After a league-worst ninth straight season without making the playoffs, changes were always going to be coming to the Carolina Hurricanes this off-season. Already, big moves have been made by new owner Tom Dundon, as he replaced Ron Francis as GM with Don Waddell and Bill Peters as head coach with Rod Brind’Amour. The team also brought in Rick Dudley as Sr. VP of Hockey Operations. Now, this realigned front office must decide how to proceed with structuring the roster in a way that can end their postseason drought.
Early on, the one name that has been floated around is homegrown winger Jeff Skinner. Skinner, 25, is one of the longest tenured and most consistently productive players on the Hurricanes. A supremely skilled forward, the former Calder Trophy winner has a knack for finding the back of the net and is a lethal weapon on the power play. Skinner has cracked 50 points four times in his career and has been improving in his defensive play and possession ability as his career has progressed. The fact that Skinner has been so successful on a team that has not once made the playoffs in his eight-year career tends to show that he could be even better surrounded by superior talent as well. The Los Angeles Kings were rumored to be looking into Skinner earlier this month, but now it appears that he has quite a few more suitors. In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman says that the number of teams making calls on Skinner is growing. There seems to be ample interest in the skilled scorer and the Hurricanes will certainly entertain offers for the impending 2019 free agent.
However, is this really the right move for the new Carolina administration to make to begin their reconstruction? Skinner undoubtedly is one of their most valuable players, but one has to question the purpose of trading him at this point in time. The Hurricanes have one of the best young defensive corps in all of hockey are are almost overflowing with talented blue liners. Meanwhile, their offense is composed of mostly complementary players, many of whom are playing higher up in the lineup than they would on most other NHL teams. What the ’Canes need more than anything is a star forward, preferably a center, to lead the offense and bring the forward group together in a cohesive unit. A top center like this is almost certainly not going to be the return on a deal for Skinner’s expiring contract. Where they may land such a player is in dealing away one of their top defenseman. Skinner may be more valuable to the Hurricanes this season, and may even consider an extension, if the Hurricanes are able to add that top player that the team is greatly in need of. They could always trade Skinner in-season if they are unable to make a deal this off-season. If instead they choose to move Skinner right now for what would most likely be picks and prospects, it could only further impair their offense and would likely lead to a tenth-straight season without playoff hockey. For the Hurricanes’ sake, let’s hope Waddell and company carefully consider any deal related to Skinner this summer.