Hurricanes move on after FA

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes will have a different look this season after losing several key players to free agency, but coach Rod Brind’Amour is moving forward.

Carolina has experienced drastic change in the past two weeks, including the departures of forwards Jake Guentzel (Tampa Bay Lightning), Teuvo Teravainen (Chicago Blackhawks) and Stefan Noesen (New Jersey Devils), and defensemen Brady Skjei (Nashville Predators) and Brett Pesce (Devils), the team’s second pairing for more than four seasons.

“You get attached to the guys, especially when we’ve had them [for a long time],” Brind’Amour said during the team’s development camp Wednesday. “It was hard, I’ll be honest. It was hard to watch guys walk out of here. I understand it. It’s a business. They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. But it’s also exciting because you get a whole new group of guys coming in, and maybe some of these young guys will crack the lineup and you get to watch them grow. It’s just the evolution of it.

“I had a lot of tough [phone] calls this summer. I haven’t really had too many of those. We have good players and teams will pay them. We can’t pay everybody. That’s just how it goes unfortunately. I love those guys, I wish them the best. I’m just excited for the new guys coming that are excited to be here and get their game going.”

The Hurricanes re-signed two pending unrestricted free agents to three-year contracts, forwards Jordan Martinook ($3.05 million average annual value), and Jalen Chatfield ($3 million AAV). They also signed top defenseman Jaccob Slavin to an eight-year, $51.69 million contract ($6.46 million AAV) that begins in the 2025-26 season. To help soften the blow following the departures of Skjei and Pesce, Carolina signed free agent defensemen Sean Walker (three years, $3.6 million AAV) and Shayne Gostisbehere (three years, $3.2 million AAV).

The NHL Tonight crew analyze the Hurricanes offseason

Gostisbehere, who had 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists) in 81 games for the Detroit Red Wings last season, is back for a second stint with the Hurricanes; he had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 23 games in 2022-23 after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Walker had 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 81 games last season between the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers.

The two have huge holes to fill left by the departures of Skjei and Pesce. Skjei, who had 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) while averaging 21:17 of ice time per game, signed a seven-year contract ($7 million AAV) with Nashville; Pesce, who had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) and averaged 20:17, signed a six-year deal ($5.5 million AAV) with New Jersey.

“There’s a learning curve on any team,” Brind’Amour said. “There is familiarity with ‘Ghost.’ With Walker coming in, he’s excited to play the way we play. Most players like the way we play and they want to do it. We are up-tempo and it’s a fun way to play. At the end of the day, these guys are good hockey players. If they have a willingness to get it, they will get it.”

Guentzel had 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists) in 67 regular-season games for the Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins last season, including 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 17 games with Carolina after he was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh on March 7. But the Hurricanes were unable to sign the pending unrestricted free agent and traded his rights to Tampa Bay on June 30. Guentzel signed a seven-year, $63 million contract ($9 million AAV) with the Lightning the next day.

Tervainen had 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in 76 games last season, his eighth with Carolina. He signed a three-year, $16.2 million contract ($5.4 million AAV) with the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected him in the first round (No. 18) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

The Hurricanes replenished their forward group with free agents William Carrier (six years, $2 million AAV), Jack Roslovic (one year, $2.8 million), Eric Robinson (one year, $950,000) and Tyson Jost (one year, $775,000). But the losses of Guentzel and Teravainen, along with the uncertain future of restricted free agent Martin Necas, leaves them in the market for more scoring. Necas had 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) in 77 games last season.

The turnover wasn’t limited to the players; Eric Tulsky, an assistant general manager since 2020, was promoted to general manager after Don Waddell left to become GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets on May 28.

“He’s been really smart about it. He wants to get up to speed on how things work,” said Brind’Amour, who signed a five-year contract May 28. “It’s been a real good relationship. He had been here a long time. There wasn’t a lot of communication [between us] because there didn’t need to be. Now I feel like there is, and we’ve spent more time in this last month together than we have in the last 10 years. I think it’s going to be a really good relationship.”

Tulsky is confident the Hurricanes can still make more adjustments before they open the season at home against the Lightning on Oct. 11.

“There is plenty of time between now and training camp to adjust the roster,” Tulsky said on July 1. “We plan to keep exploring all of our options. We have some ideas in mind that we are still actively pursuing. There are a lot of teams right now that are trying to figure out how they can get out of contracts very similar to the ones being signed (on July 1).”

In the meantime, the Hurricanes believe they have several prospects who could crack the roster this season, including forwards Bradley Nadeau (Maine), Jackson Blake (North Dakota) and Felix Unger Sorum (Swedish Hockey League), and defenseman Scott Morrow (UMass-Amherst).

“An unfortunate part of business in pro sports is you do have turnover, but I think it will be a good opportunity for a lot of the other guys to step up a little more than they have in the past,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be exciting, too, to get to know some new faces and bring them into the group.”

Related Content