Today, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had traded center Marcus Kruger to the Arizona Coyotes for depth wing/center Jordan Martinook.
As part of the deal, the Hurricanes retained 10 percent of Kruger’s salary, and the teams swapped draft picks with the Hurricanes giving up a third-round draft pick and receiving a fourth-round pick in return.
Closing the book on last summer’s strategy to build an experienced fourth line
The trade closes the door on an ill-fated attempt to build a solid, veteran fourth line that could play behind Jordan Staal’s line and solidify things defensively. The strategy failed on multiple fronts. Somewhat as expected, the line primarily comprised of Joakim Nordstrom and additions Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger scored virtually nothing. But more significantly, the line did not excel in areas that figured to be its strength. The Hurricanes penalty kill took a significant step backward with Kruger in a leading role, and the line was fair, not great as an even strength shutdown unit.
When one nets it out, the line was light on scoring even for a fourth line. The players also led to a step down for the penalty kill. After waiting it out for a long time, the original plan was finally jettisoned when Josh Jooris was traded at the trade deadline and Marcus Kruger was demoted to the AHL.
In his short stint with the Hurricanes, Marcus Kruger scored only a single goal on an odd forechecking deflection that found the net and five assists for a total of six points in 48 games. To his credit, he was a class act despite not working out. He continued to plug away and contributed at the AHL level once demoted.
The math and logic
At the most basic level, this was a change of scenery trade to unload Kruger who did not have a future in a Hurricanes’ uniform.
The Hurricanes paid a draft pick upgrade of just less than a full round to make it happen.
In eating 10 percent of Marcus Kruger’s salary, they also nearly evened up the salary costs for the two players. The Hurricanes will now have to pay $1,850,000 for Martinook and also $230,000 of Kruger’s salary for a total of $2,080,000 in 2018-19 which is small discount of $220,000 over just paying Kruger’s $2,300,000 (salary not cap hit).
More significantly, the Hurricanes eliminate a player who was outside of the fold at this point and add a somewhat similar depth forward who has a greater potential to contribute in 2018-19.
Jordan Martinook is similar to Marcus Kruger in that he is a veteran depth forward who is a fourth-line type player. Martinook brings a bit more of a physical edge to his game and has the potential to fill the penalty kill slot that Kruger could not. Scoring-wise, Martinook projects to a 15-25 point level which is pretty similar to Kruger before his arrival. Also significant is the fact that Martinook can play either wing or center which makes him a bit more flexible as the Hurricanes potentially fill center slots with youth for the 2018-19 season.
As far as the 2018-19 season goes, Martinook joins players like Phil Di Giuseppe (if re-signed), Joakim Nordstrom and a batch of rookies who will compete for the last couple depth slots at the forward position. His one-way contract makes him likely to stick at the NHL level, but he will need to earn a slot in the lineup and also ice time.
My 2 cents
The deal gets a ‘meh’ rating from me.
The Holy Grail would have been somehow unloading Kruger and his $2.3 million with no return but without eating any salary. That was going to be tough to pull off.
The next level would have been an even ‘change of scenery’ swap for a similarly priced, similarly out of place player somewhat similar to today’s deal player-wise.
In this deal, the Hurricanes did not really unload salary, and in eating $230,000 of Kruger’s salary, the Hurricanes saved only $220,000. They also paid to do so in the form of downgrading a draft pick to make the deal happen.
The positive is that it does officially cut ties and move forward from a player who was not part of the plan at the AHL level next season and return a player who at least potentially offers veteran depth and a new option to improve the penalty kill for 2018-19.
ADDITION TO ORIGINAL 2 CENTS LATE THURSDAY AFTER TIME TO DIGEST THE NEWS
Important disclaimer first…If the primary purpose of this deal was to obtain Jordan Martinook because the Hurricanes scouting staff and team management really like him and believe he is a significant improvement to the team, then this deal could make sense simply because of that fact. As a depth player in the Western Conference, I do not have enough knowledge or a strong enough opinion on Martinook to make an assessment on that.
If, however, this deal was primarily about jettisoning Marcus Kruger and his contract, then I am not sure the Hurricanes really gained anything (so a second round of ‘meh’). The Hurricanes could have bought Kruger out for $1,583,000 (salary not cap hit) to be spread over two years which would save about $500,000 compared to the cost of paying Martinook and the ten percent of Kruger’s salary that the Hurricanes kept, not downgraded their third-round pick to a fourth and left another roster slot open for a rookie without the complication of another one-way contract getting in the way. Again, assuming that the team is not enamored with Martinook but rather this was the deal available, the team might better off with the $500,000 cash and an open roster spot.