Hurricanes' 2-Year Plan On Defense

The Carolina Hurricanes have a lot of work to do this offseason between their multiple pending RFAs and UFAs. While the forward group should be fine since it is so deep and all the RFAs are up front, the back-end is what the team will have to worry about. Both Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce are UFAs this summer and make up one half of the top-four in Carolina.

With the money that will be available, I doubt both Pesce and Skjei will be able to be brought back even though the Hurricanes would likely love to. At a certain point, the team has to cut ties with some players and have one piece of the puzzle signed to make an impact next season.

While the Hurricanes won't be able to bring back both of their UFA defensemen, they have to bring back one of them. They will likely push for Pesce as right-shot defensemen are harder to come by and he is over a year younger than Skjei. Pesce is great defensively and will likely require a raise of a couple million per season for at least five years.

The left side of the Hurricanes' defense has Jaccob Slavin and Dmitry Orlov already, so it makes it easier to lose a left-shot than a right-shot right now and easier to cheaply replace a third pairing defenseman than a top-four. Skjei has put together some strong seasons in Carolina and will be asking for a big contract as well.

If Orlov moves up to the top-four on the left side and Pesce is brought back, Brent Burns has just one year left on his deal and will likely retire. He is about to turn 40, so the Hurricanes can't lose both of their top-four defensemen that play the right side in back-to-back seasons without viable replacements. Newly signed Scott Morrow will hopefully be able to fill in soon, but he can't be expected to enter right into the top-four. Next season will be his introduction to pro hockey, whether that be in the NHL or AHL, then have him play a larger role once Burns retires. While the Hurricanes may have to dip into the free agent market to hold themselves over, they can't lose both Pesce and Skjei this offseason, and then potentially Burns and Orlov the next one without a plan.

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