The IslesBlog staff over a seven-part series will break down the offseason of each of the New York Islanders’ divisional foes. In part one, we focus on one of the returning teams to the division, the Carolina Hurricanes.
As we head into the upcoming NHL season the Metropolitan Division is undergoing a few changes or rather reverting to its original status. Rejoining the Metro are the Columbus Bluejackets and Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina finished the 2020-21 season atop the Discover Central Division with 80 points; five more than the Tampa Bay Lightning and eight more than the Isles (in the MassMutual Eastern Division).
Since finishing with the third-most points in the league and losing in the playoffs to the Lightning in five games, the ‘Canes have undergone a lot of changes. Having an eventful offseason thus far has many ‘Caniacs skeptical the team is headed in the wrong direction.
Suffering one of the biggest losses in free agency, Dougie Hamilton signed in New Jersey moving on from Rod Brind’Amour and co. Hamilton is a 28-year-old Norris-level defenseman with elite offensive talent. Losing a player of his caliber makes the Canes significantly worse.
Dougie in Devils Drip = 🔥 pic.twitter.com/465bvo03FI— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 28, 2021
Last season Hamilton put up an impressive 42 points over 55 games and finished the season at plus 20 while averaging almost 23 minutes of ice time per game. He was fifth in goals and eighth in points among defensemen.
The Canes finished tied for fourth in goals allowed last season, a testament to the prowess of their blue line and goaltending. Goaltending is another department where the Hurricanes will look very different.
Carolina was an anomaly last year with a three-headed monster in net. Alex Nedeljkovic got 23 starts, James Reimer 22 and Petr Mrazek 12. All three ended the season pretty strong and Nedeljkovic looked like a potential star in the making finishing as a Calder Trophy finalist.
But all three goalies will be playing their hockey elsewhere this season. The Calder finalist was traded to the Detroit Red Wings and Reimer and Mrazek signed elsewhere. Instead, the ‘Canes will rely on Frederik Anderson and Antti Raanta between the pipes. Anderson will lack the upside a player like Nedeljkovic may have but will provide a more stable and dependable floor, even if his best days are behind him.
The goaltending decisions speak to the confidence they have in their blue line. But what was one of the league’s best just a year ago will look completely different beyond the loss of Hamilton, as we head into the new season. One of those big changes, Tony DeAngelo, has already caused waves among the Carolina faithful.
DeAngelo is the definition of a controversial signing. For many teams, he was not worth the off-ice baggage. But he is a good player and the Canes extended yet another opportunity to DeAngelo. On the ice, he can help reduce the pain of losing Hamilton. He will be a powerful presence on the powerplay and does have a 50-point season under his belt.
Additional depth was added to the defensive corps of the Canes as well with Ethan Bear who showed promise offensively for the Edmonton Oilers last season, Brendan Smith, and Ian Cole. Their last bit of business will be getting a new contract signed by Andrei Svechnikov.
The excitement is real 😤 pic.twitter.com/UKZJyjPSdm— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) August 3, 2021
Sara Civian, the Hurricanes beat writer for The Athletic, said, “Is there a good chance it all works out and the Canes return to the playoffs again? Of course. But instead of making a few tweaks to a team that has been a perennial playoff team and calling it a day, there’s a new set of goalies, a drastically different blue line, no Dougie Hamilton, and still a need for a top-six forward. I think it is fair to question if this is all going to work out.”
Time will tell if it will work out, but heading into the upcoming season the Islanders may have lucked out. The ‘Canes are a team that has been very good for a number of years but looks to be a team that is taking a step or two back as they enter the Metro Division.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryandunni