Fixing the defense has been the focal point of the Hurricanes off-season and GM Jim Rutherford has done a decent job to address Carolina's needs by acquiring both Andrej Sekera and Ron Hainsey. The defense still isn't anywhere close to being perfect, but adding Hainsey makes them a lot better than they were initially and the Canes have a relatively solid top-four now. With that ironed out, all that is left to do is buld solid depth on the third pairing, which will be more important than some think.
Last season, the Hurricanes entered the year with a defense that was over-populated with third-pairing guys and relied on their top-pairing to carry the load for basically the entire season. This led to a lot of problems when the injuries hit, as they ended up having guys who would be 4th or 5th defensemen on a contending play top-pairing minutes for about half of the season. This is why it is important to find value when it comes to building depth defense, whether it's through young players or finding a good free agent who may have been passed over by other teams.
Do the Hurricanes have this kind of depth right now, though? If Pitkanen were healthy, I would say so but obviously that isn't the case. They have plenty of guys who can play a third pairing role if needed, but they might need more than that if the injury bug infects them again. As of right now, the Canes have five healthy defenseman on the roster with Faulk, Gleason, Sekera and one or Harrison or Hainsey playing top-four minutes. With Rutherford saying that the team can carry up to eight defensemen, it looks like the Canes are going to put a lot of faith in their younger players to round out their defense depth. With a high-end player like Ryan Murphy in the system, this could turn out to be a nice experiment but it could also turn out poorly if some of these players don't work out. Being able to get all eight of them in the lineup on a consistent basis could prove to a problem too, especially during the regular season.
I don't know if we'll see the team carry eight defenseman, but they do have a lot in camp right now and I expect that at least two of them will make the team to join the five listed earlier. Who is the best fit for this role, though? Ideally, the Hurricanes are going to be looking someone with a right-hand shot who can play outside the third pairing if needed. The ability to work the power play or kill penalties is also a plus, although not completely necessary. When looking at the player's in camp, they have a couple of guys who might be able to do this.no comments