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Don Waddell Moves Like a Hurricane in Free Agency: Canes Add Defense

The Canes just keep splashing in free agency, as they signed defenseman Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract on Friday, September 6.

If there is one thing that the Canes were consistent with in the 2018-2019 NHL season, it was their defense. Even when the Canes started off rough, their defense was always there. Last year, the Canes were one of the best defensive teams in the league, as they tied the Tampa Bay Lightning for the fifth-fewest amount of goals allowed all season (221). In addition, the Canes had one of the best penalty kills, as they were sixth-best in the league (81.6%).

The Canes had two solid goalies in Mrazek and McElhinney as well, and Mrazek will be back this year. If the Canes made a rare defensive mistake, Mrazek and McElhinney would be there to halt the rush.

In terms of defenseman last year, look at this stacked lineup from last year: Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton, Haydn Fleury, Calvin De Haan, Trevor Carrick, and Jake Bean. Gone is De Haan to the Chicago Blackhawks.

De Haan may be gone, but the defense will be even better. Replacing De Haan will be Jake Gardiner, the former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman whom the Canes signed earlier today to a four-year contract with an average annual value of $4.06 million. Last season, Gardiner played a valuable role for the Maple Leafs on the blue line, as he put together a 30-point season that included three goals and 27 assists.

Coming to Carolina, Gardiner will look to help a Canes power play that was middle-of-the-road in the league during the regular season, and one that struggled especially in the playoffs. “Jake is a solid veteran blueliner with a proven history of contributing offensively, including on the powerplay,” Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said in a team release.

Whether Gardiner starts on the first line or not is a mystery. Given the length and value of his contract, I would imagine he does. Pair Gardiner and Slavin, one of the best young defensemen in the entire NHL, and you have a blue line that no team would face with ease. Put Gardiner on another line, and the Canes will be just as scary.

As the Canes prepare for their first preseason game, which will be played Tuesday, September 17 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL, fans will have their first look at Gardiner and the rest of the old-but-new Canes. The Canes return home to PNC Arena in Raleigh the very next night, where fans will have a chance to see their team in person.

The playoff run for the Canes last year put them on the map as a playoff contender. All of a sudden, players want to come to Carolina.

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