Hurricanes defensemen Hamilton and Vatanen, goaltender Reimer ready to return

There is still no telling when the NHL season will resume, but the Carolina Hurricanes' defense will be much more formidable when it finally does.

All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton, newly acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen and goaltender James Reimer are all expected to be ready to play when the teams return to the ice.

Hamilton had 14 goals and 26 assists in 47 games and was among the leading contenders for the Norris Trophy this season when he suffered a fractured left fibula against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 16.

General manager Don Waddell said Hamilton would have resumed skating if the NHL season had not been put on hold on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"If we were playing today, we would have sped up that on-the-ice performance over the last couple of weeks," Waddell said on Thursday on a video call. “So he's ready to go. It's just a matter of time before we put him on the ice and move forward from there. But yes, he'll be ready to play when we drop the puck."

Vatanen has yet to play for the Hurricanes since he was acquired from the New Jersey Devils on February 24 due to a lower-body injury. He had five goals and 18 assists in 47 games for New Jersey. 

Reimer has been sidelined since February 22 after he sustained a lower-body injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Reimer is 14-6-2 with a 2.66 goals-against average in 25 games this season.

Carolina hold the first wildcard in the Eastern Conference, tied with Columbus and one point ahead of the New York Islanders.