

Newcomers give Canes options up front

Sunday, 08.12.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

A year after missing out on the postseason on the final day of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes took a step backward in 2011-12. The 'Canes slumped at the start of the season, costing coach Paul Maurice his job.

Carolina improved under new coach Kirk Muller, but it was too late for a comeback and the Hurricanes missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. General manager Jim Rutherford went on the record with his desire to add a marquee player (or two) this offseason, and he landed one in a trade on the first day of the 2012 NHL Draft by bringing in Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh.

He also tried to lure the top free agents to Raleigh, and eventually added another top-six forward on a big money, one-year deal. Staal and Alexander Semin give Muller a lot more firepower, while adding Joe Corvo and possibly stud prospect Ryan Murphy on defense could give Carolina a chance to compete for the Southeast Division title.

Murphy highlights Canes' top 10 prospects

Sunday, 08.12.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Who will make an instant impact for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012-13?

Two seasons ago, it was forward Jeff Skinner. Last season, defenseman Justin Faulk burst upon the scene as a first-year pro.

"Timing is everything," Carolina's director of amateur scouting, Tony MacDonald, told NHL.com. "You have to be careful, because Skinner and Faulk are the exceptions rather than the rule. It doesn't happen often. When you draft a player in the first or second round, you're not really expecting to see them in your lineup for two or three years … it doesn't happen that often where they jump in and have an impact early on.

"We might be a little spoiled by what [Skinner and Faulk] have done, but there's always a chance a player could have an impact in his first year."

There are several candidates within the pipeline expected to challenge for considerable playing time this season. Despite losing one of their more promising prospects in Boston College defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who was part of the deal that brought Jordan Staal to Raleigh, the Hurricanes appear to be stocked on defense. There's also a nice stable of forwards hoping to impress at the team's training camp in September.

Roles for Semin, J. Staal among Canes' questions

Sunday, 08.12.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight year, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford made several bold moves.

He started by acquiring two-way center Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins and followed with the signing of unrestricted free agent left wing Alexander Semin, in an attempt to alter the landscape of the Eastern Conference.

The moves certainly give coach Kirk Muller plenty to ponder with regard to line combinations entering training camp. The arrival of Staal immediately gives the Hurricanes a boost down the middle and Semin provides that complementary scoring the team has lacked in recent years.

"It's great to have a right-handed goal-scorer like Semin to balance out our lines," Muller said. "Who plays with who, this guy with that guy, can be sorted out in preseason. For us, having Semin adds another dimension to our lineup, with a right-handed shooter we know can produce. Whether he plays with the Staal brothers or splits time with them, we've got an elite player to play with them."

Faulk's rookie season a flash of future potential

Sunday, 08.12.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford knows when something good is about to happen.

At the time Rutherford opted not to release young defenseman Justin Faulk to the U.S. National Junior Team for inclusion in the 2012 World Junior Championship last December, he suggested that Faulk was already playing too integral a role for the Hurricanes despite his age.

As it turned out, Faulk would lead all Carolina skaters in average ice time per game (22:50), finishing first among NHL rookie defensemen in that category. He also topped all rookie defenders with five power-play goals, and was second with 22 points. He'd finish with eight goals and 14 assists in 66 games during his first NHL season.

Playing alongside Jay Harrison or Tim Gleason much of the season, Faulk became the eighth player in franchise history to be honored on the NHL All-Rookie Team and was one of 12 rookies selected to participate in the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Ottawa.

Nashville's depth should overcome lineup losses

Saturday, 08.11.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

There have been some wild swings of emotion in the Music City in the past five months.

Nashville looked like a Stanley Cup contender and rolled past arch-nemesis Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. But the Predators ran into the upstart Phoenix Coyotes in the second round, and a late night in Arizona for late-season additions Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn didn't help matters.

An early exit from the postseason led to a long offseason, when one-half of the team's top defense pairing signed a 13-year contract with Minnesota and the other a 14-year pact with Philadelphia. Fortunately for Nashville, captain Shea Weber was a restricted free agent, so the Predators matched the Flyers' offer sheet and he remains with the organization.

Preds build prospect pool without No. 1 picks

Saturday, 08.11.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile has tried his to get his team deep into the postseason, and it's come at a steep price. For a second straight year, Poile did not have a first-round pick at the NHL Draft; he dealt it to the Buffalo Sabres in February to land gritty center Paul Gaustad.

However, that doesn't mean the Predators are void of prospects or solid young players. The club recently re-signed center Colin Wilson -- its first-round choice in 2008 -- to a new three-year deal. From June 26-July 1, the Preds held their annual development camp, where all nine of their 2012 draft choices participated, including left wing Pontus Aberg, Nashville's second-round choice and the 37th player taken.

"He plays a two-way game, but looking at him he is probably more offensive than anything," Predators European scout Lucas Bergman told the team's website. "He has one-on-one ability, he can challenge the defense, he gets pucks off of his stick quick and all of those things are very attractive."

Defenseman Ellis must do more for Predators

Saturday, 08.11.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Ryan Suter's departure for the Minnesota Wild leaves a gaping hole on the Nashville Predators' blue line, and the team will attempt to fill it internally.

All indications are that Roman Josi will get the first crack at skating alongside captain Shea Weber, but it is also possible the job will one day belong to Ryan Ellis.

The 21-year-old got his first taste of the NHL last season, when he tallied three goals and eight assists in 32 games after 18 points in 29 AHL contests prompted a promotion from Milwaukee. Ellis also appeared in three Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Predators, who were ousted in the second round by the Phoenix Coyotes.

Rinne, Wilson among Predators' six questions

Saturday, 08.11.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Nashville Predators have yet to reach the Western Conference Finals since they began play in 1998, and now a key member of the organization will be elsewhere.

Ryan Suter, the club's first-round pick from the historic 2003 NHL Draft who averaged close to 30 minutes of ice time per game last season, left the Predators on July 4 to sign a 13-year deal with the Minnesota Wild. Two weeks later, Nashville nearly suffered another major blow when captain Shea Weber signed a 14-year offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers that the Predators ultimately matched.

Though the loss of Suter potentially could be devastating, coach Barry Trotz is confident the franchise has the depth to remain competitive.

Predators still confident with Weber, Rinne extensions

Saturday, 08.11.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Nashville Predators are still chasing that elusive Stanley Cup, but they continue to show they're willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill their dream.

Whether it's trading first-round draft picks for veteran players or matching a mammoth offer sheet for its franchise player and captain, Nashville brass will not rest until it's parading Lord Stanley around Music City.

That challenge grew bigger this summer when the Predators lost defenseman Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild via free agency. Suter, who along with Shea Weber formed one of the top defensive pairings in the NHL, signed a 13-year deal with the Wild on July 4.

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