From his first days as the Carolina Hurricanes GM, Ron Francis’ mantra has been building a deeper system that can help the team not just return to the playoffs but also stay there.
A promising defensive corps that was expected to be 2-3 years away arrived ahead of schedule. This summer that transformation has begun to take effect at forward too.
Looking at the average age of the Hurricanes opening day roster for 2015-16 versus 2016-17 (projected obviously) highlights this:
2015-16: Justin Faulk, Ron Hainsey, James Wisniewski, John-Michael Liles, Ryan Murphy and Noah Hanifin averaged 27.0 years old.
2016-17: Swapping in Slavin and Pesce and swapping out Liles and Murphy would see the average age drop to 25.5 years old.
Not bad work for 1 year. With 35-year old Ron Hainsey and 32-year old James Wisniewski’s contracts set to expire at the end of the 2016-17 season, the current core of 5 (Faulk, Slavin, Hanifin, Pesce, Murphy) would make for an average age less than 23 years old for the 2017-18 season.
2015-16: Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg, Elias Lindholm, Jordan Staal, Joakim Nordstrom, Andrej Nestrasil, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Chris Terry, Nathan Gerbe, Jay McClement, Brad Malone and Riley Nash averaged 26.0 years old.
2016-17: Swapping out EStaal, Versteeg, Terry, Gerbe, Malone and Nash and inserting Teravainen, Di Giuseppe, Bickell and Aho drops that average by a similar 1.5 years to 24.5 (with 2 players yet to be added).
The forward ranks also see 2 veteran fourth-liners in McClement who is 33 and Bickell who is 30 become free agents at the end of the season presenting the opportunity to insert more youth.
With the same 2 goalies scheduled to return as of right now and become a year older, this position is still a work in progress with an average age of 30.0 years old. But 20-year old Alex Nedeljkovic will make the jump to the AHL this season and continue his progression toward hopefully manning the net in Raleigh soon.
Depending on continued development of young players and who fills the couple holes left by four 30+-year old veterans, the Canes 2017-18 roster has the potential to include no skaters over 30 years old and an average age near the bottom of the NHL despite growing in experience level.
The future continues to look bright with the Hurricanes getting both younger and better at the same time.