The Carolina Hurricanes have made valiant attempts to reach the Stanley Cup Final in recent seasons. After falling short in the 2023 postseason, the Hurricanes have loaded up for a run at the sport's biggest prize.
The deck was certainly stacked against the Hurricanes as the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs got underway. The team lost offseason acquisition Max Pacioretty to an Achilles injury, while star winger Andrei Svechnikov was also lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Still, the Hurricanes managed to excel throughout the postseason as they topped the New York Islanders and even the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes ran into a buzzsaw in the Florida Panthers and were swept in the Eastern Conference Final.
When healthy, this was already a franchise that has placed itself amongst the upper echelon of NHL teams. Even with the amount of talent that Carolina already had in tow, they made multiple splashes in the offseason to stockpile even more firepower.
During the 2023 offseason, Carolina made the following moves:
- Signed forward Michael Bunting to a three-year, $13.5 million contract in free agency
- Signed defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a two-year, $15.5 million contract in free agency
- Re-signed goaltenders Frederik Andersen (two years, $6.8 million) and Antti Raanta (one year, $1.5 million) in free agency
- Acquired defenseman Tony DeAngelo in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers
One of the more underrated moves of the offseason was the Hurricanes landing winger Michael Bunting in free agency. After spending the first two seasons of his NHL career with the Arizona Coyotes, Bunting thrived over the past two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs as he tallied 112 points (46 goals and 66 assists) during that span.
"They've been so close for so long. Everyone's goal in this league is to win the Stanley Cup," Bunting. "Once Carolina came in and showed some interest, I was pretty interested as well. Obviously, they've made it to the Eastern Conference Final in the last couple of years and just need to get over that next step. I'm hoping I can help them get over that next hump."
Bunting figures to slot into the left winger spot on Carolina's top line alongside Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis. It's something that he's done many times before as he played with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the Maple Leafs' top line quite a bit in the past.
On top of Bunting, the most important move of the offseason may have been landing defenseman Dmitry Orlov in free agency.
The Hurricanes have really made an honest effort to improve their back end over the past few seasons. After acquiring offensive-minded blue-liner Brent Burns last offseason, now the team has Orlov to skate with Burns as the team's top defensive pairing.
It's a big deal considering that Orlov is fresh off of a career-best 36-point season (seven goals and 29 assists) splitting time between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. Orlov's 29 assists were also a career-high for a defenseman who has really displayed excellent vision on the ice.
This is also a very team friendly deal for a 32-year-old defenseman as it's only a two-year term. On top of that, Orlov joins a defensive core was one of the better units across the NHL in 2022-23. The Hurricanes allowed the second-fewest goals-per-game (2.53), while also killing off 84.09 percent of their penalties (second in the NHL).
Orlov really thrived with the Bruins during the second half of the 2022-23 campaign, and that shouldn't change being surrounded by defensemen like Burns, Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce among Carolina's top four.
Orlov will also be playing in front of some goaltenders that the Hurricanes have had in the fold for the last few seasons. With both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta set to become free agents, it was possible that Carolina could chose to roll with the youth in net in the form of netminder Pyotr Kochetkov. After all, Kochetkov had a stellar rookie season in which he tallied a 12-7-5 record to go along with a 2.44 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage in 24 games.
However, the Hurricanes elected to bring back both Andersen and Raanta on shorter-term deals. Considering Carolina is aiming for a Stanley Cup, perhaps it wasn't a huge surprise. When healthy, Andersen has proved to be a very formidable goalie since arriving in Carolina back in 2021.
During that time, Andersen has accumulated a 56-25-4 record, a 2.29 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. The biggest issue for the veteran goaltender has been keeping a clean bill of health. Andersen has been limited to just 86 games over his two seasons with the Hurricanes, including missing two months in 2022-23 due to a lower-body injury.
If Andersen can manage to stay healthy in 2023-24, the sky is the limit for what the Hurricanes can accomplish.
The Hurricanes have stockpiled tons of talent in the offseason on top of having a loaded roster that already featured Aho, Burns, Svechnikov and Martin Necas. If this group can avoid the injury bug throughout the 2023-24 season, a run at the Stanley Cup could definitely be in the cards.