Over the next month, we at NHLnumbers are going to be taking a look at where each team in the league currently stands based on what we learned from them last season, and where they realistically can and should go this summer with the resources and cap space they have. Also, sweet throwback pads from Trevor Kidd in the pic above, no?
Carolina was an imperfect storm in 2015-16, meddling through an 86-point season. Rough goaltending, a lack of offence and a talented, but young defensive group performed perhaps above some expectations, but still didn’t light the league on fire. A bubble playoff teams at times during the season… Carolina heads into the 2016 offseason as one of the most crucial years in this franchise’s future. The team appears to be on the come-up, but as we all know, that’s easier said than done.
(all stats 5v5 unless otherwise noted)
Their 51.5 CF%, ranking 11th in the league, may have been their most promising on-ice stat. The league’s worst PDO at 98.3% certainly didn’t help them win last year but hey… it could mean things are on the up-and-up in the future.
The team gave up the least shorthanded goals in the league at just 32 over 82 games.. but while that’s something to celebrate, it doesn’t quite mean much in the season when the rest of the team was just average most of the way.
It certainly wasn’t the best season in Raleigh, but it was far from some of their worst seasons we’ve seen in recent years. Carolina was fairly competitive most nights, and laid down the foundation for a solid future.
There’s no superstars left on Carolina anymore. Jeff Skinner led the team with just 51 points in the regular season. Eric Staal moved on from the team in a trade to the New York Rangers and former league cult hero Cam Ward struggled to put up a .909 save percentage (while Eddie Lack put up just a .901). There’s some solid young defencemen, including 5th overall pick Noah Hanifin, but they’ve all still got room to grow. And yet, this team remained competitive enough down the stretch.
I have a feeling Carolina’s chart will look very different next year. pic.twitter.com/jNUFKGKeD4
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) June 3, 2016
Carolina comes in with a pretty good spot. There’s an average age of 26.2 for their players signed for next season… the lowest in the league. They have the third most cap space in the league currently with $34.6 million… and already have 14 players signed (which is tied for 21st in the league… but with few core pieces to re-sign, it should open them up nicely in the UFA/ trade market.)
Ryan Murphy will probably get paid nicely coming off his ELC deal… but other than that, their UFA pieces are all mostly expendable/replaceable if they don’t come back.
Cam Ward is off the books, coming in as a UFA with little chance of re-signing.
All in all, while Carolina may not have the greatest roster in the world, their cap situation sets them up to be creative in this offseason and moving forward.
And with former face of the franchise Eric Staal now gone (maybe coming back? who knows?), it’s officially the start of a new era in Carolina.
Carolina holds the 13th pick. I have no doubt they’ll win up with a great player, whoever that may be. This management group appears talented enough to snag a solid talent, whether it be Tyson Jost, Max Jones, Dante Fabbro, Clayton Keller or any of the other names floating in the 10-20 range.
Carolina is in a spot where they can be creative enough for the future and perhaps overpay a player or two.. so if they’re in a bidding war in the UFA market for a player they really like, it won’t necessarily sewer their future if they offer up an extra few hundred thousand dollars.
However, while they’ve got some good young talent, they’re still very much a team in transition.
You know how every team feels like they’re always “two or three good pieces away” from where they want to be? Carolina might actually be that team.
Finishing 10 points out of the playoffs isn’t ideal for any team, but they’re really not that far off from being competitive. Securing a solid second goalie (whether he’s a backup or a starter, with Eddie Lack in the system), having draft success (perhaps trading down to increase pick quantity) and improving their roster with smart free agent signings could push this young team to the brink of the playoffs.
Carolina isn’t the most exciting team in the NHL, but they’re in a decent position to contend within even the next few seasons if things are done correctly in their rebuilding years. It’s not a bad time to hop on their bandwagon at all.