RALEIGH, N.C. – There’s plenty new for the Carolina Hurricanes these days.
They picked up a new starting goalie, gave big new contracts to some young defensemen and brought in a splashy free agent. There also might be a new team owner signing their paychecks.
With a little over a week until preseason camp begins, there’s also a new feeling of justified optimism surrounding an organization that owns the NHL’s longest active postseason drought.
“I can’t wait,” defenseman Jaccob Slavin said Tuesday. “I’m so excited for it, and I can’t wait to see what this season has and what the future holds as well – but more importantly, the season right here.”
Every team begins camp every fall hoping to contend for the Stanley Cup the following summer, but in recent years the Hurricanes – who haven’t made the playoffs since 2009 – always seemed to do so with several key questions lingering. There were issues about the goalies, about whether they had enough scoring threats or whether the team as a whole was simply too young.
General manager Ron Francis took care of most of those during a busy offseason.
“I think we checked a lot of the boxes,” Francis said.
Francis swung a trade with Chicago in April for goalie Scott Darling , then signed him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract. He opened free agency by bringing back Justin Williams , a key forward on Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup championship team, with a two-year, $9 million deal.
He picked up checking-line forward Marcus Kruger in a trade with Vegas, and locked up a promising defensive pairing by giving long-term contracts to Slavin and playing partner Brett Pesce.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we have a team that’s capable of getting to the playoffs,” Francis said. “But there’s a lot of things that happen over the course of an 82-game season. So I think on paper, we’ve got a really good team, we’ve got a really competitive team. … Based on where we were in April, and the holes we filled, we think we’ve had a good summer in addressing a significant portion of those and made ourselves a better team.”
The offseason changes even involved the owner’s office, with longtime club owner Peter Karmanos Jr. saying last month that he wants to sell the team for about $500 million . He has said he’s agreed to a term sheet – but not a purchase agreement – with a group led by former Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg, who tweeted in August about spending a few “enjoyable and productive” days in the North Carolina Triangle.
There were no updates Tuesday on the progress of those discussions. Instead, the focus was on the players on the ice and the improvement expected of them in the coming weeks and months.
“I think our team’s going to take a step,” fourth-year coach Bill Peters said. “A bunch of guys individually, but also collectively. We’re ready to take a step forward.”