RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes figure they look like a playoff team on paper. They’re eager to find out if that translates to the ice.
After missing the postseason for the eighth straight year — the longest active drought in the NHL — the Hurricanes spent the summer making a series of moves hoping to change that .
“We think we’re certainly a competitive team, and a team that’s capable of making the playoffs,” general manager Ron Francis said. “So many things happen over the course of a season. … Based on where we were in April and the holes we filled, we think we had a good summer in addressing a significant portion of those and made ourselves a better team.”
Carolina’s offseason needs were specific — a dependable goalie, some depth on defense, and an experienced goal-scorer — and for the most part, Francis took care of them.
He traded for goalie Scott Darling, then signed him to a four-year contract . He picked up defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk in a trade with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. And he opened free agency by bringing back veteran winger Justin Williams — a key member of the 2006 team that won the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup — on a two-year, $9 million deal.
They’re expected to mesh with a promising core of players — including a pair of young defenseman Francis signed to long-term deals this offseason — that has spent the past few years flirting with snapping that postseason drought but falling short each time. Carolina’s only playoff appearance since winning the Cup 12 years ago came in 2009.
“I think our team’s going to take a step, a bunch of guys individually but also collectively,” coach Bill Peters said. “We’re ready to take a step.”
Some things to know about the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes:
HOW WILL DARLING REACT? The 28-year-old Darling, acquired in a trade with Chicago, has never been a full-time starter in the NHL, but was promising as the backup to Corey Crawford with the Blackhawks. At 6-foot-6, he brings size not previously seen in net for the Hurricanes.
WHAT ABOUT WARD? Cam Ward, the playoff MVP for the Hurricanes in 2006, appears to be transitioning into a backup role after spending more than a decade as the clear No. 1 goalie. He insists there will be no problems because “it’s healthy for us to compete with one another and push one another” and that “if both of us are on our games, it only means good things for the Hurricanes and lots of Ws.”
PRESSURE ON YOUNG D? Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce both signed lengthy contracts that will keep them with the Hurricanes until well into the 2020s, with Slavin’s deal worth about $37 million through 2024-25 and Pesce’s $24 million extension running through 2023-24. Slavin says the extension doesn’t put any additional pressure on him. “They put a lot of trust in me, so to have that kind of trust instilled in me and to know that I’m going to be here for a long time is awesome,” Slavin said. “I just want to go out there and prove to them that what they gave me was right.”
THE CAPTAIN? The Hurricanes didn’t pick a team captain last season, instead rolling with a series of alternate captains. Peters says they’ll have one this year — but won’t make the announcement until the start of the season draws closer.
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