Canes at the Trade Deadline: Buyers at Last

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Has everyone settled down? The fact that the Hurricanes, yes the Carolina Hurricanes, were buyers at the 2020 trade deadline is a new thing to a lot of Hurricanes fans. It’s a wonderful feeling, for sure, but it also comes with a fair amount of stress due to seeing some of your favorite prospects traded away. I’m going to step away from the Canes Prospects brand here and talk about each trade and why it may not be as hurtful to the future of the team as some might think.

Trocheck

The first trade of the day was arguably the Hurricanes’ biggest move and the most surprising trade of the day when they acquired… a forward? Vincent Trocheck was sent to Carolina in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen, and Chase Priskie. It sure seems like a lot for Trocheck, but let’s break it down a bit. Haula had been in trade rumors for months and his production had slowed to a standstill as of late. He would have wanted an expensive contract, and with the Hurricanes’ other moves today, that wouldn’t have happened. So you lose a forward in your top nine, but one that wasn’t nearly as productive as we had hoped. Wallmark had become a fan favorite due to his consistent play and surge into the top nine this season. His loss stings the most out of all four players traded, but he’s still just a good bottom six forward who struggles to finish.

Now for the prospects. Eetu Luostarinen is a player that I’ve been high on since we drafted him due to his size, consistent growth in terms of skating, and finishing ability. After seeing him in the AHL and in the NHL, I was confident that he’ll be an NHL player. The problem is that I couldn’t see him being more than a fourth line center or maybe a third line center that can score. Kind of like the alternate universe version of Wallmark except Eetu can shoot and is an okay passer. By my count, the Hurricanes have four center prospects with higher upside: Ryan Suzuki, Jamieson Rees, Jack Drury, and Morgan Geekie. The list is in no particular order, but you get the point. Luostarinen wasn’t a top ten forward prospect even after you remove Kuokkanen from the equation. We’ll get to that in a bit, though. In short, you give up a B-level prospect in a package to get a top six forward that’s right handed and a center.

Chase Priskie’s loss is another loss that could have been big, but the Hurricanes softened the blow by acquiring Joey Keane six days prior to the trade deadline. Priskie was the seventh defenseman for both games against Binghamton this past weekend, so it was clear that the Hurricanes didn’t have space for the young defenseman. If you have an Athletic subscription, you’re going to want to read Corey Pronman’s thoughts on Priskie. All I’ll say is that while Priskie has an outside shot at making it to the NHL, Keane is more likely to do it. The Canes part with another prospect that wouldn’t have gotten a shot at the NHL level with the team.

All in all, you give up four quarters and get one whole dollar. On their own, these players likely won’t have the same impact that Trocheck will. He’s a top six center that’s good for at least 20 goals per season if utilized properly, he can hold his own in the defensive zone, and he adds another right shot to a forward core compromised of left handed forwards, Justin Williams, and Martin Necas. It’s a great trade for the Hurricanes and will continue to pay dividends.

Vatanen

This one freaked people out at first because of Bob McKenzie’s wording in a tweet.

The trade deadline is such a frenzy that I had forgotten that Kuokkanen was a second round pick, and a lot of other folks made the same mistake. As it turns out, the trade looks like this: Sami Vatanen (NJD retain 50%) to Carolina in exchange for Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrik Claesson, and a conditional 2020 fourth round pick. The pick is conditional on Vatanen, who has been on the injured reserve since February 4, playing a certain number of games this season. If he plays in five or more games, New Jersey receives the fourth round pick. If he plays in twelve regular season games or 70% of our playoff games, we keep the fourth round pick and send a 2020 third round pick to New Jersey instead. The value of those picks is small, and the Hurricanes already had two third round picks, so that’s not a huge deal. It is the first trade in Don Waddell’s tenure as GM with the Hurricanes where he’s traded away a pick and not gotten a pick in return.

Fredrik Claesson is what he is at this point. He’s a seventh defenseman at best in the NHL, but with New Jersey needing help on defense, he may earn a few NHL games. (I should add that at least for now, Claesson has been assigned to Binghamton in the AHL) Claesson was steady for the Checkers on defense and put up some strong numbers, but he’s been a void of all offense in his NHL career. No teams generate offense when he’s on the ice, and while that’s not always a bad thing, it’s bad when it happens consistently.

New Jersey spun the Kuokkanen acquisition to make it seem like Kuokkanen was our top prospect. Even though Kuokkanen was leading the Checkers in points, I don’t believe that he was our top prospect. Kuokkanen projected as a good third line winger with some second line upside at best due to his lack of elite skill. He was good in a lot of areas, but I don’t believe that anything in his game other than his hockey sense and skating were close to the elite level. Kuokkanen is another prospect that won’t be getting much of a shot at the NHL level any time soon, and while he won’t require waivers next season, it wasn’t looking like a spot would be open for him within the next year or two. The Canes get a solid defenseman, who if he performs well, could earn an extension with the Hurricanes. An extension would make this deal a whole lot better for the Canes.

Skjei

Tom Dundon and Don Waddell aren’t messing around, are they? Trading for a player with four years left on his contract after this season is a big commitment and also a big thing to give up if you’re the New York Rangers. The fact that the Hurricanes are giving up a late first round pick for it makes this deal so much better. There are some very legitimate concerns about Skjei’s play in the defensive zone, I won’t lie. It’s possible that he’s a product of the Rangers’ system and would thrive with the Hurricanes due to their defensive depth, but this is all speculation. What we do know is that Skjei can drive play offensively and be a legitimate top four defenseman in this league. Even after this trade, the Carolina Hurricanes have one first round pick, two second round picks, and four picks from rounds 3-7. That’s still a great way to set your team up for future success.

Why didn’t we trade for a goalie? Apart from not wanting to give up two picks, a prospect, and a backup goalie for Lehner, I can’t see why. That’s a joke, there’s no way we pay that much for a rental goalie. The Hurricanes feel comfortable with both goalies that they have up right now, and it appears that Mrazek could be back within a week or two after that injury. That’s great news for the Hurricanes. Nedeljkovic gets an opportunity to start in at least one NHL game before next season and prove that he belongs.

It was an eventful trade deadline, and if you’re a Hurricanes fan, you should probably get used to that. Tom Dundon and Don Waddell are committed to making this team as competitive as possible and they’re not going to shy away from making this team better.

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