With the trade deadline just days away, we continue our look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? As we continue with the Metropolitan Division, here is a look at the Carolina Hurricanes.
In less than 100 hours, the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline will come and go. While there are many deals still to be made, most teams have at least decided if they are buying, selling, or sitting out at the deadline. Perhaps the one team still waiting to make that call are the Carolina Hurricanes, and for good reason.
Tuesday night was a rough result for the Hurricanes. The team fell to the non-playoff New York Rangers, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens both picked up wins. Carolina now trails both of those teams by three points, while the Columbus Blue Jackets occupy the final wild card spot with a one-point lead and a game in hand on the Hurricanes. Despite their strong play of late, Carolina looks like the first team out in the Eastern Conference right now. Of course, that can change before the deadline. The ‘Canes have a winnable match-up tonight against the Florida Panthers, followed by a tougher test against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. How they perform, as well as the results for the Blue Jackets, Penguins, and Canadiens, before Monday will inform their deadline decision.
Carolina holds the NHL’s longest playoff drought of nine years and desperately would like to make the playoffs. At the same time, they are a young team who could really use the return on any trade assets if the postseason doesn’t look realistic. It’s a difficult choice to make, but where they sit in the playoff race after the next few days could cause them to lean one way or another or, perhaps the most likely outcome, no way at all.
31-23-6, fifth in the Metropolitan Division
Deadline Cap Space
$76.26MM in full-season cap hit, 1/3 used salary cap retention slots, 43/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2019: CAR 1st, BUF 2nd, CAR 2nd, CAR 3rd, CAR 4th, CAR 5th, CAR 6th, CGY 6th, BOS 7th
2020: CAR 1st, CAR 2nd, BUF 3rd, CAR 3rd, CAR 4th, CAR 5th, BUF 6th, CAR 6th, CAR 7th
With their status at the deadline still so uncertain, chances are the Hurricanes will be involved in both the buyers’ and sellers’ markets, but could very well choose to do nothing at all. For discussion’s sake though, let’s say the Hurricanes decide to sell. Of the two options, selling is more probable as there are no pieces that Carolina could move that would automatically end their push for the postseason. The one player who would certainly be on the move is impending UFA power forward Micheal Ferland. Ferland, acquired from the Calgary Flames in the off-season, has been excellent in Carolina and is in fact on pace for a career high in points. However, Ferland seems destined to test the free agent market and the recent acquisition of Nino Niederreiter has made his departure manageable. Carolina would miss Ferland’s contributions down the stretch this season, but are prepared for life without him and would likely land a nice return if they chose to trade him. Several contenders are in search of grit and offense at this time of the year and Ferland checks both boxes.
Ferland is the only impending UFA skater thought to have any value on the trade market. Captain Justin Williams is not available and Greg McKegg has been a serviceable player that is more valuable to the ’Canes as a depth option than any low-end return might be. However, goaltenders are a different story. Both Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek are impending free agents and both have performed well this season, especially McElhinney. With Scott Darling still under contract next year, young Alex Nedeljkovic in consideration, and a strong goalie free agent class, it’s unclear if McElhinney or Mrazek will be back in Raleigh next season. With that in mind, the Hurricanes may be willing to part with one or the other at the deadline if the right offer presents itself. It goes without saying that if the team could move Darling, they would.
Elsewhere in the lineup, there continues to be speculation that the Hurricanes would like to deal from a position of strength on defense. With Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, and Trevor van Riemsdyk on the roster, Carolina is flush with talented right-shot defenders. Chances are one will be dealt at some point soon. However, it will be in a hockey trade, with the ‘Canes getting a top-nine forward back in return. Such trades are uncommon at the deadline, so don’t hold out hope that the team will be make such a move before the off-season.
What if the Hurricanes are buyers? Then the list of trade chips is a slightly more extensive. Charlotte Checkers defensemen Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown continue to wait patiently for roles in Carolina that may never come and the time may have arrived for the Hurricanes to move them in the right deal. The same could be said for another pair of impending RFA’s, forwards Andrew Poturalski and Saku Maenalanen, both of whom have been productive in the minors but underutilized at the top level. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is an impressive pipeline for the Hurricanes, but as they’re not expected to be major buyers, top names like Martin Necas, Janne Kuokkanen, Jake Bean, and Adam Fox are likely untouchable. Carolina has plenty of draft picks to peddle as well, rather than moving their top prospects
1) Top-Six Forward: It’s no secret that the Hurricanes desire a top-six forward. The team was in on William Nylander for months before he re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs (they could revisit that option this summer) and eventually swung a deal with the Minnesota Wild for Nino Niederreiter. However, scoring is still an issue. This season, only the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders have scored fewer goals per game than Carolina among teams in playoff position. The offense is stagnant at times and has been carried by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen all year. Looking ahead, the likely loss of Micheal Ferland could further diminish scoring next season. Although the pipeline is loaded with capable forward in Carolina, the team needs a long-term top-six addition. It remains to be seen if such a player is available at the deadline this year. Expect the ’Canes to kick the tires on Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman, as well as the likes of Jason Zucker or Adam Henrique.
2) Value Forwards: If Carolina decides to buy in to playoff run this year, but the prices are too high on a long-term forward acquisition, the team would be better off trying to wait out the market to add some bargains than give up considerable future pieces for top rentals. For example, the idea of an Eric Staal return is great, but not an affordable option for Carolina. Instead, players like Richard Panik, Sven Andrighetto, or Alex Chiasson would come at a much lesser cost and would be less risky acquisitions in light of Carolina’s current playoff position, but would help fill some gaps in the lineup and create some more offense. The Hurricanes may very well stand pat at the deadline, but making even just a minor addition up front could go a long way.