First, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who spends part of the Hurricanes hockey time at Canes and Coffee. The community building around the site and the debates and different viewpoints continue to be the best part of the site.
Huge thank you to everyone!
Within the next few days, I will write in a bit more detail about plans for the offseason, but the short version is that Canes and Coffee will continue to be a daily source of Carolina Hurricanes hockey coverage and discussion possibly with a short break or two.
We would also like to do an end of season pass of the coffee can to collect money to pay a few bills from the 2017-18 season and hopefully build a modest budget to do add a few things this summer.
If you valued Canes and Coffee’s coverage during the 2017-18 season, please consider making a small “cup of coffee” size donation HERE.
With the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, the focus will pretty quickly shift toward building the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes. With the disappointing results in 2017-18 and the first offseason with new ownership, the season has the potential to be the busiest in franchise history. In the months that follow, we will certainly cover individual items in more detail, but below is a decision/work list roughly in order of importance for the offseason.
1) Resolving the general manager situation
This situation is a month in process and has already taken a meandering path. The search for a new general manager started, had a flurry of names fly around and then seemed to go quiet just as quickly as it became noisy. As the playoffs progress and teams are eliminated, we should get some indication of what the path forward is.
2) Making a decision on Coach Bill Peters
The first big decision for the new general manager (if one is named) will be deciding the fate of Bill Peters. Peters still has one year remaining on his current contract, but as the head coach of a team that had playoff hopes entering the season but missed by a pretty wide margin, one has to figure that Peters is in the cross hairs. It will be interesting to see if Dundon’s early favorable reviews of Peters remain intact and strong enough to keep him in a job after the season went Sou
3) Making decisions on the goalie situation
As part of an annual summer ritual, the team will again enter the offseason needing to somehow improve upon goaltending that was sub-par during the previous season. The situation is complex and with multiple layers. The starting point is deciding what to do with Scott Darling. With three years and more than $12 million remaining on his contract, trading him would require some combination of the Hurricanes eating a big chunk of salary and/or paying someone with draft picks or prospects to take him. Then that first decision impacts the decision on whether or not to re-sign Cam Ward. Comments from Don Waddell in an interview with Adam Gold last week suggested that the team could sign another goalie and carry three. That adds flexibility but is expensive and potentially clunky roster-wise. I already hashed through this situation in some detail back on March 11.
4) Considering leadership roles
With a playoff miss that included too many ‘what the ___?’ events with the team completely imploding in some games down the stretch and seemingly playing its worst hockey when it mattered most, the team’s leadership is another critical area to be considered. I said last summer that the team needed a ‘jolt’. I think that is even more true this summer. Could we see Justin Williams belatedly be named the captain over the current group with tenure but not much for success? Or does management and coaching staff thing the leadership is right and that the team just needs better players?
5) Long-term plans for Jeff Skinner
Coming off a somewhat disappointing 2017-18 season that saw his scoring dip and maybe more significantly his two-way play regress, the team has a big decision to make on Jeff Skinner. He is signed through the 2018-19 season, so it is not required that something be decided this summer, but best would be to make a decision and act on it. If Skinner is not part of the long-term plan, best would probably be to trade him this summer with a full year remaining on his contract. If he is part of the long-term plan, best would be to re-sign him this summer rather than pushing up too close to when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
6) Figuring out the blue line
As much as the young blue line has been projected to be a strength as the team rises back up into the playoffs, that projection has yet to emerge as a reality. Francis did well last summer to add Trevor van Riemsdyk to solidify the third pairing, but the middle pairing was largely not good enough again in 2017-18. Justin Faulk’s defensive play continued to deteriorate, and thus far Noah Hanifin is a capable third pairing defenseman who can contribute some offense but who just is not consistent enough on an every shift basis to be a top 4 defenseman yet. Will the team continue with patience and hope again that the answer for a solid second pairing lies within? Or must the new general manager move boldly to acquire help to solidify the defense now?
7) Does the team still need to add a higher-end forward, and, if so, what type?
Last summer, I wrote incessantly about the Hurricanes’ need to add a playmaking/catalyst type forward who could not just score be effectively fuel a scoring line. The Hurricanes instead added Justin Williams who is a good player in his own right with a good set of positive attributes but not so much a scoring catalyst. After finishing 23rd in scoring in 2017-18 (after being 21st in 2016-17), the team will again enter the offseason needing to add offense. The question is in what form and/or position. With the late-season runs at the center position by Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm, some thought needs to be given as to whether an offensive addition needs to be a wing who can finish next to Aho or Lindholm or if instead another center is needed so one or both of these players can shift back to wing.
8) Is it time to move a core player or two to shake up the lineup and chemistry?
Related to numbers four through seven, is it time for the team to shake up the core a bit after too many seasons of losing with it? The Hurricanes have players who are priced significantly above their 2017-18 production in Scott Darling and Victor Rask, but the team also has young veterans in Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm who should garner a return if traded. Is it time to move one or two name players to change both the lineup and culture?
9) How many NHL roster slots should the Hurricanes leave for players rising up from the AHL?
Valentin Zykov positioned himself well to compete for an NHL roster spot in training camp next fall with seven points in his 10-game NHL audition. Warren Foegele impressed with his first impression in two games with the big club. Based on play at the AHL level, Lucas Wallmark arguably most looked NHL-ready. The challenge is striking the right balance between leaving enough room for young players to rise up and having enough NHL experience on the roster such that the team does not accidentally slip into rebuilding mode.
10) Should the team act early on re-signing Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen?
The Finnish duo that led the team in scoring is signed through the 2018-19 season and only set to become restricted free agents in the summer of 2019. As such, it is not required that their long-term futures be decided this summer. It could theoretically wait without any huge issue. But the window opens for both to be re-signed after July 1. Does it make sense to lock up rising star Sebastian Aho long-term? And is Teuvo Teravainen in the same category, or might it just be buying high on re-signing him after a break out 2017-18 season?
11) What should the team do with the other contract decisions?
The team also has a number of other contracts to be addressed this summer. Noah Hanifin (wrote about his contract situation in last Friday’s Daily Cup of Joe), Elias Lindholm, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Klas Dahlbeck and Phil Di Giuseppe are all restricted free agents this summer. And in addition to Cam Ward who is noted above, Derek Ryan and Lee Stempniak are both unrestricted free agents. The new general manager will need to make re-sign Hanifin, Lindholm and van Riemsdyk and make decisions on the rest.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Do you think this summer shapes up to be the busiest in franchise history with the volume of big decisions to be made?
2) Which decisions do you see as most critical and why?
3) Did I miss anything else that you think is worthy of being on an offseason checklist?