The Carolina Hurricanes have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times in the seven seasons since winning their first championship. Twice they've been eliminated on the final day of the regular season, but it remains a remarkable lack of success for a team that won the Cup in 2006 and reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2009.
General manager Jim Rutherford is one of the deans of the NHL, and he made two big moves before last season, adding Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. A leaky defense and injuries to Cam Ward and Joni Pitkanen capsized the Hurricanes in 2012-13, and Rutherford made moves to try to correct those potential problems.
The Hurricanes added defenseman Andrej Sekera from Buffalo for Jamie McBain and a second-round pick. The trade didn't receive a lot of fanfare, but Sekera could be a significant upgrade. Rutherford also added defenseman Mike Komisarek after the Toronto Maple Leafs bought him out, and Komisarek represents a low-risk move as a potential third-pairing guy, not unlike Wade Redden turned out to be for the St. Louis Blues last season.
2013-14 FANTASY PREVIEW: CANES
Under-valued: Justin Faulk --
He should quarterback the top power play unit and receive more time on the man advantage (2:38 last season), making him a potential top-20 fantasy d-man after putting together a disappointing sophomore season in 2012-13 (five goals, 15 points in 38 games).
Over-valued: Jiri Tlusty
-- While he should remain on the top line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, Tlusty won't score at a near 40-goal pace like he did last season. He is still a very valuable fantasy player, but he won't record penalty minutes (18 last year) and doesn't see a ton of power play time (2:37 per game last year), so temper your expectations.
Sleeper: Anton Khudobin --
Most of Khudobin's value hinges on Cam Ward's health, but even if Ward stays in the lineup all year (he played in 17 games last season), the former Bruin should still see plenty of time and could steal a lot of starts -- he has a 2.03 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 21 career games.
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Another addition is goaltender Anton Khudobin, who played well in limited duty for the Boston Bruins and could allow coach Kirk Muller to rest Ward a little more than in recent years. Khudobin also could prove he's a legitimate No. 1 if Ward can't stay healthy.
The Hurricanes are moving into the Metropolitan Division, and it could be a wild scramble for the last couple playoff berths. Missing the postseason for a seventh time in eight years is an ignominious fate Carolina would like to avoid.
Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Hurricanes:
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Tuomo Ruutu - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman - Jeremy Welsh - Zac Dalpe
Nathan Gerbe - Kevin Westgarth
Tim Gleason - Justin Faulk
Andrej Sekera - Joni Pitkanen
Jay Harrison - Mike Komisarek
NOTES: The top line was quite productive last season, but that trio could use some help. Rutherford has said he expects Lindholm, the team's first-round pick (No. 5) in the 2013 NHL Draft to make the team, and he could fit next to Skinner and Jordan Staal.
Scoring from the bottom two lines was a problem at times in 2012-13, though a healthy season from Ruutu and the late July addition of Gerbe might help. Someone from that young-ish group of Dalpe, Nash and Bowman stepping forward and becoming a consistent depth scorer also would make a difference.
If the top four on defense can stay healthy, they likely will be pretty solid. Ryan Murphy, a first-round pick in 2011 (No. 12) could play his way onto the team. In the four most recent seasons Ward has stayed healthy (scratch 2012-13 and 2009-10), he's played at least 68 games in each. Khudobin could allow him more rest and the chance to play about 60 games instead.
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