It’s been months if not years of speculation surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes and their depth on defense, but now as the team has started playing well and is pushing closer to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference things are heating up. Today, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported (subscription required) that the Hurricanes are willing to move one of their top-four defensemen, and noted that both Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce are generating interest from around the league. Carolina is interested in landing another top-six forward, especially given that pending free agent Micheal Ferland is “all but gone” according to LeBrun.
Since the Hurricanes have already indicated that Jaccob Slavin is the one untouchable on the blue line, trading a top-four option would likely come down to Hamilton, Pesce or former co-captain Justin Faulk. Calvin de Haan does have some claim to a top-four role of his own, but between just signing with the Hurricanes in the summer and not being part of the overload on the right side, his availability seems more unlikely.
It won’t surprise anyone to find out that the Hurricanes are listening on a trade of this magnitude. This is the team that has jettisoned Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, Noah Hanifin and Jeff Skinner in the last six months as they try to find a new identity under owner Tom Dundon and head coach Rod Brind’Amour. Dundon has made it clear that he wants to win and he wants to win now, something that they’re going to need more scoring to accomplish.
Hamilton and Pesce both represent huge targets for other teams around the league, but they come with much different financial situations. Hamilton, 25, is signed for just two years after this season and comes with a $5.75MM cap hit. After starting the season strong he has seen his minutes reduced of late, playing fewer than 20 minutes in 16 of his last 20 appearances. Pesce’s ice time meanwhile is headed in the opposite direction, logging four of his top-five totals in this month alone including nearly 23 minutes in a win over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. The 24-year old also comes with five additional seasons under contract at a reasonable $4.025MM cap hit.
The two come with very different on-ice profiles too however, as Hamilton is a possession-driving offensive option while Pesce is of the more reliable stay-at-home variety. In fact, Hamilton has recorded almost three times as many shots on net this season given his ample powerplay time, while Pesce easily leads the Hurricanes in short-handed time per game. That kind of stylistic gap will make it very interesting to see who the Hurricanes deal, as moving either one would open up an opportunity for someone else to step in. It also would offer some insight into what the acquiring team is after, especially as the playoffs draw closer.
Obviously it’s not even a certainty that one of the Hurricanes defensemen is moved at all, but as the trade deadline comes within view they will be one of the teams most watched for any activity.