Carolina Hurricanes’ Newcomers Have Been a Mixed Bag Early On
Ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes made quite a few key moves, looking to improve their team after a second-round exit from the 2022 NHL Playoffs. Some players have had a big impact, while some have struggled.
With so much roster turnover this season, here’s a quick look at how the newcomers were acquired. Ondřej Kaše, Paul Stastny, Calvin de Haan, William Lagesson, Ryan Dzingel, and Mackenzie MacEachern were signed as free agents, while Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, Dylan Coghlan and Lane Pederson arrived through trades with the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks.
Hurricanes’ New Signees Have Mixed Bag of Results
Kaše was a good signing for the Hurricanes as a great defensive depth option. There was some risk, of course, as he only played 50 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021-22 season, missing time with multiple upper-body injuries and concussion issues. In his first game with the Hurricanes, in which he played well on the fourth line with Jordan Martinook and Derek Stepan, he suffered another concussion. People are beginning to worry about his long-term health after so many head injuries and his future in Carolina, but we all wish nothing but the best for him.
Stastny has slotted in on the third line alongside Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast while also playing as the fourth-line center. His production has been underwhelming, especially compared to his 21-goal season in 2021-22. With just four assists through 12 games, the Hurricanes expect more; however, that doesn’t mean he was a bad signing.
Stastny was brought in for his veteran presence, defensive responsibility, and versatility. While it appears he may be sharing time with Jack Drury as the fourth-line center, he has still made an impact. Per MoneyPuck, the Stastny-Staal-Fast line has had an expected goals percentage of 59.1%, which is good. But as a whole, the line has done its job; not much happens for either team with them on the ice. The lines have been jumbled so much that he may be better or worse with other linemates, but this is the group Stastny has spent the most time with.
When the Hurricanes got de Haan on a professional try-out and then an NHL contract, I was shocked. The defender had a good season with the Chicago Blackhawks last year, and today’s market is hungry for reliable shut-down defensemen. de Haan has been slotting in on the third pair with Jalen Chatfield, and they have worked well together. There has been a battle for this position, with Coghlan and Ethan Bear trying to get into game action, too. de Haan and Coghlan have been the ones swapping in and out, but as the season progresses, the team seems to have more faith in de Haan.
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Lagesson, Dzingel and MacEachern all started the season in the American Hockey League (AHL). Lagesson has been the most productive of the group, with five points in nine games, while Dzingel and MacEachern each have a single point. They are decent depth signings, as they all have some NHL experience, especially Dzingel, who is in his second stint with the organization. Dzingel’s best years seem to be behind him, but there is always a chance that his talent pokes through again. Before the league was shut down due to the pandemic, Dzingel had 29 points in 64 games with the Hurricanes.
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Brent Burns has had the biggest impact on the team so far. The 37-year-old defenseman has been one of the league’s top offensive defensemen for a long time, and while his age has slowed him down a bit, his production has been as good as ever. With nine points in his first 12 games as a Hurricane, he has been a great asset.
The Hurricanes have only received 21 points from their defensemen this season, and Burns has just under half that, followed by Brady Skjei with six points. Per MoneyPuck, Burns ranks third in the NHL in Fenwick with 65%, which measures on-ice unblocked shot attempts for both sides – meaning when Burns is on the ice, the Hurricanes are generating 65% of the unblocked shot attempts. That is very good. Defensively, Burns has struggled, but the Hurricanes knew this when they traded for him. He has never been a shut-down guy, and being paired with Slavin allows each of them to excel in their role.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Pacioretty other than he seems to be trending in the right direction as he recovers from a torn Achilles. The projected return date is still in February, which was expected from the start. The Hurricanes already have their “trade deadline acquisition”, as Pacioretty is not only an elite player, but he will also be playing for a new contract, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. While he hasn’t started skating yet, Kevin Weekes reported in an NHL Network segment that while he still has a bit of a limp, he is very eager to get back on the ice. After scoring one goal over 120 minutes against the Florida Panthers and Maple Leafs, the ‘Canes can not wait to get that burst of offense into the lineup in February.
Coghlan was acquired along with Pacioretty in the deal with the Golden Knights, and the defenseman has played six games for the Hurricanes so far. He is battling with de Haan for playing time, and, as mentioned above, the team seems to prefer de Haan. During the pre-season, Coghlan earned a big fan club, but he hasn’t looked the same since the season began. I think there is still hope for a successful tenure for him, but he struggled against the Panthers on Wednesday (Nov. 9) and will more than likely be replaced by de Haan in the next game.
There isn’t a whole lot to talk about Pederson, who was included in the Burns trade. Last month, he was traded alongside Bear to the Vancouver Canucks to free up cap space, and before that, he went without a point in his first four games with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. He has been doing well with the Abbotsford Canucks, but there wasn’t a spot for him in the Hurricanes organization.
It is hard to grade these new additions as a whole, as each player has had a different level of success this season. I will say, the team did do a good job of avoiding players who might have had a negative impact on the team. Outside of a couple of names, most of these acquisitions are depth pieces that can rotate easily in and out of the lineup. For the players expected to have an immediate impact, specifically Burns, it has worked out well, and the Hurricanes didn’t give up much for him. I expect a few more moves over the coming months, but these off-season additions are helping the team each night and should be important pieces in a playoff run.
My name is Jacob Billington, and I cover the Carolina Hurricanes here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, becoming a hockey fan was quite easy. Falling in love with the game in the early 2000’s, and taking in as much knowledge as I could since then. I appreciate everybody who reads my content, and I take pride in creating the best experience for readers. Feel free to reach me on Twitter, I am always active and talking about anything hockey related!