3 trades the Carolina Hurricanes need to make this offseason

Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Here are three trades the Carolina Hurricanes can make in the offseason to help place them in contender status.

The Carolina Hurricanes seem like a team on the verge of joining the upper-echelon of Eastern Conference contenders. They’ve been the darlings of the advanced analytics community for years with not a whole lot of success to show for.

Last season, the Canes made some real noise, bouncing the defending Cup champs from the playoffs and advancing to the Eastern Conference Final despite finishing just fourth in the Metropolitan division.

This year, Carolina had its ups and downs. Despite boasting one of the league’s deepest bluelines, some electric young forwards and established vets, the Hurricanes failed to take a step forward and were even at risk of not qualifying for the playoffs.

Some of this can be chalked up to injuries to major players, like losing Norris caliber defenseman Dougie Hamilton for much of the season. Injuries notwithstanding, the Hurricanes still have deficiencies in key areas which could be addressed in the offseason via the trade market.

Should the Hurricanes address these needs, they may finally take the next step and comfortably wedge themselves into an increasingly crowded pool of Eastern Conference contenders.

Robin Lehner in the crease
Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Carolina Hurricanes: Address the goalie situation

Goaltending is perhaps the most glaring issue with the Hurricanes. When compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference, the combination of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer just isn’t up to snuff.

Even within the Metropolitan Division, the Canes are lagging behind the pack. Murray/Jarry, Holtby/Samsonov, Hart/Elliott and even Gerogiev/Shesterkin/Lundqvist all outpace what the Hurricanes suit up each night.

They’ve gone to painstaking lengths to scout, draft, sign and trade for a collection of some of the best defensemen in the league. Yet, it’s all for not if they have to line up in front of one of the league’s most “meh” goaltending duos in the NHL.

To be fair, Mrazek (as well as Curtis McElhinney) authored a successful run for Carolina last season, and he and partner Reimer haven’t been outright bad this season. However, Reimer is no longer a true starting goalie at this point in his career and Mrazek’s .905 save percentage ranks 38th in the league among goalies who played at least 25 games this season — certainly not what one would expect to see for a Cup contender.

Unfortunately for the Canes, both Mrazek and Reimer are under contract for just over $3 million for the Hurricanes next season.

The solution? Trade one of Mrazek or Reimer and spring for one of the many free-agent goalies available this summer.

Reimer and Mrazek’s cap hits aren’t super high, and could be moved to a rebuilding team looking for a stop gap goalie solution, like the Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings. Once that’s taken care of, the Hurricanes have a few upcoming UFA goalies they could attempt to woo. Braden Holtby, Craig Anderson, Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner are all likely moving on from their current teams this summer, and while each option will undoubtedly come with some pros and cons, their collective track records are undeniable.

Lehner is currently at the head of the pack, and the former Vezina finalist has been vocal about his want to find a new permanent home. At just 28, Lehner has a handful of above-average years left in the net and would look quite nice in Raleigh. The Hurricanes already balked on trading for Lehner during the trade deadline, so they’ll have a chance to make things right this summer.

Holtby also seems like a strong candidate despite a putrid 2019-20. His .897 save percentage this season is ugly, but compared to the last handful of seasons, it appears to be an aberration. Prior to this season, Holtby rattled off save percentages of .911, .907 and .925 the last three years and was a fixture in net for one of the beasts of the East.

At just 30 years of age, I don’t buy that Holtby is suddenly washed up and over-the-hill. Holtby still has a lot of goaltending left, and playing behind one of the best defenses in the league could spur a renaissance in his career, as well as lift the Canes into contender status.