A somewhat surprising run to the 2019 Eastern Conference finals meant that expectations were higher on the Carolina Hurricanes this past season. A trip to the 2020 postseason, however, ended the same way: a lopsided series loss to the Boston Bruins.
The 2020-21 season puts the Canes in a new division -- the Central, away from most of their usual Metropolitan Division foes -- but expectations for another playoff berth remain.
What should fans expect out of the team in 2021? Here's everything you need to know before opening night:
Big question: How much of a story will Dougie Hamilton's expiring contract be?
The Canes have developed a clear identity under coach Rod Brind'Amour. They have young stars to build around and have impressed in each of their past two playoff runs, showing that they're ready for more.
However, one of their top defensemen, Hamilton, is entering the final season of the six-year, $34.5 million contract he signed with Calgary in 2015. Can the Canes agree to keep him long term (and are they willing to shell out the going rate for a top-tier defenseman in his prime, which is far more than the $5.75 million he's getting this season)? Or could he potentially be traded for assets -- or walk away for nothing this summer? Stay tuned to this lingering storyline.