For anyone who has been following the Carolina Hurricanes for the last few years, this will come as nothing new. The team generates a ton of shots and limits shots against. But their conversion rate on those chances has been very low and has been one thing seemingly holding the team back from further playoff success. While that rate has improved this year, the Hurricanes are still looking for a true goal scorer. Especially considering that even though they are limiting chances against, the chances that get through seem to get all the way through into the net.

The Hurricanes Should Go Shopping for a Goal Scorer

The goal-scoring issues were very evident in the team’s latest Western Canada road trip. With Andrei Svechnikov potentially out for an extended period, this has become more of a necessity. As we covered many issues shown in that trip in an article here, and then took a deeper dive into goaltending options here, we now turn to what might be available on the goal-scoring market.

An Odd Man Out in Vancouver

The best option seemingly on the market looks at the team that delivered the final dagger to Carolina during their Western Canada road trip. Andrei Kuzmenko is reportedly an odd man out in Vancouver and the Canucks seem to be willing to make a deal for the Russian forward. With Vancouver’s current success on the ice and their top players surging offensively, Kuzmenko could be a good trading piece for the Canucks.

This year he is averaging around 15 min per game of ice time and has five goals and 11 assists in 26 games. However, he has been healthy scratched twice lately and has been struggling compared to last year both offensively and defensively. He also seems to be at odds with head coach Rick Tocchet.

What Kuzmenko Could Bring

This could be a great opportunity for Carolina. Vancouver signed Kuzmenko in 2022 to a one-year deal and he exploded last season with 39 goals and 74 points. He signed a two-year $11 million deal that includes a 12-team no-trade list following last season. This cap hit could make things tricky for Carolina but with some creativity, they should try to find a way to land the winger. Carolina reportedly tried hard to sign Kuzmenko when he was available, but he instead opted for Vancouver.

While Tocchet seems concerned with Kuzmenko’s backchecking, his advanced analytics show that he may fit well in Carolina’s system. He is fourth on the Canucks in expected goals with 7.1 and in the top five in expected goals per 60 minutes with 1.1. Not to mention he leads Vancouver in Corsi and Fenwick at 63% and 62%. Sound like a Brind’Amour player? And defensively compared to offensively, he has a solid on-ice goal differential of 19.

A Perfect Fit?

Being an odd man out in Vancouver and Carolina’s need for a goal-scorer, this could be a perfect match. This is especially true considering that Andrei Svechnikov may be out for some time. Making the cap work will be tricky, especially since Vancouver is fairly cap-strapped as well. There may be some options for LTIR relief related to Svechnikov or Frederik Andersen for Carolina. The return to Vancouver would still be pretty big for a player who has shown the ability to essentially hit 40 goals. If Carolina offered little cap going back that could be an asset to Vancouver itself. Otherwise, would this be a move seeing a defenceman finally heading out? Vancouver doesn’t have a second-round draft pick this year while Carolina has two so maybe some picks make their way into the equation. Whatever the deal, this is a guy Carolina should target.

Could a Cornerstone Piece in Tampa be on the Market?

This one may be more of a “just for fun” thought but Carolina could possibly explore the availability of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay has been slightly declining since their dominating Stanley Cup runs. But only slightly. However, with Stamkos needing a new contract after this season and the team facing the possibilities of re-tooling, they may look at fetching assets in return for the veteran centre. IF this even came to fruition it would probably be closer to the deadline and only if Tampa Bay looked out of the playoff picture.

What Stamkos Could Bring

There’s no real secret what Stamkos could bring to Carolina. Years of experience and leadership. Multiple Stanley Cups. And an ability to put the puck in the net. Last season he scored 34 goals with 50 assists in 81 games. The year before he had 42 goals and 64 assists in 81 games. And this year he has 10 goals and 16 assists in 27 games played. But where he may help Carolina the most would be on their power play. Maybe coming up only second to Alex Ovechkin, Stamkos is almost automatic from the left circle with one timers. Someone who can snipe on the power play would be a welcome addition to a team looking for some offensive punch with the man advantage. While typically a centre, Stamkos can also play on the wing if needed.

Stamkos won’t come cheap and what Tampa looks for in return may be dependent on how their outlook is for the near and far future of the team. If available, I’d expect to see high draft picks and top prospects involved heading south. But for Carolina being in their Cup-winning prime, it could be time to swing for the fence. So much will affect this including what the team does in net, the status of injured players, and how the team is faring when Stamkos may come available. Stamkos seems unlikely, but not completely impossible.

Reunited and it Feels So Good

Losing to Calgary was a big stinger. But could Carolina look to the Flames to re-acquire a Swede they let go of a few years ago? Here I am talking Elias Lindholm. When Carolina dealt Lindholm to Calgary, he was still finding his way and Carolina didn’t seem to feel he was worth what he was asking for his next contract. Since then, he has done pretty well in Calgary. This season he is near the top of the Flames in goals with seven and points with 18 while centring the top line. Even though Calgary had a tough season last year, he still put up 22 goals and 42 assists in 80 games. The year before….42 goals and 40 assists.

What Lindholm Could Bring

It’s no secret that Lindholm could provide Carolina with a mix of goal-scoring and playmaking. He plays a hard game without fear of engaging physically and has a really quick release. Considering that he is in the last year of his contract and Calgary again is struggling to make much of a gain in the playoff race, Lindholm could be on his way out in favour of future assets. But Calgary may wait and see how the year looks before moving Lindholm. This may make things easier from a cap perspective as the relative cap hit closer to the deadline will be less. But he also may become more expensive. And there would be plenty of teams looking to get him.

One thing Lindholm could do for Carolina is further solidify them down the middle. Sebastian Aho likely stays in the 1C spot, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jordan Staal could essentially slide down with Lindholm being the 2C. The second and third lines may not have much difference in ability at that point. Jack Drury could be part of the return piece going to Calgary so the Staal line becomes the fourth line, which they seem better suited for this year. But, those are just labels. Lindholm can also play on the wing which provides further flexibility. Lindholm will come with a price tag but it’s worth a look.

Finding a Friend on the Pacific Ocean

The last stop in Carolina’s search for goal-scoring looks to a team the Hurricanes have had decent dealings with lately. This is the San Jose Sharks. The Hurricanes made out well in getting Brent Burns from the Sharks but lost out on the Timo Meier sweepstakes last year. They could take a look at two other Sharks forwards in Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture.

Even though San Jose has been on a recent run, they still sit at the bottom of the league and may be looking to continue their rebuild by gathering future assets. Both Couture and Hertl are signed long-term at over $8 million AAV so for one it’s not like they are on expiring deals needing to be traded or re-signed. But it also makes it tricky for a team like Carolina unless they see it as being a long-term part of the plan.

Tomas Hertl

Hertl has been great for San Jose this year and leads the team in points with 24, nine of which are in goals that also leads the team. He is another natural centre who can also shift to the wing if needed and has great offensive instincts. He may not be a 40-goal scorer but could be counted on for 20 to 30 and also could provide depth down the middle much like Lindholm mentioned above. Six of his 24 points came on the power play so he could help there as well.

Logan Couture

Couture may be more of a risk as he has had some injury trouble. There are also questions about his return to full health. He has not played a game this season due to a lower-body injury. However, he did play in all 82 games last season and put up 27 goals and 40 assists. He could be counted on for anywhere between 15 to 30 goals depending on injuries but has shown an ability to break the 30-goal mark a few times in his career.

Couture is more of a pure goal scorer and in the right situation could thrive. He also is the Sharks captain which brings its own set of positive attributes. However, due to his AAV and injury troubles, Carolina may be more hesitant with Couture. Of course, that might mean he could come cheaper and may be worth taking a chance on.

Don’t Hold Back

But overall, whoever they target, Carolina should be looking at more statistically guaranteed results at this point over reclamation projects or chances. The team has a solid core but needs to find something to bring them over the hump. With ample picks and prospects for a team in their position, they should use that to their advantage.

Main Photo Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.