Well everyone, we made it to the All-Star break. This weekend our franchise center, Sebastian Aho, will represent the Carolina Hurricanes in San Jose. I’m looking forward to it for the sole reason that any remaining doubters will get to see just how insane Aho can be. I for one am hoping he participates in the accuracy-shooting contest because I think he’s got a fair chance at winning it. While Aho shows the rest of the league what he’s got, the rest of the guys can get some much needed rest and relaxation.
The Hurricanes were able to post a respectable 8-3-1 record for the month. A busy January concluded with a Western Canada road trip consisting of three games in four nights. I was nervous heading into this road swing because it could have easily sunk our playoff chances if we failed to perform. The ‘Canes went 2-0-1, secured five of six possible points, and they outscored their opponents 14-9. As of this morning, the Hurricanes sit four points out of the second wild card spot, and continue to trend in the right direction.
Management has shown recently that they are serious about winning, and will spend when it is warranted. On Monday, they inked Teuvo Teräväinen (Turbo) to a 5-year, 27 million-dollar contract. This keeps him with the team through the 2023-2024 season. I love this contract. It’s affordable, and it further solidifies the team’s core. Turbo has four points (1 goal 3 assists) in two games since signing his new deal, and he’s on pace for 70-71 points, which would be a new career best.
If I was the general manager, I would’ve been willing to give Micheal Ferland this type of money. However, that was when I was expecting Turbo to chew up 6-6.25m a year on his new deal. What Turbo’s new contract does, in my eyes, is seal Ferland’s fate. He is almost certain to be traded and/or test the free agent market. Look, I love Ferland. Just last week, I was begging for him to be re-signed like most of the fan base. He has made a considerable impact on this team in his short time, but I simply can’t justify Ferland being worth more than Turbo. Ferland will get paid, and I wish him success, but I don’t see it being with us.
“Why are you so comfortable letting Ferland go? Turbo doesn’t play the same game!”
I have two words. Nino. Niederreiter.
I am still struggling to pick my jaw up off the floor after we sent Victor Rask to Minnesota for Niederreiter in a one-for-one deal. There was a time where Rask couldn’t even fetch a draft pick. I can’t fathom what Paul Fenton, Wild general manager, was thinking when agreeing to the trade. This was highway robbery in favor of the Hurricanes, and it feels so good to come out on top for once.
This trade has been broken down every which way, and no matter which way you look at it, Niederreiter has been light years better than Rask. I’ve looked at several stat comparisons of the two players, but here’s one of my favorites. In four games, Nino has two two-goal games. The last time Rask had a two-goal game? You have to go all the way back to 01-02-18 versus the Washington Capitals, which is a year and three weeks ago. Nino has made a heck of a first impression, and has passed the eye test with flying colors. He plays with an edge, he gets to the scoring areas, he can finish a play, and he plays one of the stronger two-way games I’ve seen out of a winger. Defensively responsible wingers are always a welcome addition.
I imagine the conversation at the time of the trade went like this.
“Welcome to Carolina, Nino! All we need you to do is finish off passes from Aho and Teräväinen.”
“Say less, Don [Waddell]. I’ve got you.”
Speaking of first impressions, how about Alex Nedeljkovic (Ned)? The Carolina Hurricanes goaltender started his first NHL game last night versus Vancouver, and he got his first NHL win. He was steady for the team the whole game, and the only two pucks that got behind him were ones he didn’t really have a chance to save. The first was deflected in the slot, and the second was a gorgeous passing play from three of Vancouver’s stars, Sven Baertschi, Brock Boeser, and Elias Pettersson. Obviously, as a ‘Canes fan, I was frustrated when Baertschi scored, but the hockey fan in me couldn’t help but tip my imaginary cap to those three after a play like that. It was flawless.
When it comes to Ned, he’s not the largest goalie at 6’ 0”, so he has to play into his angles more. What he lacks in size though, he makes up for in raw athleticism. That was on full display last night. This guy battles to make every save, and even when it may seem like he’s down and out, he always gives himself a chance to make the save. Obviously, we’re going to need a considerably larger sample size. But, so far in the NHL, Ned is 1-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and a .953 save percentage. If he keeps battling like he’s shown thus far, I could see him potentially taking one of the goalie spots on the 2019-2020 roster.
Battling is what the Carolina Hurricanes will need to do on the other side of the All-Star break. They aren’t getting much help from teams around them; so they need to take it game by game and focus on getting one win at a time. If they can continue to play with the same intensity they did throughout January, you never know. I won’t hold my breath about sneaking into that second wild card spot, but I certainly won’t rule it out, either.