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Metro Division

Metro Division Primer: Hurricanes Retool, Strengthen One Of League’s Top Defenses



Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) skates with the puck in front of the net as Washington Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson (90) and goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) defend during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in Washington. The Hurricanes won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel)

Months after being swept in the conference finals, expectations remain high for the Carolina Hurricanes.

It wasn’t long ago that the Hurricanes, led by a team-high 36 goals from Sebastian Aho, rolled to a 52-21-9 record — narrowly edging out the New Jersey Devils for the Metropolitan Division crown. With the team’s core still intact, and with a bigger chip on its shoulder, it appears to be Stanley Cup or bust in Raleigh this season.

Along with Aho, the team returns other key pieces such as 24-year-old Martin Necas and 23-year-old Andrei Svechnikov. The team’s youth is one of its strong points and, with Aho and Svechnikov locked up longterm, the Hurricanes could be on the verge of a dynasty.

Carolina also returns starting goalie Frederik Andersen and defenseman Brent Burns, who tallied a third-best 61 points from the blue line last season, among others.

Key Subtractions

Shayne Gostisbehere, the Hurricanes’ big addition at March’s trade deadline, left town after producing a mere three playoff points.

Max Pacioretty, the team’s major free agent signing last season, was also a disappointment after a torn Achilles tendon limited him to only five games.

Key Additions

Come July 1, the Hurricanes swung for the fences by inking defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a two-year contract worth $7.75 million annually — the largest yearly sum handed out this offseason. If he’s able to replicate his defensive presence from a season ago, Orlov will improve what was already one of the top defensive units in the league.

Tony DeAngelo was also brought in on the blue line — a reunion after spending last season in Philadelphia. Coming off back-to-back 40-point seasons, the offensive defenseman should compliment well with Brent Burns, who led Hurricanes defensemen with 61 points a season ago.

Offensively, left winger Michael Bunting comes to Carolina from Toronto. His 49 points — 23 goals, 26 assists — from a season ago would have ranked fifth-best on the Metro Division’s top team.

How Do The Capitals Beat Them?

Despite the team missing the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, the Capitals roster has seen little change. For the most part, the Capitals squad hitting the ice this fall is the same one that was outscored 10-5 in three losses to the Hurricanes last season.

The Capitals’ addition of Pacioretty could pay off, but he’s still a major question mark. His vague injury-return timeline points to him coming back before the two teams meet for the first time in December, but the 34-year-old winger — a six-time 30-goal scorer — is coming off of two torn Achilles tendons and his current level of production is to be determined.

Paired with Alex Ovechkin, a healthy Pacioretty would greatly improve the Capitals offense. But against the Hurricanes’ tough defensive corps, the Capitals may just need to get lucky one night to emerge with a win.

Season Schedule

The Hurricanes will host the Capitals on Dec. 17, the first season’s matchup between the two teams. The teams will head to Washington for Game 2, scheduled for Jan. 5, and Game 3, scheduled for March 22, before the Hurricanes host the final meeting on April 5.