They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, and the Carolina Hurricanes are already improving their roster for the 2023/24 campaign. So far in free agency, the reigning Metropolitan Division champs have signed forward Michael Bunting and defenceman Dmitry Orlov. They’re also one of the favourites to land Vladimir Tarasenko. So, will the Canes be going all out for a Stanley Cup run next season? They certainly should be.
The New Guys
Michael Bunting comes from Toronto to Carolina on a three-year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million. Although he likely won’t have superstars for linemates as he did in Toronto, this new position should give him the chance to be one of the league’s best depth players. Playing on the second or third line, he can focus on being a pest to the opposition’s top forwards while still being talented enough to chip in offensively. Compared to the pressure of playing with Matthews and Marner in Toronto, Carolina will offer Bunting a perfect opportunity to play his game away from a big spotlight. Wherever he slots in, though, he’ll be a key piece in a very deep group of forwards.
The next noteworthy signing Carolina made was for defenceman Dmitry Orlov. Orlov agreed to a two-year deal worth $15.5 million and will play a large role in one of the league’s best defensive cores. He’s never scored more than 36 points in a season, but Orlov showed a ton of offensive potential with Boston, scoring 17 points in 23 regular season games to finish the year after being traded. With Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin taking big minutes, Orlov may be able to continue his high scoring on the second pair.
With the additions they’ve already made, the Hurricanes are in a great position to make a run. Their roster is better than it was last year, they didn’t lose any key players, and they’re still the best team in the Metropolitan Division. Unfortunately, the window may be closing after next season, which makes it even more imperative for them to go all in now. At the end of next year, Aho, Teravainen, Martinook, Skjei, Pesce and Raanta will all be unrestricted free agents, while Seth Jarvis and Martin Necas will be RFAs. The team also has key contracts that will come to an end at the conclusion of the 2024/25 campaign.
On top of their contract issues, other teams in the division will be looking to make their moves, specifically New Jersey. The Devils are set up extremely well for the future and maybe only one or two seasons away from becoming a perennial Cup contender and overtaking Carolina as the top team in the division. Another move may not happen now, but if the Hurricanes are in a good position by the trade deadline next season, I would fully expect them to make a trade or two.
With the parity in today’s league, it’s always tough for an organization to push the chips all the way in. Boston did it this past season and although they had a historical regular season, they didn’t make it out of the first round. However, with contracts ending and guys getting older, Carolina may be forced into it. These opportunities don’t come around very often, and with an experienced group and a little cap money to spend, they’re in a perfect spot to push the chips in. Will management be able to pull the trigger? Only time will tell.