Are the Carolina Hurricanes better after NHL free agency moves?


San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) against the Vegas Golden Knights during an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


The Carolina Hurricanes, after a few days of adding and subtracting, trade calls and negotiations, can now focus on a new season.

Vincent Trocheck, Tony DeAngelo, Steven Lorentz and most likely Nino Niederreiter have disappeared from the list.

The entrants are Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, Ondrej Kase and Dylan Coghlan.

Have the Canes, winners of the Metropolitan Division last season, become a better team? Most NHL watchers believe so.

“There are several things that make us better,” Canes chairman and chief executive Don Waddell said Wednesday. “There are a few players we’re adding, but also the experience our young players have gained over the past two years in the playoffs.

“When you add guys like Brent Burns, it’s a huge addition to your team. I think eight or nine of our current players have texted me saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we have this guy. This is also a positive sign.

Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour previously played Burns, who has been in the NHL since the 2003-04 season, and will now coach him after Wednesday’s trade to the San Jose Sharks. Burns, he said, is a defenseman who checks many of the “boxes” left open when DeAngelo was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Draft.

Burns, 37, can produce the points. He can lead the power play. He’s a former Norris Trophy winner. He was a leader for the Sharks. He’s big, strong, durable, hasn’t missed a game in the past eight seasons.

Check, check, check…

“I was really happy that we were able to make this happen,” Brind’Amour said, speaking to the media on Thursday. “He’s one of the best defensemen in the league. How not to be happy?”

Brind’Amour wasn’t happy to see Trocheck, the Canes’ second-line center last season, leave for free agency. Trocheck, an unrestricted free agent, signed a seven-year contract with the New York Rangers on Wednesday, who are set to face the Canes again for the Metro title.

“I hate losing guys,” Brind’Amour said. “You kind of knew this was coming. It’s part of the business. But it all depends on who you bring and making sure they are quality people.

The Canes believe Burns is a quality person. Likewise, Pacioretty.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) skates with the puck against Vegas Golden Knights left winger Max Pacioretty (67) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose , Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu PA

The Vegas Golden Knights, who were looking to lose their wages, practically gave away Pacioretty and Coghlan, a 24-year-old defenseman with NHL experience. The trade deal with the Canes was for “future considerations,” whatever that means these days in the NHL.

Pacioretty, 33, had a tough season with the Golden Knights in 2021-22. The striker suffered a broken foot and then a hand bone injury which limited him to 39 games, but he was almost a points-per-game player with 19 goals and 37 points when he played .

One thing Pacioretty has done well in his 850-game career is finding the net – his 323 career goals lead the Canes.

“I work at my craft every day to make sure my offense doesn’t dry up, especially as I get older,” Pacioretty said Thursday on a media call. “The last few years I’ve gotten even better at that, whether it’s a little smarter on the ice or off the ice with my body.

“So I feel like I have so much to bring to this team. This team has been very successful. I seek to enter and be part of the puzzle.

Like Burns, Pacioretty played in a Stanley Cup final. Like Burns, he’s still on the hunt for a championship ring.

“I’m coming to a point where winning and having a chance to win it all is really all that matters,” Burns said.

Pacioretty called the Canes a team “so close” to being a Cup winner. They’ve struggled on the power play and scoring playoff goals this year, but Pacioretty can help in both areas.

“I’ve been on close teams and you’re only half a piece away,” he said. “You just need to add one or two more guys and that helps your depth tremendously.”

Brind’Amour said of a player like Pacioretty: “You know what you’re getting. We know what we have. Now it’s all about making sure he fits in with the right linemates to get the most out of him. We know what he is capable of. »

Pacioretty could fill the left wing spot Niederreiter had on the Jordan Staal line against winger Jesper Fast, should Niederriter, another UFA, sign elsewhere, as expected. Or he could go somewhere else.

Carolina Hurricanes center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, 82, and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese, 12, battle for the position during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, February 20, 2022 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich) Fred Vuich PA

Trocheck’s departure should allow Jesperi Kotkaniemi to take the No. 2 center spot. Brind’Amour said on Thursday that Kotkaniemi, 22, was signed to an eight-year extension last season with the idea that Trocheck could go to free agency.

“He has to step up,” Brind’Amour said. “He has the potential to become that center that we expect of him.”

Brind’Amour said he didn’t know where Kase, who played for Toronto last season, would do best. The Canes also believe forward Stefan Noesen, who helped the AHL’s Chicago Wolves win the 2022 Calder Cup, can push for a roster spot.

Burns and Pacioretty have had intense battles over the past few seasons in the Pacific Division. There were plenty of stares and cross-checks. But they FaceTimed on Wednesday, Pacioretty said, and had a few laughs about becoming teammates with the Hurricanes.

“He joked that he can win the Lady Byng now that he won’t have to cross-check me to my face,” Pacioretty said.

This story was originally published July 15, 2022 6:10 a.m.

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In more than 30 years at the N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the beats for NC State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina, and is now in his 11th season on the beat for the Carolina Hurricanes. Alexander, who has won numerous state and national writing awards, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was part of The N&O’s coverage of the Cup run. Stanley 2006 Canes.

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