The Carolina Hurricanes are facing some uncertainty as to what their lineup could look like next season, especially when it comes to their defense group. Between the expansion draft and free agency, the Hurricanes could be set to lose multiple defensemen this offseason.
The most pressing concern on the Hurricanes’ blue line right now is obviously whether Dougie Hamilton will re-sign. Hamilton has been a top-pairing defender with Carolina, scoring 42 points in 55 games this past season. If he leaves as a free agent, you have to imagine the Hurricanes will scramble to find a high-end replacement.
There’s a very strong chance Jake Bean has also played his last game with Carolina, as he’s likely to be selected by the Seattle Kraken in tomorrow’s expansion draft. Bean had just made the full-time jump to the NHL and while he was in a reduced role, he produced well offensively and would probably slowly start getting a larger role with the Hurricanes. With Bean gone, the Hurricanes will need to find another bottom-pairing defender.
He’s also not the only depth defenseman the Hurricanes may lose. Jani Hakanpaa, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Anaheim Ducks, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. While Hakanpaa was only effective in a highly defensive role, he was a solid bottom-pairing defender and if he leaves, that’s another hole in the lineup.
So heading into next season, Carolina may only have Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei as their remaining full-time defensemen from this past season. If Hamilton does leave, the Hurricanes will have the space to go out and make a couple additions on the back end, but it seems unlikely that all the slots would be filled externally.
This would mean Carolina looks for some prospects or players currently under contract to step up. As a result, Jake Gardiner could get another full-time shot in a limited role, while Max Lajoie and Joey Keane stand out as other potential options.
Regardless, we could be looking at a very different defense group for the Hurricanes next season, which could see only half of the team's full-time defensemen from last season return.
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If none of Hamilton, Bean or Hakanpaa are back next season, how many defensemen do you think the Hurricanes will add through trade and/or free agency?