Carolina has done an excellent job rebuilding their squad since Ron Francis took charge in 2014. Bill Peters has also made a positive impact behind the bench for the Canes. Developing players like Elias Lindholm, Viktor Rask, Noah Hanifin, and Jaccob Slavin. He has also helped Jeff Skinner return to his rookie year form.
Since 2013 Carolina has drafted notable names like Elias Lindholm, Haydn Fleury, Alex Nedeljkovic, Noah Hanifin, and the steal of the draft in 2015 Sebastian Aho. (They selected Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier in the first round of the 2016 draft as well.) Fluery has not made the NHL yet but was a solid contributor on defense throughout his WHL career with the Red Deer Rebels. He is doing a decent job with the struggling Charlotte Checkers in his rookie AHL campaign. Nedeljkovic was dominant in net for the US at the World juniors in 2016 posting a .943% save percentage in six games. He has struggled to convert his success to the AHL level with a save percentage below .900%. As a 21 year old goalie Carolina still has many reasons to be excited for this young guy.
Carolina did a great job last trade deadline dealing Eric Staal to the New York Rangers in exchange for two second round picks. One of those second round picks went to Chicago in the Teuvo Teravainen trade (used to select Artur Kayumov). Two years ago they dealt Andrei Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional first round pick (used on Julien Gauthier at 19th overall) and Roland McKeown who was excellent in the OHL with Kingston but has struggled to find his game in his rookie year in Charlotte. Valentin Zykov was acquired in the Kris Versteeg trade last deadline and has been a decent contributor on a bad AHL team and was a decent scorer in the QMJHL.
Carolina is also in an excellent position for this years expansion draft. Many of their young assets do not meet the 40/70 rule leaving them protected. Carolina has only 6 UFA’s and 4 RFA’s on their roster going into the summer. They also have $15 million bucks in cap space to sign guys like Teravainen this offseason.
The Canes have not been bad this season as they are currently four points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand on the Flyers who hold the last wild card spot. Their league best penalty kill has been a major factor in that killing off 86.5% of their shorthanded opportunities. Sebastian Aho has been excellent alongside of Elias Lindholm and has made a case to be in the Calder Trophy race. Teravainen, Skinner, and Jordan Staal have also been good offensive contributors. Justin Faulk has anchored the defense along with Jaccob Slavin and Noah Hanifin on the rise.
So the Canes have assembled quite a few good young players, not all of which are NHL ready yet. How come you never hear anyone talk about them? It could be the lack of casual fans in Raleigh as Carolina continues to struggle in the attendance rankings. Also missing the playoffs since 2010 could have drawn people away from the team. You cannot ignore weapons the Canes have assembled however. They traded away their best player last season and managed to finish with 86 points regardless.
Their goaltending has been lackluster as they have a combined save percentage of .901% Cam Ward and Eddie Lack have not been the ideal tandem that they had hoped for. Signing Cam Ward was this offseason was shocking as James Reimer who would have been an upgrade for the same price was a UFA this summer. But they need to keep one of the two guys so Nedeljkovic can find his game in the NHL.
Should Carolina be looking to buy a goalie this trade deadline and push for a playoff spot? If so who would be an option? Arizona is more than likely not willing to part ways with Mike Smith and Varlamov is hurt in Colorado and those are the only two teams currently out of the playoff picture. Would Ondrej Pavelec or Michael Hutchinson be an option from Winnipeg? Possibly Ryan Miller who is a UFA at the end of this season? Or does Carolina continue on the path they’re on and bank on Nedeljkovic being the next guy?