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Young defensemen give Hurricanes some optimism

Wednesday, 08.05.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

John Kreiser - Managing Editor

It's been a bleak stretch for the Carolina Hurricanes, one of two teams that have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the 2010s. Carolina has advanced to the postseason twice in the past 10 seasons; 2006, when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup (defeating the Edmonton Oilers in their last playoff appearance), and 2009, when it reached the Eastern Conference Final.

Carolina finished last in the Metropolitan Division in 2014-15 with 71 points; the Hurricanes' playoff hopes were largely doomed by an 0-6-2 start. Most of their problems came on offense: The Hurricanes were 27th in the NHL with 183 goals; center Eric Staal was the only Carolina player to score more than 20 goals and finish with more than 50 points (23, 54).

The Hurricanes realize the challenge ahead if they are to return to the playoffs, but here are four reasons for optimism:

Skinner, Eric Staal among Hurricanes questions

Wednesday, 08.05.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

John Kreiser - Managing Editor

The Carolina Hurricanes have a big hill to climb if they hope to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Hurricanes are coming off a season when they finished last in the Metropolitan Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference and 26th in the NHL. They were among the League's lowest-scoring teams, and their playoff hopes were essentially gone before the first month of the season ended after a 0-6-2 start in October.

It was a nightmarish first season for general manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters, and with several teams in the conference making major improvements this offseason, avoiding a seventh consecutive non-playoff season won't be easy.

Here are three questions facing the Hurricanes this season:

Hanifin, Fleury among Hurricanes' top five prospects

Wednesday, 08.05.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

John Kreiser - Managing Editor

The Carolina Hurricanes' pool of young talent received a big boost at the 2015 NHL Draft.

General manager Ron Francis had the fifth pick in the first round and wound up with the consensus No. 1 defenseman, Noah Hanifin, who excelled in his freshman season at Boston College. Francis wasted little time getting Hanifan's signature on a contract during development camp last month.

Hanifin joins a prospect pool that's already deep on defense but thinner in scoring punch. Most of the Hurricanes' top young players are defensemen, though 2015 second-round pick Sebastian Aho, a right wing, turned heads at development camp.

Here are the Hurricanes' top five prospects, according to

Hurricanes seek more offense to make playoff push

Wednesday, 08.05.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

John Kreiser - Managing Editor continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

The Carolina Hurricanes' hopes of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs ended almost before last season had begun. An 0-6-2 October under new coach Bill Peters proved to be too deep of a hole, and Carolina finished 27 points out of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes haven't made a lot of changes this offseason, but they're hopeful the ones they have made will help them generate enough offense, especially at even strength, to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Carolina Hurricanes fantasy hockey outlook

Wednesday, 08.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Matt Cubeta - Fantasy Insider

As part of's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.

Leading the way: Eric Staal

For the second consecutive season, Staal was a bit of a disappointment to his fantasy owners. After scoring 61 points in 79 games in 2013-14, Staal regressed with 54 points in 77 games last season. He's 30 years old, so there's reason to believe he can revert back to his old form, but the issue that remains constant is the lack of offensive firepower surrounding him in Carolina. Either way, Staal is capable of being a solid contributor in all categories except plus/minus and should be targeted sometime after round six (he's ranked 75th in my offseason rankings).

Canucks sign Brandon Sutter to five-year extension

Tuesday, 08.04.2015 / 10:56 PM / News

Forward Brandon Sutter on Tuesday signed a five-year, $21.875 million contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks.

The contract has an average annual value of $4.375 million and runs through the 2020-21 NHL season.

Sutter, 26, was traded to the Canucks by the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 28 for forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening and a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

"I'm comfortable with [the term]," Vancouver general manager Jim Benning told The Province on Tuesday. "He's a solid two-way player and throughout his career he's been pretty resilient and hasn't had a lot of injuries."

Senators' Hoffman says no negativity from arbitration

Tuesday, 08.04.2015 / 10:38 PM / News

Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman was awarded a one-year, $2 million contract by an arbitrator in Toronto on Monday.

Hoffman submitted a request for a one-year, $3.4 million contract; the Senators offered a one-year, $1.75 million contract. The hearing was held Friday.

"It is a little bit [difficult], but you know yourself as a player you can evaluate yourself," Hoffman told the Ottawa Sun. "At the same time, I didn't take it too bad. We still have a good relationship with management and everything. I don't think any negativity came from arbitration."

Young forward Gauthier impresses at Canada camp

Tuesday, 08.04.2015 / 7:13 PM / 2016 World Junior Championship

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- As the youngest player at Canada's national junior team summer development camp, Julien Gauthier is out to prove age is but a number.

"It doesn't change anything, I think," the 17-year-old forward said at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park. "It's just that I'm the youngest guy on the team. All the guys are like, 'Oh wow! You're only a 2016 eligible draft? You're going to be good.' It's nice to hear that."

In his rookie season as a 16-year-old with Val-d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2013-14, Gauthier had eight goals and 29 points in 62 games.

He earned the invite to Canada's camp following an impressive second season with Val-d'Or. In 68 games, the Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec, native had 38 goals and 73 points, then scored five goals and had five assists in 17 playoff games.

Avalanche, Red Wings alumni to face off outdoors

Tuesday, 08.04.2015 / 6:30 PM / News

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings of the late 1990s and early 2000s will reignite their rivalry in an alumni game Feb. 26 at Coors Field in Denver, one day before the 2015-16 Avalanche and Red Wings play outdoors in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

The alumni game will begin at 7 p.m. ET.

Former Colorado captain Joe Sakic will be joined by fellow Hockey Hall of Fame members Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake and Patrick Roy in the alumni game, according to the Avalanche website.

Playing for the Red Wings alumni will be Brendan Shanahan, forward Igor Larionov and defensemen Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Halverson prepared to re-prove himself as U.S. starter

Tuesday, 08.04.2015 / 3:40 PM / 2016 World Junior Championship

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Don't tell goaltender Brandon Halverson he has a good shot at being named starter for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland, to be played from Dec. 26, 2015 through Jan. 5, 2016.

Halverson, picked in the second round (No. 59) by the New York Rangers in the 2014 NHL Draft, is the only goalie at this week's USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp with experience at the prestigious tournament. He was the backup to Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko at the 2015 WJC, and earned a 6-0 victory against Germany with 14 saves in his only start.

Halverson, who became the first Rangers draft pick in franchise history to earn at least 40 wins in a season of junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, has made 34 saves on 38 shots in two exhibition games for the United States at the evaluation camp.

"I've been here and backed up [Demko] at the World Junior tournament last season," Halverson said. "For me, it doesn't really matter right now. I'm just trying to focus on playing the best I can every game because these are all new coaches, new players. Last year was last year and it doesn't matter and I think I have to re-prove myself. I really want to show everyone that I can be the starting goalie."

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Quote of the Day

I first met him when I was 19 years old and he coached me for 13 consecutive years. I don't know how many athletes who have had that pleasure. Al Arbour was a man that left us not only feeling like champions, but left us with a lot of great memories that we can carry on through life.

— Islanders Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin on former coach Al Arbour, who passed away Friday at the age of 82