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<p>(Robert Willett/Releigh News &amp; Observer)</p>
(Robert Willett/Releigh News & Observer)

Carolina Hurricanes Season Preview

With the NHL season approaching quickly, there’s one team that is entering the season hungrier than ever. They could see the light at the end of the tunnel late in the regular season, until the injury bug hit. Making minor, yet important moves, the Carolina Hurricanes enter the new season determined to end their 18-year championship drought and bring the Stanley Cup back to Raleigh.

The Hurricanes looked like a bona fide cup contender in early March of last year. Then, on March 11 against the Vegas Golden Knights, All-Star left winger Andrei Svechnikov tore his ACL, ending his season and drastically altering the Canes’ visions of glory. Even without Svechnikov, Carolina improbably made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would meet another team defying the odds. The Florida Panthers entered the playoffs as the 8-seed looking for something to prove, led by right winger Matthew Tkachuk. They took down the President Trophy-winning Boston Bruins in seven games, who had the best regular season in NHL history with 65 wins and 135 points. Florida then beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades. The conference finals started off with a historic game 1, going into a quadruple overtime, the sixth-longest game in NHL history. After this crushing defeat, the Hurricanes were then swept by Florida, extending their winless streak to 12 consecutive losses in conference finals games.

With one of their best players in rehab for a torn ACL, the Hurricanes looked to bring back their team stronger than ever. First, they re-signed Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast, Antti Raanta, Frederik Andersen, and young star Sebastian Aho, all key pieces to their run the previous year. They also brought in new faces, such as Dmitry Orlov, Michael Bunting, Brendan Lemieux, and Caleb Jones. They also signed Tony DeAngelo, who had a previous stint with the Canes two seasons ago. All of these moves did come with a major loss though, as defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere signed with the Detroit Red Wings. 

Re-signing both goalies was huge for Carolina, as Andersen posted a 21-11-1 record in 34 games, and a .903 save percentage. Raanta was incredible in his time in net, sporting a 19-3-3 record and a .910 save percentage. The Canes had a two-headed monster at goalie, proving to be very successful in the regular season having a 40-14-4 record when one of the two started in the crease. Bringing in defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a 2 year, 7.75 million deal adds extra offensive power on the blue line, alongside a strong group of Hurricanes D-man depth that includes Jacob Slavin, Brent Burns, Brady Skjei, and Brett Pesce.

Jordan Staal has always been a force to be reckoned with ever since putting on the black and red, and Carolina brought back the captain on a four-year deal. In 81 games last year, he recorded 17 goals and 17 assists. His veteran presence brings stability to the Canes’ frontline, and he is as eager as ever to win the Stanley Cup. They also re-signed starting wing Sebastian Aho to an eight-year deal. After Svechnikov went down with his ACL injury, all eyes pointed towards Aho, and he stepped into the spotlight with 36 goals and 31 assists, the second most points (67) on the team. When Svechnikov is finally healthy, Carolina will have a dynamic duo that no team wants to play.

Another key retention for Carolina came in bringing back Jesper Fast, who lived up to his name last year. Fast was a blur at times on the ice, notching 10 goals and 19 assists. The 31 year-old is entering his 11th season, where he looks to add as much as he can to a hungry Carolina team. The Hurricanes also brought back an old friend, signing Tony DeAngelo this offseason. DeAngelo played for the Hurricanes in the 2021-2022 season, with 10 goals and 41 assists. He then played for the Philadelphia Flyers this past season, scoring 11 goals and assisting on 31 more. Carolina came close to acquiring him through a trade earlier this year, but were able to sign him after the Flyers bought out his contract.

This upcoming season is an important one for Carolina. Having made the postseason now five seasons in a row, but only getting as far as the Eastern Conference Finals twice where they were swept both times. With no trips to the Stanley Cup Final since their 2006 championship, can the Canes finally get over the hump, or will they fall just short yet again? With a great front office and coach, Carolina is in good hands. Out of all the seasons they could put it together, this one has the look that could be their best chance.

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