There were quite a few surprised on Friday when the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they had signed former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner to a four-year, $16.2MM contract. After all, the team already had a significant amount of depth on their blueline to begin with. While many believe it’s the first piece of another potential trade, there is another major reason for signing Gardiner.
The Hurricanes’ biggest weakness last year was its power play, which ranked 20th in the league with a 17.8 percent success rate during the regular season. Despite that, the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Had they possessed even a competent power-play attack, who knows whether they could have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Adding Gardiner, according to The Athletic’s Sara Civian (subscription required), could solve some of those problems. The veteran has seen quite a bit of time over the years as a quarterback of a power play and should be able to bring those talents to the Hurricanes along with the additions of Erik Haula and rookie Martin Necas, all of whom the team hopes will turn around that power play.
- NJ.com’s Chris Ryan writes that the New Jersey Devils are still trying to figure out who will partner next to newly acquired star defenseman P.K. Subban this season. With New Jersey being overloaded with right-handed shot defensemen, including Subban, Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson, the team might have to move one of their top-four blue liners over to the left side. The most likely scenario is to move Vatanen over to the left side and then pair him with Subban on the team’s first defensive pair. One reason for that is that Vatanen has spent some time on the left side while with the Anaheim Ducks. “I played (left side) in Anaheim for a bit, and last year I played here sometimes,” Vatanen said, “It takes a little time to get used to it, but it’s a long season, so I’m ready to play wherever. I’ll start to be a goalie if they want me.” Vatanen claims to be 100 percent after missing all but four games over the final two months of the season due to concussion and an illness.
- In a notebook column, The Athletic’s Arthur Staple (subscription required) writes that unrestricted free agent Luca Sbisa is still skating with veterans of the New York Islanders. Sbisa agreed to a PTO last year and eventually signed a one-year deal, but only appeared in nine games over the course of the season, serving most of the time as a healthy scratch. Staple writes that Sbisa could return to Islanders camp once again on a PTO, but his chances of making the team would be much slimmer with a number of young defenseman who are ready to step into the lineup. Sbisa’s best chance is to impress another team for a potential job elsewhere.
- Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi reports that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Mark Friedman will miss rookie camp after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery over the summer. Already a longshot to make the Flyers team, his chances aren’t likely to improve by missing this camp. The 23-year-old is expected, however, to be at training camp next week with the veterans. Friedman had a solid season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season, his second season in the AHL, but will have to impress to have any shot at a NHL job.