Trade rumors are almost always swirling around the NHL. Recently, those rumors have included two Hurricanes’ forwards, Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm.
Skinner was drafted with the 7th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and he immediately proved that he was a dangerous offensive threat in the league. In his rookie year, he scored 31 goals and added 32 assists for a total of 63 points on his way to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. During the 2013-2014 season, Skinner scored 33 goals in just 71 games, and he scored 37 goals in the 2016-2017 season, which placed him in the top five in NHL goal scoring.
Clearly, Skinner is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL when he’s at his best. Unfortunately for both sides, Skinner’s time in Carolina hasn’t amounted to much at all. He’s played in eight NHL seasons. He has yet to make the NHL playoffs. He has yet to play with a legit NHL center. And he has yet to have his contract extended.
Skinner is entering the final year of his current contract. He will be due to hit unrestricted free agency after next season. The pressing question has to be whether or not Skinner is willing to re-sign with the Hurricanes.
I think that in the past, Skinner has sounded like he wants to play in Carolina and this is where he wants to win. But it’s also possible he’s just saying those things because he has to. This offseason, the Canes have hired a “new” head coach, a “new” GM, and they have a new owner. It’s very possible that Skinner is ready to move on. He’s been here for eight years, he’s yet to make the playoffs, and the organization is turning over yet again? You can’t blame him if he’s ready for a fresh start somewhere else.
If that becomes the case, or the team is given any indication that Skinner won’t re-sign with the Hurricanes before he hits free agency, then these trade rumors make a lot of sense. Yes, Skinner is the most dangerous goal scorer this team has seen in a while. Yes, it’s true that he hasn’t been a part of the NHL playoffs. You probably look at those two facts and use them as reasons to keep him around. But, to me, I see them as more reasons for Skinner to want out.
To be completely honest, I would think that Skinner wants to get a fresh start. If that’s the case, the team needs to explore the market and move him now while they have the chance. The reported asking price for Skinner is a first round pick and a prospect, but that seems to be more speculation at this point.
Either way, if the team decides to move on, they need to maximize the return. You can’t let him walk for nothing, and you can’t sell low on a player like him. It’s also important to remember that Skinner has a NMC (No Movement Clause) in his contract, so Skinner 100% controls his own destiny. In the end, it all comes down to Jeff Skinner and whether or not he is committed to the Carolina Hurricanes. And if the rumors that a trade will happen in the next couple of weeks become true, we may soon know the answer. Teams rumored to be interested in Skinner are the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, and the Edmonton Oilers.
Elias Lindholm is another interesting trade candidate. It’s safe to say that the 2013 5th overall pick hasn’t lived up to the hype of a 5th overall pick. Lindholm has put up 21, 39 (twice), 45, and 44 points in each of his first five NHL seasons. For a top nine forward, that’s not terrible. Especially the last two years. But, for a former top five pick in the draft, that’s pretty disappointing.
Lindholm has looked much better for a lot of the previous couple of seasons when he has played center. When he plays in the middle, he looks more confident. He makes better passes, is more confident with his shot, and he’s far more responsible defensively at center as opposed to when he plays on the right wing.
I would dive more into Lindholm’s career to this point, but I honestly believe that his future on this team has absolutely nothing to do with him, but everything to do with the other players on the roster.
Clearly, the plan is to shift Sebastian Aho to center full time next season. Jordan Staal is a lock as the 2nd or 3rd line center. That leaves Martin Necas, Victor Rask, Lucas Wallmark, Lindholm, and potentially others fighting for two spots down the middle. Necas appears to be close to a lock on the roster, but the question with him is whether or not he will immediately make the jump to center, or if he will start on the wing.
If the team decides that Martin Necas is ready to be the 2nd or 3rd line center, I don’t believe Lindholm has a spot on this roster. If the team decides they want to ease Necas into his role and starts him on the wing, Lindholm could stick around. I just don’t see a spot on this team for Lindholm unless he is playing center. There’s just too much competition on the right wing. Justin Williams, Teuvo Teravainen, Lindholm, Andrei Svechnikov, Valentin Zykov, and more already appear to be penciled into the lineup.
It’s tough to say if any teams are interested in Lindholm or what his perceived value is at this point, but I think it’s more likely than not that Lindholm starts the season on his second NHL team.
Victor Rask is fairly certain to be traded if the team can find a taker for his contract. The return would not be much at all. It’s just hard to see him returning to the team after the year he had last season. In my offseason predictions article, I floated the idea of trying to trade Rask to a team for the rights to an UFA goalie, maybe someone like Carter Hutton. Who knows.
I know it sucks to see Skinner’s name surfacing in trade rumors again. And it sucks even more that this time it appears to be far more likely to actually happen than in the past. But, the reality is, that’s the business. If he’s not going to re-sign, you have to maximize his value and get something for him. I’m crossing my fingers that we can extend his contract, but I really just don’t think it’s going to happen. And that’s fine.
If there is a way to keep Lindholm, I think the team will try to do so. If the roster appears full, Lindy may just be the odd man out. He’s shown improvement, but I think the new front office may want to move on from some of the players brought in by the previous regime that just haven’t quite panned out as expected.
No matter what happens, just remember that the team is going to be adding a dynamic offensive player in Andrei Svechnikov very, very soon. The team hasn’t had the chance to grab one of those true top end players in the draft, but now they get the chance to do so. Svechnikov can be a franchise altering player, and that alone may be enough to get this team as is over the hump.