After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Carolina Hurricanes:
After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past seven seasons, the Carolina Hurricanes' long road back is nearing its end heading into the 2016-17 season. General manager Ron Francis has been patient in rebuilding but seems to sense the payoff could be coming soon.
Francis shrewdly capitalized on the Chicago Blackhawks' salary cap concerns in taking on Bryan Bickell and the $4 million in cap space left on the final season of his contract to acquire 21-year-old forward Teuvo Teravainen in a June 15 trade for two draft picks. He then signed unrestricted free agents Lee Stempniak (two years, $5 million) and Viktor Stalberg (one year, $1.5 million) on July 1 to add some experience up front. After assembling an impressive young defense headed by Justin Faulk, 24, Jaccob Slavin, 22, Brett Pesce, 21, and Noah Hanifin, 19, the Hurricanes appear set up for long-term success and on the verge of a breakthrough short term.
Here is what the Hurricanes look like today:
KEY ARRIVALS: Teuvo Teravainen, F: Teravainen had 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in his first full NHL season in 2015-16. He can play any of the three forward positions, giving the Hurricanes flexibility in fitting him into their lineup. … Bryan Bickell, LW: The trade to Carolina gives Bickell, 30, the opportunity to revive his NHL career after he spent most of last season in the AHL. … Lee Stempniak, RW: After attending training camp as a tryout with the New Jersey Devils last season, Stempniak, 33, made the most of the opportunity and showed he can still contribute offensively with 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games with the Devils and Boston Bruins. … Viktor Stalberg, LW: Stalberg, 30, proved to be an effective depth forward with the New York Rangers last season and has a Stanley Cup ring from 2013 with Chicago. … Matt Tennyson, D: Tennyson, 26, signed a one-year, two-way contract as an unrestricted free agent after playing in an NHL career-high 29 games with the San Jose Sharks last season. … Jake Bean, D: Selected with the 13th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Bean (6-foot, 168 pounds) had 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists) in 68 games with Calgary in the Western Hockey League last season. … Julien Gauthier, RW: Gauthier was taken with the first-round draft pick (No. 21) the Hurricanes acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 trade for Andrej Sekera. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward led Val-d'Or and ranked sixth in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 41 goals last season.
Video: Hurricanes GM Ron Francis on his recent acquisitions
KEY DEPARTURES: James Wisniewski, D: Wisniewski, 32, had the final season on his contract bought out after he missed all but the 2015-16 opener with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. … Michal Jordan, D: The Hurricanes didn't issue a qualifying offer to Jordan, making the 25-year-old Czech an unrestricted free agent instead of restricted. …Riley Nash, C: After six seasons in the Hurricanes organization, Nash, 27, signed a two-year contract with the Boston Bruins as an unrestricted free agent. He had nine goals and 13 assists in 64 games last season. … Chris Terry, LW: Terry, 27, signed a one-year contact with the Montreal Canadiens after he had eight goals and three assists in 68 games last season. … Nathan Gerbe, C: Gerbe, 28, signed a one-year contract with the Rangers after he had three goals and four assists in 47 games last season. … Brad Malone, C: Malone, 27, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Washington Capitals.
ON THE CUSP: Sebastian Aho, F: The Hurricanes believe their 2015 second-round draft pick (No. 35) is ready to make the jump to the NHL after he led Karpat Oulu with 20 goals and 25 assists in 45 games last season, and finished second in MVP voting in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, as an 18-year-old. The versatile 5-foot-11, 172-pound forward might end up on Carolina's third line but don't rule out him fitting into the Hurricanes' top six forwards. … Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown, D: Fleury, the seventh pick in the 2014 draft, and McKeown, a 2014 second-round pick acquired from the Kings in the Sekera trade, are expected to compete in training camp for an NHL job.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: The Hurricanes ranked 27th in the League in scoring (2.39 goals per game) last season. The further maturation of young forwards such as Victor Rask (unsigned restricted free agent), Elias Lindholm and Joakim Nordstrom, combined with the additions of Teravainen, Stempniak and possibly Aho will help, but they might still be challenged offensively. The buyout of Wisniewski and decision not to give Jordan a qualifying offer left open a regular spot on defense. It appears Ryan Murphy (unsigned restricted free agent), Tennyson, Fleury and McKeown will have a chance to compete for that job, but with a young group on defense already, Francis might feel the need to bring in another veteran.
Video: NJD@CAR: Rask buries a breakaway for his second goal
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Teravainen goes from being mostly a depth player with the Blackhawks to a potential role on the top line and first power-play unit with the Hurricanes. With Jeff Skinner, Rask, Lindholm and Jordan Staal around for offensive support at even strength, Teravainen could make the leap from 35 to 60 points this season with one-third of them on the power play. Fantasy owners should target him beginning in the ninth or 10th round of 12-team drafts.
Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Lee Stempniak
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Andrej Nestrasil
Viktor Stalberg - Jay McClement - Bryan Bickell
Jaccob Slavin - Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin - Brett Pesce
Ron Hainsey - Ryan Murphy