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The Post Trade Deadline Carolina Hurricanes

While the Carolina Hurricanes trade deadline did not have the fireworks like a lot of the eastern conference this year, they did gather some low-cost/high-reward pieces to fill in some gaps. Every year there are certain events or dates that act like benchmarks for assessing and forecasting an NHL team’s status. Some are more rules of thumb. Thanksgiving in the United States is a date many use to see who is in or out of the playoffs at that point. More specifically, the NHL Draft, the first day of free agency, and the NHL trade deadline are major events where teams adjust and reassess where they may be going. As for the Hurricanes, where will the new players fit and what might the Hurricanes expect moving forward?

The Carolina Hurricanes Outlook Post Trade Deadline

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone for the Carolina Hurricanes. The eastern conference took part in what seemed like a major arms race with teams like the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers really loading up their lineups. While the Hurricanes were one of the top teams leading up to the trade deadline, many thought they would make more of a splash. While they did add some low-cost/high-reward type pieces, they did not materially alter their lineup for various reasons. Did they do enough?

Before the Trade Deadline

Leading up to the trade deadline, the Hurricanes were leading the Metropolitan division but in a tight race with the Devils. As many expected, they were at the top of the NHL in points and a Stanley Cup favourite. Their strength has been generating shots and controlling possession. They lead the NHL in XG% at 60.71%. However, their goals for above expected was and still is in the bottom of the NHL at a current -18.75. This means they generate a lot but fail to convert as much as they should. In addition to their struggles to score in general, their power play was in need of some help. Max Pacioretty, who the Hurricanes brought in during the offseason largely to provide goal-scoring, played a few games but tore his Achilles tendon for a second time in six months.

They had a great showing at the NHL Stadium Series game against the Washington Capitals. Shortly before the deadline, coach Rod Brind’Amour readjusted the top two lines but putting Sebastian Aho with Andrei Svechnikov and Seth Jarvis and Teuvo Teravainen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Martin Necas together. This seemed to pay dividends as those newly created top two lines started producing. But while the Hurricanes were playing well and, specifically, Kotkaniemi was starting to show improvement as the teams’ second-line center, most agreed some additions would be welcome.

The needs that the Hurricanes could have looked to address included goal scoring, help on the powerplay, a second-line center, and maybe a lesser degree, depth on defence. These needs were discussed in a previous article.

Adding Another Finn to the Mix

The first move the Hurricanes made was trading prospect Patrik Puistola to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Puistola is a mid-range prospect playing in Finland who has been up and down since he was drafted but is having a decent season this year. Puljujarvi is a big bottom six forechecking forward. He can drive play and is reliable defensively. Sounds like a Rod Brind’Amour guy. However, he lacks the finishing ability the Hurricanes really need to find.

A former fourth overall pick of the Oilers in the 2016 NHL Draft, the Oilers had high hopes for Puljujarvi. This was especially true following his outstanding performance in the 2016 World Junior Championships for Finland playing alongside fellow Finn and Hurricane Sebastian Aho. He won MVP of the tournament after scoring 17 points in seven games. However, since being drafted, Puljujarvi has not really shown that offensive flair and has more or less been up and down with the Oilers. In 58 games this season he has five goals and nine assists. His best season came in 2021-22 when he put up 14 goals and 22 assists.

A Fit for Depth, the Future, and an Unknown

What Puljujarvi brings to the Hurricanes is multi-layered. As far as immediate help, Puljujarvi will likely start off on the fourth line, most likely on the wing with Paul Stastny and Stefan Noesen. In the event of injury he could slide up to the third line with Jordan Staal and whoever is not injured between Jesper Fast and Jordan Martinook. He could replace Fast or Martinook but given the third line’s effectiveness this year I wouldn’t imagine they rock that boat. Regardless, his heavy forechecking style will bring additional depth to the Hurricanes bottom six forwards.

As far as the future is concerned, Puljujarvi may be a replacement for Fast if he walks after this season at what should likely be a lower cost. He fits the mould perfectly to play beside Jordan Staal on the third line and should complement a possession-driven forechecking line. He is 24 years old and a restricted free agent after this season so there is potential for him to chip in more offensively with the right linemates and system. Maybe a simple change in scenery as well could help Puljujarvi. That’s not a knock on the Oilers, just sometimes players fit certain places better. Only time will tell.

There is also a sort of outlying x factor with Puljujarvi. This is his past chemistry with Aho. You have to gauge your expectations on this considering the time-lapse, differences in the NHL and the World Juniors, etc. but there COULD potentially be something there. Considering that Puljujarvi lead the 2016 World Junior Championship in points playing beside Aho (who was second in that tournament in points), there is reason to believe they could find some chemistry there. I could realistically see Brind’Amour trying him out on Aho’s wing in the case of an injury or maybe preseason next year. If Puljujarvi regains that magic with Aho, it could be….well magic.

Adding the “Ghost”

The other move the Hurricanes made was acquiring defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere from the Arizona Coyotes for a 2026 third-round pick. Gostisbehere, also known as “Ghost”, is a prototypical offensive defenceman. He is an excellent skater and can move the puck well. He has a great shot and is effective on the power play. While Gostisbehere is not an overly physical or defensive defenceman, he can hold his own and is not a complete liability. His skating ability and overall play leads him to drawing more penalties than he takes as well.

Notably, at the time of the trade he had ten goals and 21 assists, with three goals coming on the power play. He lead all Coyotes defencemen in goals, assist and points. His three power-play goals were tied with Brady Skjei for the most for Hurricanes defenceman. His ten goals were also enough to have him third in the list of Hurricanes defencemen for goals. In his first game with the Hurricanes, he scored a power play goal so now is in first in that category on the Hurricanes. Drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, Gostisbehere has played nine NHL seasons for the Flyers, Coyotes, and now the Hurricanes.

Offense from the Defence

Gostishbehere will likely find a place on the third defensive pairing with Jalen Chatfield. This is where he played in his first game with the Hurricanes and will likely find himself there most of the time. He is a left-shot but has spent time in both the left and right defensive spots. This is another low-cost high-reward move considering it only cost a third-round pick. This move also somewhat kills multiple birds with one stone.

First, it gives the Hurricanes additional depth on defense which is something they were looking for. Given his offensive tendencies, he and Calvin de Haan could potentially be rotated depending on who the Hurricanes are playing and what is lacking. If they want more defense, they may go with de Haan. If they need the offense and power play push, they go with Gostishbehere. Most likely, it will be Gostishbehere over de Haan on a normal basis.

Second, even though it’s not really in the way most people envisioned, he also has the potential to help with goal-scoring, especially on the power play. The Hurricanes will likely utilize him quarterbacking the second power-play unit. Gostishbehere has shown he can produce offensively and finish. The key will be him developing chemistry quickly with the Hurricanes. If he can it could be a home run pickup. I wouldn’t expect Gostishbehere to be more than a rental but at the right price it is possible the Hurricanes keep him around after this year depending on his performance and fit.

Addressing the Hurricanes Needs at the Trade Deadline

The question that follows every team after the trade deadline is if they made the right moves. And this is both action and inaction. Given the massive moves made by many other eastern conference teams, there was certainly pressure for the Hurricanes to keep up. But sometimes inaction to keep chemistry intact can be as beneficial as action. There seems to be a mixed bag of reactions to whether the Hurricanes moves will be effective. You always want the best team possible on paper, but sometimes due to chemistry and the “human” element of the game, being great on paper may not lead to being great in actuality.

The Hurricanes needed help scoring and on the power play. It has been that way for the last few seasons especially in the playoffs. They attempted to address that at the trade deadline, mostly by acquiring Gostishbehere, but Puljujarvi could be a reclamation project. They did not, however bring in a true sniper like most thought the Hurricanes needed. To some extent it was not due to lack of trying as they reportedly were deep in attempts to get Timo Meier.

The front office was clearly not interested in making moves for the sake of it, nor were they interested in giving up young players or high draft picks for rentals. The thought process seemed to be along the lines of we know we have a good team, we’d like to add, but we want to add value by giving up what we believe is adequate value. After all, only one team wins so it’s not like every team that made a big move is going to win the Stanley Cup.

Swinging for the Fence

With that said, at some point the window of opportunity the Hurricanes are currently in will close. Shouldn’t you swing for the fence while you can and worry about future ramifications down the road? Most of the time this doesn’t end up working out statistically since only one team wins it all. This doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t try necessarily, but if you are playing the statistic’s game the odds are against you. But what affect might making material alterations to the team mid-season have?

Winning Teams Trade Deadline History

Last season, the Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche acquired mostly depth pieces at the trade deadline. Josh Manson was probably their most notable pickup. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers went all in for Claude Giroux. They did not make it past the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

The year before that the Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning only added defenceman David Savard (albeit they gave up a first round pick for him) and some depth pieces. In 2020, the Lightning picked up depth forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow (again giving up first round picks in the process). Even though those players helped form a very effective third line for the Lightning, they were not the “top” deadline pickups even though Tampa was not afraid to spend on them.

The 2019 St. Louis Blues also did not make any significant trade deadline moves in route to the Stanley Cup.

During 2006, the only year the Hurricanes have won the Stanley Cup, they went all in and acquired Doug Weight and Mark Recchi mid-season. What was notable was that both took time to adjust to the Hurricanes but eventually found their places in the playoffs to help the team. Also, the Weight trade was made in January of 2006 versus closer to the deadline.

The point here is that given a small snapshot it seems like the winning team does not always need to make a major move at the deadline. Usually, the team adds to their core by trading to fix specific holes or build additional depth. There is also the aspect of the time it takes for new players to fit into the system. It’s hard to tell when that will happen, if it will at all.

Did the Hurricanes Do Enough at the Trade Deadline?

When you look at what the Hurricanes did at the trade deadline, they were not flashy. They have a great team. They also filled in some depth and added offense from the back and on the power play. But they did not make the dramatic move that many expected. The difference between the Hurricanes and the Avalanche or Lightning is already having goal scorers. Those teams already had players like Nathan MacKinnon, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov who consistently score at high rates. The Hurricanes have phenomenal players, but that true goal scorer is just not quite there.

Of course, it will be a wait and see to see if the Hurricanes did enough at the deadline. Hindsight is always 20/20. Sometimes there are factors of just pure luck and the simple fact that good teams beat other good teams. The Hurricanes biggest risk is still that the goal scoring dries up like it has done in previous years’ playoffs. If the top players can keep producing regularly and the newcomers contribute, we may be looking at a different story. It is also unfair to negate the fact that the core of this team is one year older in experience. Keeping or finding chemistry is always tricky. Think about how many years it took the Lightning’s core to finally win the Stanely Cup. It’s going to be a tough battle for sure, but the Hurricanes could walk out of this year looking wise.

Main Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


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