“This is the year the Carolina Hurricanes make it back to the playoffs.” It’s a phrase we’re all too familiar with. Even before this season, people have hyped up the team thinking that we could sneak into the playoffs. This season, it’s different. The Canes already had one of the best young defenses in the league, but they added another piece in Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Canes acquired the Vegas Golden Knights superstar in a trade during the offseason, and he was set to be the Canes’ sixth defenseman on the roster. Even before that, the Hurricanes acquired Scott Darling to be the team’s true number one goalie. Free agency rolls around, and the Canes make even more of a splash by signing Justin Williams for two years. Adding another top six forward to the roster was an absolute necessity for the Canes this off-season, and they got a good one. The Hurricanes also improved on the fourth line by signing Josh Jooris to a one year deal, and by trading a fifth round pick for Marcus Kruger. The Canes looked like they were about to take the league by storm, pun intended.
A lot of those moves have worked out. Jooris has come into the lineup when necessary and been a key part of the fourth line. Marcus Kruger has been an effective penalty killer, and even scored off of a failed outlet pass against his former(?) team, the Golden Knights. Justin Williams has been stellar this season, and he’s on pace for 50 points. Sadly, this is less than the pace that he was on earlier in the season.
Scott Darling has been a little disappointing this season, but the team has also not given him goal support on most nights. There are narratives that we can get into, but not in this good Christian household.
It’s now time for the Canes to make a statement. They need to make a commitment to making the playoffs this season, and the only way to do that is to make a splash at or before the trade deadline. You could argue that a healthy Lee Stempniak could bring change to the lineup, but he hasn’t played since last April. He’s going to be rusty, and won’t produce at the pace that he was able to achieve last season. No, the Canes need to show the fan base that they are willing to part with assets in order to make changes. Ron Francis showed a sign of that this offseason, letting go of a second round pick when he acquired van Riemsdyk. Francis has experienced success in the second round in years past, so giving up a pick like that was a bigger deal than it seemed.
The new owner will likely want to make a big splash as soon as the sale is made official. He’ll want to show the fans of the team that he wants to improve the team and to grow the fan base. Tom Dundon will want to make moves that show the fans that he is committed to not only growing the market, but to helping the team reach the playoffs. With a new majority owner, the Canes might actually spend money. Again, now is the time to make a splash. You have to add a piece in order to contend in this division. So what would the Canes be willing to give up?
One has to look at picks first. Draft picks are the coveted pieces that selling teams look to add during the trade deadline. The Hurricanes currently have seven picks in the 2018 draft, and about three of them could be used for trades. Picks in the first three rounds are much more valuable to teams looking to speed up their rebuilds, and they can be used to acquire decent players. A first round pick alone is usually enough to land you a top six forward, unless you trade for Martin Hanzal and your team flops. Looking at you, Minnesota. A second round pick is usually enough to help you acquire a top nine forward, and a third round pick could be used for a depth player. Picks are a good way to start. The Hurricanes have a crowded pipeline, and they really don’t have space for a lot of forwards in the system. That being said, the Hurricanes could also look to trade a prospect or two at the deadline. Hudson Elynuik has had two good seasons for Spokane since the Canes drafted him, and he’s definitely improved. He might garner some trade interest at the deadline, especially since he hasn’t signed yet. Jeremy Helvig has been one of the OHL’s top goalies for three seasons now, and he could be the cherry on top for a trade. It doesn’t do a whole lot for you, but it makes it look a lot nicer.
Keep in mind, the Canes are at or around 50 contracts. It’s very likely that you’ll see a depth player going the other way in a trade or two. I have no idea who would go the other way, but guys like Dennis Robertson and Patrick Brown come to mind.
A few teams are already in sell mode, and some have been looking for deals already. No team has been eliminated from the playoffs just yet, but Buffalo is on pace for a pretty awful season. With just ten wins and 29 points in the standings, they are second to last in the standings. Arizona is dead last in the league with 26 points, and they too should be in full out sell mode.
Arizona- The Yotes have a couple players that the Canes could look at over the next month or so. One player is Anthony Duclair. He has 15 points in 33 games, matching his point totals from last season in 25 less games. Duclair could be a reclamation project for the Canes, especially since he’s only 22. Duclair has plenty of time to grow into a decent NHLer, and he could see ice time with better players in Raleigh. That being said, this seems like the type of risky move that Ron Francis will steer clear of. Duclair won’t really impact the team in a positive way, he’ll likely put up similar numbers to McGinn. Still, he might be worth using a late round pick or two on.
NOTE: Duclair was traded right before this article was finished up. He didn’t fetch a whole lot, just Dauphin and Panik.
Tobias Rieder is another name that stood out for a second. He had two straight 30+ point seasons, but his numbers are less than stellar this season. It may be a product of the bad team, but Rieder isn’t the type of player that excites a fan base. Most people wouldn’t even know who he was. Arizona really doesn’t have a whole lot of players that would generate much excitement at the deadline. A lot of “rental” players on the Coyotes are good for maybe five or ten points after the deadline, which isn’t enough to change a team’s playoff hopes. Most of their other players are younger, and they’d be foolish to try and trade them. Duclair would be the only player I look at, but I wouldn’t give up much for him.
Buffalo- Yikes. Sam Reinhart is the only player that I’d consider acquiring from Buffalo, but he’s likely part of Buffalo’s long-term plan. Still, Reinhart could be a nice addition. He’s had two straight 40 point seasons, and although his numbers are down, it’s because the Sabres roster is flat out bad. Most of their players would be AHLers on a lot of good teams, and their upcoming free agent class is weak. Evander Kane is another player that teams will look at, but the asking price will be high. I know that a lot of fans won’t like Kane in the organization, and I’m not sure if Francis approves of his prior history. Plus, it’s always fun to chant “TRAAAAAAACK SUUUUUUUIT” at him during Canes games. Please keep him, Buffalo.
Ottawa- Mark Stone’s name jumped right off the page. Ottawa will likely re-sign him, as they should, but he’s a player I’d trade for in a heartbeat. Stone is on a point per game pace with 40 points in 40 games. He’s scored 17 goals, three more than our leading goal scorer. The price tag on Stone would be very high, especially since he’s one of Ottawa’s best forwards. Stone would likely cost a first round pick and a prospect at the start, but will most likely cost more. I’d start with a first round pick and either Luke Martin or Roland McKeown and then go from there. Stone would be a huge addition for this team, and he could push the Canes into the playoffs with his style of play.
Mike Hoffman is another player that trade rumors have circled around. Darren Dreger reported that the Sens had a “futures offer for Hoffman,” but that Ottawa wasn’t looking for that at the time. While you never know with Fort Knox Francis, you’d have to think that he would at least consider Hoffman. He’s scored 27, 29, and 26 goals in his last three seasons, and would definitely help this team. The other good thing about Hoffman is that he has two years left on his contract after this one. He would potentially be with the Canes for longer, and could consistently score 50 points in a season. Imagine Hoffman on a line with Aho and Teravainen. The two Finns would wreak havoc on opposing teams, and Hoffman would be fed goals like they were candy. Hoffman is definitely going to be an interesting piece to look out for in the coming weeks. With my Totally Not Fake™ insider information, I think Hoffman will be dealt sooner rather than later.
Karlsson and Duchene have also been tossed around, but I’m iffy. I love Karlsson, and he would raise our team’s attractiveness/60 dramatically, but he’s going to cost the whole farm. NHL players, picks, and prospects would have to go the other way, and it’s just not a trade the Canes can make. As for Duchene, that’s still a no from me. He’s been iffy since joining Ottawa, and it’s looking like a really bad trade. Giving up a first round pick and Shane Bowers was a lot for him, and Ottawa will be looking for a similar amount. That’s the equivalent of us giving up Bean and a first for Duchene, and I’m not on board with that. This team is too inconsistent already. (I’m sorry, Meg)
The Sens don’t have a whole lot more to offer in terms of rentals. Ceci could be traded to a team, but he’d be the new Klas Dahlbeck for the Hurricanes. I’d go with either Stone or Hoffman here, with a slight edge to Hoffman.
Detroit- The Red Wings haven’t been terrible this season, but they should stockpile assets in order to return to their former glory. It’s better to get a top ten pick rather than barely miss the playoffs and get a pick outside of the top ten, just ask the Canes.
Andreas Athanasiou comes to mind. The Red Wings won’t have a lot of cap space next season, and they’ll need to give Dylan Larkin a huge pay raise if they want their team to even come close to contending next season. Letting Mike Green go to free agency will help, but it won’t be enough. Athanasiou could fetch a good amount at the deadline, especially since he’s so young. Athanasiou’s NHL numbers haven’t been fantastic, but he could definitely be a dangerous player. He’s got more potential than Duclair, but might cost more. I don’t think Francis should make this move unless he’s confident that Athanasiou will be a dynamic forward for the team.
Anthony Mantha deserves a look as well. Detroit can’t afford to pay all of these young players, especially with that Zetterberg contract looming large. He’s got 27 points in 39 games this season, which is pretty solid for a young player. 14 goals in 39 games is pretty solid, so you’d think that he could provide at least seven goals for the Canes in a 20 game span. Pair that with roughly six assists, and you’ve got 13 points. That’s a solid amount for a deadline acquisition. Mantha could be another player that costs a lot, but he might be a solid third line forward that can produce on a consistent basis. The only issue is that he plays right wing, and we already have Lindholm, Teravainen, and Williams on the wings. If we acquire a forward, it’s going to be either a left winger or a center.
Edmonton- The Oilers are not doing too hot this season, so they might sell at the deadline. With Chiarelli, you never know what might happen. Edmonton has a few players that some teams will make offers for, but no players that wow you. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes to mind, but his contract is awful. Nuge is getting paid $6M for the next three seasons, and his production has been inconsistent as of late. He’s having a good season, so Chiarelli might actually want fair value. Still, we said this with Hall and Eberle, and look what happened. RNH could give the Canes help down the middle, but I don’t think he’s a fit for Francis. The price would be pretty high, and I’m not sure if GMRF would like that.
What about Pat Maroon? He’s on a really cheap contract and has 21 points in 42 games. After the deadline, you could likely get a couple goals and assists from him, which could help a team win an extra game or two. He wouldn’t cost a whole lot, and wouldn’t eat a ton of cap space either.
There are lots of options for the Canes right now, and more teams will be in sell mode once we get closer to the deadline. The Hurricanes have to add a piece at the deadline if they want to contend in the Metropolitan division. It’s the only way to jump over teams in the standings. The three teams out of the playoffs are only out of the playoffs by a point, so every added piece helps. Trading for a player would also show fans that the team is committed to making the playoffs this season. Fans would want to go to more games knowing that management is more invested in the team. It would be a fantastic start to the next era of Canes hockey.