It’s a busy last few minutes for the Carolina Hurricanes, as they are set to acquire both Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet tweets that the Devils will receive Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrik Claesson and a conditional fourth-round pick for Vatanen, while Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that Skjei will be had for a first-round pick.
These two defensemen will come into an organization that already acquired Vincent Trocheck earlier in the day, making the Hurricanes one of the obvious winners from today’s festivities. Adding two potential top-four options and a second-line center in the matter of a few hours will change the look of the team as they head into a playoff chase.
Vatanen, 28, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is actually currently injured, but will rejoin the lineup soon in Carolina and offers a right-handed puck-mover to help replace the losses of Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce. Vatanen has played both sides of the ice and can do a little bit of everything, including help on the powerplay and penalty kill.
Skjei meanwhile represents a more long-term addition for the Hurricanes. The 25-year old defenseman is signed through the 2023-24 season at a $5.25MM cap hit, but has also been quite inconsistent this year for the Rangers. Perhaps asked to fill a smaller role in Carolina will allow him to flourish once again, given how deep the team is on the blue line.
When all is said and done the Hurricanes will sit with a group including Jaccob Slavin, Jake Gardiner, Joel Edmundson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury, Vatanen and Skjei, with Pesce and Hamilton working their way back at some point (though when that will be still isn’t clear). That’s just about the deepest defense corps in the entire league, not to mention the fact that Carolina still has Gustav Forsling, Jake Beane, Joey Keane and Roland McKeown in the minor leagues.
Kuokkanen becomes one of the most interesting prospects for the Devils immediately, after posting strong results in the minor leagues but getting little opportunity in Carolina. He’ll surely get a bigger chance on the Devils as they rebuild, and when added to a mid-round pick is nice work by interim GM Tom Fitzgerald.
For the Rangers, clearing Skjei’s contract was the clear goal, even though the defenseman still obviously has value. The team has work to do on their cap moving forward, and nabbing a first-round pick will only help fill their prospect cupboards even more.