The 2018 NHL Draft is now only days away, and that of course means that trade rumors and rumblings are springing up left and right. Unlike most years, the Carolina Hurricanes rank near the top of the league in terms of discussion and rumors.
All of Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin who are taking regular turns in the trade rumor mill would garner a significant return. Scott Darling and possibly Victor Rask could be salary cap dump type of trade candidates. And per comments from owner Tom Dundon at the beginning of the summer, anyone not named Sebastian Aho is open for trade discussion.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers another round of my thoughts on potential trades as a means to retool and build a playoff team for the 2018-19 season.
Who is actually available?
The rumor mills would have you believe that Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin are actively being shopped. Oftentimes, where there is smoke there is fire on the trade front, but then there is also an element of random stuff flying around to generate attention.
My thinking is that Rod Brind’Amour has the biggest say in who stays and who is at least shopped for departure. I say this for two reasons. First, Brind’Amour is tasked with righting the ship for a team that seemed to be headed in the right direction for the 2016-17 season and then careened off course in 2017-18. At the same time, there is an element of ‘this team is good enough with the right leadership’ and also an element of ‘something is structurally broken with this team.’ The expectation and hope is that Brind’Amour can get more out of the current personnel. As such, I think Brind’Amour has a huge say in terms of which players who did not impress in 2017-18 he can get more from. Further, my hunch is that Brind’Amour is the person with the most clout with owner Tom Dundon right now. As such, Brind’Amour has some ability to dictate what happens with the roster this summer.
In that regard, all of Skinner, Faulk and Hanifin could merit trade consideration. All three are light on the defensive side of the puck, and I cannot imagine that will fly under Brind’Amour’s reign.
The question is which, if any, of these players Brind’Amour believes he can spark to a higher level and which he believes just does not fit because of two-way play.
In trying to peer into the mind of Rod Brind’Amour and also the collective group that leads the team, my hunch is that Jeff Skinner is in fact on the trade market, and it would not surprise me if the same is true for Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin.
My 2 cents
On Jeff Skinner
If I could get comparable value in return preferably in the form of a steady top 4 defenseman, I would do it. As a player who scores but tends to give up as much as he gets, it just is not clear to me that he is the type of player that you commit $7-8 million for five plus years to lock in long-term. And with Skinner scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, the time is now to make a decision and either re-sign him or move him. The fact that he has a no-trade clause does limit things, but if there is no long-term for Skinner in Raleigh, I would think he would be amenable to a trade to a decent list of teams as a way to start exploring options for his next contract early.
I’d do: Jeff Skinner for Jake Muzzin.
On Justin Faulk
Faulk is similarly a young veteran who is approaching his next contract as an unrestricted free agent. A key difference, however, is the fact that Faulk is signed for two more years therefore decreasing the urgency to make a decision this summer. That said, Faulk is another player who was ‘iffy’ defensively in 2017-18 and could also be part of a leadership shake up.
I’d consider: Trading Justin Faulk for a comparable level/age scoring forward.
On Noah Hanifin
Who would have guessed that Hanifin’s name would even be one that was out there this time of year when he was drafted three years ago? But here we are. Hanifin just has not matured enough defensively to be more than a regular third pairing defenseman. The ceiling is still there, but the risk that he never reaches that ceiling has increased significantly with three years passing. Hanifin might be at the perfect point where he still has significant value for a team that thinks the ceiling is on the way, or he could could prove to be a case where just a little more patience was needed.
I’d prefer: To sign Hanifin to a reasonably-priced two-year bridge deal for $2.5 to $3 million per year. The risk there is that his trade value declines as time ticks by without a higher gear being reached. But for the right price I would be willing to invest two more years hoping Hanifin puts it all together. But if instead, his agent wants more like Pesce/Slavin money and extended term, I think I would be inclined to part ways with him. In that case, two types of deals potentially make sense. First is a change of scenery type deal for another young player who has not put it all together yet. Second could be a ‘restart’ type of deal that sees the Hurricanes land a top 10 draft pick to start all over again with another high-end but young prospect.
On Scott Darling
I actually think that Scott Darling is the player most likely to be dealt first. As I wrote awhile back in this article from March 11, I think Scott Darling makes sense for the Blackhawks if the Hurricanes retain the maximum half of his salary. He only left Chicago because they could not afford to pay two starters’ salaries for goalies. Though there is some risk after a really tough 2017-18 season, a rebound seems most plausible with a return home to Chicago. As such, I think Darling to Chicago for very little and possibly even with a modest sweetener included makes sense.
I’d move on: From Scott Darling if given the chance to unload him without overpaying in terms of a sweetener.
While the possibility definitely exists for almost anyone else to be traded as well, I do think those are the four most likely players be dealt this summer.
As I touched on partially last week, I think a couple moves could have a huge domino effect and in the process solidify the defense and goaltending. If the Hurricanes were to trade Jeff Skinner for Jake Muzzin and then also unload Scott Darling while retaining half of his salary, the team would have shed about $4 million in salary and at the same time upgraded defensively with a steady top 4 defenseman in too, and the riskiness of Skinner’s defensive game gone. If the team then spent a chunk of that $4 million to add another goalie, the domino effect defensively could be significant.
If I had to pick one player to be moved this week, it would be Scott Darling to the Blackhawks. I do also think there is a reasonable probability that Jeff Skinner will ultimately be dealt but with his no-trade clause, required return and the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk or Max Pacioretty could fill a similar need for teams, I think the Skinner situation stretches out longer.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and/or Scott Darling will be traded? Which, if any, do you anticipate being moved during the draft week?
2) What players would you be targeting in a deal?
3) What is your best bet and also wildest prediction for this week leading into the draft?