In a recent article by ESPN’s Craig Custance titled “The NHL’s All-Trade-Candidates team“, his top line includes Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk, and Detroit Red Wings winger Gustav Nyquist. The common denominator between all three of those struggling teams? They need defense. The team that Custance mentions as being willing and able to trade away a reliable top defenseman for one of these big-name forwards is the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes have quietly put together one of the deepest group of blue liners in the entire league over the past few years. Even excluding All-Star defenseman Justin Faulk, the team is still loaded with talented youth on the back end. The team’s second pair of 22-year-olds Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have established themselves as legitimate NHLers, and 19-year-old Noah Hanifin, the 5th overall pick in 2015, continues to develop into a star. Former first rounder Ryan Murphy has been pushed out of the starting lineup and is surely available. Top prospects Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, and Josh Wesley are ready to contribute at the NHL level, and Trevor Carrick has been ready for a while now. 2016 first-rounder Jake Bean projects to be an NHL playmaker in the near future as well. Something has to give in Raleigh, as they have more talented defensemen than they have room for on the roster.
However, their forward core is still a work in progress. The Hurricanes are performing much better than many expected they would, but they are still a long-shot for a playoff berth in 2016-17, playing in the Metropolitan Division “group of death”. They could be better if it wasn’t for a middling and inconsistent offense. The re-build is coming along much faster than expected, and Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and their second 2016 first-round pick, Julien Gauthier, comprise a solid group of young scorers. However, the addition of a player in his prime like Duchene or van Riemsdyk may put them over the top, turning a rebuild into a contender. A mutually beneficial trade seems to be right around the corner.