2008/09: 45-30-7 – 97 pts (2nd in Southeast, 6th in East)
Arrived: Andrew Alberts (PHI), Aaron Ward (BOS), Tom Kostopoulos (MON), Stephane Yelle (BOS)
Departed: Patrick Eaves (DET), Frantisek Kaberle (UFA)
After a ho-hum regular season, the Hurricanes busted out in the playoffs, beating the Devils and Bruins in seven games each before being swept by the Penguins in the Conference Finals. Neither Eaves or Kaberle are significant losses, while Alberts and Ward should help beef up a back-end that was already 4th best in the East last season. If guys like Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose can play as well as last year, Carolina will be a threat. They will not challenge Washington for a division title, but should easily make the playoffs, where Cam Ward could help them make some noise.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
Eric Staal (C) – Staal has not come close to matching his unbelievable 100 point campaign of 2005-06, but remains a top flight fantasy center. He scored 40 goals last season, a rarity for centers, and was an uncharacteristic +15. A full season with Erik Cole at his side will only enhance his value. Staal will be a fantasy force this year, and I have him marked down for 40 goals and 45 assists, although his +/- should regress to somewhere around the even mark.
Ray Whitney (LW) – Believe it or not, Whitney first stepped onto an NHL ice surface in 1991-92 for the San Jose Sharks. Since then, the former Edmonton Oilers stick boy has amassed an underrated 811 points in 992 games, and was once waived by his hometown Oilers. Last season was one of his finest; he scored 77 points which ranked him 9th among left wingers. He is not a guy that you can sleep on, and I will be shocked if he does not score 70 points. The first line left wing job is his.
Erik Cole (LW,RW) – Cole is a guy who might fall on draft day thanks to his lackluster stats in Edmonton. Catch your rivals sleeping and snap him up. He scored 15 points in 17 games for Carolina, and has 75 point potential.
Keep an eye on: Tuomo Ruutu, Sergei Samsonov
DRAFT WORTHY DEFENCEMEN
Joe Corvo – Corvo is a criminally underrated offensive defenceman. Over the last two years he has 86 points in 155 games. His main downfall is that he contributes nothing in terms of penalty minutes, but that stat can be found elsewhere. Corvo is a tremendous addition to any team.
Joni Pitkanen – Pitkanen had an excellent first season in Carolina after being run out of Philadelphia and Edmonton. He was a solid contributor in every category with 33 pts (14 PP), a +11 rating and 58 penalty minutes. If the ‘Canes are successful in trading Anton Babchuk, Pitkanen’s powerplay time will increase considerably.
Keep an eye on: Anton Babchuk
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Cam Ward – Ward ranked third among goaltenders last year with 39 wins, while sporting a 2.44 GAA and .916 SV%. His six shutouts tied him for 6th in the league. While he is often forgotten, Ward is a top-notch fantasy goalie and should be on everyone’s top 10 list. There are safer picks out there, but if you are swinging for the fences then Ward is your guy.
Bonus: If you were counting, there were four Oilers references in this preview, a new record. The Hurricanes beat them in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. That’s five!