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Carolina Free Agency Recap and Projected Depth Chart: What Just Happened?

JL Matthews

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Raleigh, NC -- So what just happened to the Carolina Hurricanes?

The Carolina Hurricanes swapped out nearly a third of their NHL roster in what can only be described as a frenzied start to free agency.

For a team that nearly won the President's Trophy, it's a stunning development. Canes GM Don Waddell and owner Tom Dundon made wholesale changes up and down the Canes lineup.

Players drafted by the Canes, who then spent their entire careers in the Canes organization, were shown the door at an alarming clip. It was almost as if the front office wanted to purge as many players drafted by Ron Francis as possible. Brock McGinn, Alex Nedeljkovic, Jake Bean, Warren Foegele, and Morgan Geekie were traded or otherwise let go.

The goaltending unit has been rebuilt. Gone are Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, the recently acquired Jon Bernier, and the formerly mentioned Alex Nedeljkovic. In their place, two veteran free agents: Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.

Half of the starting defensive unit has been replaced. Jake Bean was traded to Columbus for a second-round draft pick. Jani Hakanpaa signed with Dallas. And, of course, Dougie Hamilton left for the New Jersey Devils.

In their place, Carolina has brought in Ian Cole, Ethan Bear, and Tony DeAngelo.

These moves also represent a resurrection of sorts for Jake Gardiner. With Hamilton and Bean now gone, Gardiner suddenly seems the heir apparent to be the Canes' top powerplay unit quarterback. But who will quarterback the second powerplay unit? Jaccob Slavin? Brett Pesce? Tony DeAngelo?

The team's goaltending was rebuilt by choice. Hamilton's departure forced a flurry of changes to the Canes' defense.

But the forward group was mostly untouched.

Clearly, the Canes prioritized keeping their top-6 forward group intact (now and for years to come) over retaining Hamilton.

In his press conference yesterday, GM Don Waddell talked about how he wanted to spend money "wisely." He immediately segued that into a discussion of the need to re-sign Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.

The decision to prioritize Svechnikov and Necas meant that there wasn't enough money left over for Hamilton--but it also meant that bottom-6 forwards like Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele would not get the raises they wanted/deserved.

Jordan Martinook re-signed on a club-friendly, three-year deal paying him $1.8m/year. Brock McGinn, on the other hand, signed a four-year, $2.75m/year deal in Pittsburgh.

And this brings us to the biggest problem of the last two weeks: Many of Carolina's former players are now division rivals.

Dougie Hamilton in New Jersey. Brock McGinn in Pittsburgh. Jake Bean in Columbus.

These are players that know the Carolina system inside and out.

Next season, they'll be Metro division opponents, giving Carolina fits as the team looks to adjust back to a division that they've never won.

Outside of Bean (who was traded to Columbus), you could argue there's nothing the team could do--McGinn and Hamilton were free agents, after all.

But that won't help ease the sting of a Dougie Hamilton powerplay goal or a Brock McGinn check. It's part of the business, but it's also a reminder that these players could have remained Hurricanes if the priorities had been different.

The Carolina front office has hitched their wagon to the stars of Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Jaccob Slavin.

That's surely understandable.

But they've also hitched their wagon to Frederik Andersen, Jake Gardiner, and Tony DeAngelo.

Time will tell if that was as understandable too.

Projected Depth Chart

Svechnikov -- Aho -- Teravainen

Niederreiter -- Trocheck -- Necas

Martinook -- Staal -- Fast

Leivo -- Lorentz -- Jarvis/Drury/Someone Else?

Slavin -- Bear

Skjei -- Pesce

Gardiner -- Cole

Andersen

Raanta

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JL Matthews is a writer with interests spanning history, humor, tv/film, parenting, and more. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is a 6x Top Writer on Medium. Follow him on News Break, Medium, and Twitter for updates and latest work.

Raleigh, NC
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