After an eventful summer of roster moves, the Carolina Hurricanes have found themselves with a depth chart loaded with talented defensemen.
With the additions of Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan and a lack of a trade involving Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes have seven quality players to fill six main defensive spots.
While a good problem to have, coach Rod Brind’amour will still need to figure out what he is going to do with his extra blue liner.
“You keep seven or eight [defensemen] on your roster anyway, but it’ll be an open competition for sure,” Brind’amour said at the Hurricanes’ media day. “I think it’s great to have competition all the way up your lineup. Everyone’s got to earn their spot, and that’s what training camp is going to be all about.”
As Brind’amour mentions, the Canes can keep more than six defenders on their roster and even dress seven if they want, but NHL teams typically play a rotation of three different defensive pairs on the blue line. Currently, one of Carolina’s seven talented defensman would be left out of that rotation.
In addition to Hamilton, de Haan and Faulk, the Canes’ roster features Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury -- all played in at least 65 games for Carolina a season ago.
The Canes remain committed to each of their seven defensive options in some way. Hamilton was acquired from the Calgary Flames at the expense of former fixtures in the Hurricanes lineup Elias Lindholm and Noah Hannifan (Carolina’s lone representative in the 2018 NHL All-Star Game), while de Haan was given a four-year, $18.2 million deal by the Canes over the summer.
Both are already proven commodities and seem unlikely to be benched in favor of one of the other options, open competition or not.
“I’m just trying to get comfortable as quick as I can,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know who I’m going to play with or whatever, but it doesn’t really matter because I think we have so many good guys. We’ll see how it plays out in training camp, but it’s not up to us to make those decisions.”
Slavin was handed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal just a year ago -- a long-term commitment Carolina likely would not have made if it didn’t envision him eating up ice time for years to come.
Pesce, a third-round pick for the Canes in 2013 and still just 23 years old, has played 216 games for the team over the past three years. Van Riemsdyk, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, was acquired via trade before last season. He stepped in and played 79 games for Carolina and assisted on a career-high 13 goals.
The youngest of the bunch is Fleury, who at just 22 years old still remains a part of the Canes future. Carolina’s seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, Fleury got his first NHL action a year ago, appearing in 67 games.
“I knew going into the summer that I had to put in a lot of hard work, and I had to lose some body fat percentage and lose some weight,” Fleury said. “I lost close to 15 pounds, so I’m feeling really good about myself. I put in the work, and the confidence came with that.”
Injuries, Brind’amour noted, may make the decision of who to play much easier, as he mentioned that Pesce had already had “some health issues” over the summer.
There also remains a chance that Faulk will be traded, even with training camp set to start in just over a week.
As of now though, there remain seven talented and experienced defensemen and just six starting spots.
“We’ve got a pretty good group to choose from,” Brind’amour said. “[We have] some pretty nice options, so we’ll see how it all shakes out. We’ll get through training camp and then make those decisions on everybody.”