Most of the Hurricanes moves this offseason have centered around acquiring a winger for the top line and trading for a star player. While there is no doubt that this should be a top priority, another area that needs to be addressed is the defense. No team gave up more shots per 60 minutes at even strength than the Hurricanes did this year and they were also one of the worst teams on the penalty kill in terms of shots allowed. If this team wants to contend, they are going to need to improve their defensive play. Adding some more offense will take some pressure off Cam Ward but the team can't continue to make him face 30+ shots on a nightly basis and force him to steal games for them. Improving the defense will likely lead to a more stable success in the future.
The Hurricanes have already taken the steps to rebuilding the defense through the draft as we have seen both Jamie McBain and Jusitn Faulk blossom into full-time NHL-ers in the last couple of years and they also have other players like Brian Dumoulin and Ryan Murphy waiting in the wings. The team also has two key pieces in Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason locked up for a few more years so there is a solid foundation there. The problem is that they have a lack of a true #1 defenseman and the ones with the highest potential are too young and still developing in the NHL. Carolina is going through a transition phase with their defense and they are going to take their lumps in the process, which is probably why their defensive numbers look so bad over the last couple of years. As players like Faulk mature and the other prospects enter the mix, the defense should improve but that's a few years down the road.
To make the defense better next season, the Hurricanes are going to need to improve the supporting cast around what they have now. Gleason and Pitkanen can handle the bulk of the tough minutes and I would expect Faulk to step into an even bigger role next year. What the Hurricanes need for next year is someoen who can play top-four minutes, be matched up against tough competition and contribute on the penalty kill. Basically a replacement for Bryan Allen, who is likely going to depart on July 1st. I've talked about the hole that the Canes are going to have to fill when Allen leaves, but how are the Hurricanes going to go about fixing it?
An ideal situation would be for the Hurricanes to sign a top-four defenseman to a one or two year deal, which would allow them to not rush their younger prospects and have someone to hold the fort down until they are ready. They also have the option of trading whoever they sign if one of the prospects manages to win a roster spot over him, too. The problem is wondering if there is a defenseman out there willing to accept only a one or two year deal. Free agency is always a bidding war and you usually see a lot of four year deals handed out, especially with the cap being raised. There are some intriguing players out there who the Hurricanes might look at if Allen decides to walk, though. We will look at those after the jump.