The Carolina Hurricanes will be playing in their first NHL outdoor game next season when they host a game at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. With an opponent yet to be announced, who could be joining the Canes in Raleigh next February?
The Carolina Hurricanes are one of six NHL clubs that have not participated in one of the league’s outdoor contests. In 2021, however, that will change, as the Hurricanes will host a game in Raleigh at Carter-Finley Stadium, home of the NC State Wolfpack football team.
While we now know who will host next year’s game, as well as where it will be played, we are still waiting to hear who the Canes’ opponent will be.
With that being said, here are three teams the NHL should consider sending to North Carolina for next year’s outdoor tilt.
New York Rangers
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To me, there are two teams that make the most sense, so this third team could really be any number of teams. The New York Rangers, however, could be appealing due to the large market they carry with them, as well as some of the talent on the team.
There are also arguments that could be made for teams like the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Bruins and Penguins each played outdoors recently (2019), while the Islanders play a slow, defensive brand of hockey that may not suit this stage.
At the end of the day, any of these teams have the talent and the relevance (division ties/recent playoff meetings) that would make them attractive opponents, but the Rangers get my nod. This matchup would potentially mark the Rangers’ first outdoor game since they played the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 Winter Classic.
The Washington Capitals make a lot of sense as the Hurricane’s opponent next year, as the teams are geographic rivals, division rivals, and recent playoff foes.
In addition, the Capitals boast a lineup featuring players like Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and countless other highly skilled players. That type of roster not only would draw an audience, but it also resembles the type of team the NHL has proven it likes to include in these high-profile games.
For the Capitals, this potential matchup would be their first outdoor game since March 2018 when they hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Stadium Series game in Annapolis, Maryland. It would also mark the franchise’s fourth outdoor game overall.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are different from all other teams listed, because they are one of the other five franchises to have not yet played outdoors. Given the talent on this roster, though, it seems like it should only be a matter of time before they take their skills outside.
As a team that has been at the top of the NHL’s standings for most of the last two season, and that includes Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and more, this team would certainly be one of the most entertaining options to play the Hurricanes.
While the Bolts are no longer a division rival of the Hurricanes, they were under the NHL’s previous format, and by being in the same region of the country, this matchup could still make a lot of sense.
I also have to think that if the NHL is bringing the Stadium Series to the southeast in 2021, it will not be in a hurry to turn around and bring it or the Winter Classic right back the next year. For this reason, this seems like the perfect time to include the Lightning in one of the NHL’s top events of the season.
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There are several good options to join the Hurricanes for the 2021 Stadium Series, but the Caps and the Bolts seem like the best fits. Soon we will learn if the NHL feels the same way.