With the trade deadline now just a week away, we continue to take a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
If the Carolina Hurricanes as deadline sellers wasn’t a foregone conclusion before, it is now after today’s trade of Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although Hainsey, who will finally get to play in the first postseason game of his 14-year NHL career, was a candidate to be traded regardless, the move is even less surprising given Carolina’s recent performance. After shocking many who believed they could be one of the worst teams in the NHL this season with a strong first half, the wheels have fallen off in Carolina since the calendar flipped to 2017. The Hurricanes are just 8-11-1 in the new year and haven’t had a regulation win since February 3rd. Facing an uphill battle as it was in the powerhouse Metropolitan Division, it didn’t help that Carolina was unable to get consistent play and fell from a playoff spot into the basement of the Eastern Conference in short order.
The ’Canes are loaded with talented young defensemen and some great young depth up front as well. They also hold a king’s ransom in draft picks and have an inordinate amount of cap space going into next season. There’s good reason behind the rumors connecting them to big-ticket trade bait like the Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. However, deals of that magnitude typically occur in the off-season. Don’t expect any different this year. The Hainsey trade either signals the beginning of a small-scale fire sale or potentially could be the only move for the Carolina at the deadline.
24–24–8, last in the Metropolitan Division/Eastern Conference
Deadline Cap Space
Current Cap Space: $63,619,668
Deadline Cap Space: $71,572,127
46/50 contracts, via CapFriendly
2017: CAR 1st, CAR 2nd, NYR 2nd, PIT 2nd, CAR 3rd, conditional NJ 3rd, CAR 4th, BOS 5th, CAR 6th, CAR 7th
2018: CAR 1st, CAR 2nd, CAR 3rd, CAR 4th, CAR 5th, CAR 6th, CAR 7th
Carolina’s best trade chip at the deadline was Ron Hainsey and GM Ron Francis did a great job in getting a strong return for the defenseman in a second-round pick and a prospect. Hurricanes fans should be happy about that haul, because that may be all they get. The reason that the Hainsey trade may be the only move that the ’Canes make at the deadline is because they lack a wealth of attractive veterans on expiring contracts. Among their impending free agents are Viktor Stalberg, Jay McClement, and Matt Tennyson and it’s doubtful that any of that trio have drawn much interest around the league. Stalberg and McClement have just 17 points combined despite playing in nearly every game and Tennyson is hardly even an NHL-caliber player. The one outlier is Derek Ryan. Seemingly out of nowhere, Ryan has finally developed into an NHL regular in Carolina at the age of 30 and would cost almost nothing against the cap with a salary of just $600K (about a $125K pro-rated cap hit on March 1st). For cap-strapped contenders facing difficulties adding players, Ryan could be very attractive as a bottom-six depth forward. He has eight goals and ten assists in 42 games and has shown some versatility within the lineup. However, are the Hurricanes willing to let their diamond in the rough go that easily? Unless Ron Francis is given a fair-value offer, he may look to bring back Ryan for next season instead as a nice complementary player.
Players To Watch
1) Franchise Forward – The rebuild in Carolina has been much faster and more successful than anyone could have expected and the organization has put together a solid young core of forwards and defensemen. The list of impact starters age 24 or younger is unreal: Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Noah Hanifin and more. That doesn’t even include top prospects on the blue line like Jake Bean, Haydn Fleury, and Roland McKeown, 2016 first-round forward Julien Gauthier, and a near-guaranteed top-five pick this June. It’s an embarrassment of riches in the youth department in Raleigh, but if the ’Canes want to climb the ranks of the Metropolitan, they need to move some young pieces to add a top forward. Not just a nice top-six player either; a star scorer. Colorado’s Duchene or Landeskog have specifically been mentioned, while Jordan Eberle, James van Riemsdyk, or Evander Kane, all reportedly available depending on who you ask and when, might be a nice addition to the “Redvolution” as well. With that said, a mega-deal like this seems very unlikely to form in the next week and could instead happen this summer.
2) Depth Defenseman – So what of the deadline? Don’t be surprised to see the Hurricanes sneak another defenseman on to the roster as part of any other moves they make. As discussed earlier this month, Carolina is in an Expansion Draft predicament with their blue liners, most of whom are so young that they don’t qualify for exposure. As of now, only the All-Star Faulk would fill the quota, and that certainly won’t be happening. The simplest move for Francis is to re-sign Tennyson or Klas Dahlbeck and simply expose one of them, but if Tennyson is traded or the team doesn’t want to keep either player around, a small trade to bring in a qualifying veteran would make sense.