The 2020 NHL trade deadline is suddenly only 20 days away. Over the coming weeks, the volume of rumors and also actual deals will increase.
I actually had the Hurricanes shopping for top 4-ish or better help on the blue line even before Dougie Hamilton’s injury. Jake Gardiner has been somewhat better of late, but the extended look at what his downside could be introduced significant risk into inking him into the top 4 for key games getting into and winning in the playoffs. Joel Edmundson filled that role early in the season but is maybe overslotted in that role as a regular.
Combine that need with the propensity for rental deals at the trade deadline, and one might jump to the conclusion that the Hurricanes trade deadline target is a defenseman whose contract expires at the end of the season.
But I actually think the Hurricanes might actually prefer to add a player or two with term through the 2020-21 season.
Available salary cap budget for 2020-21
With Patrick Marleau’s contract and the small amount of retained salary for Justin Faulk coming off the books at the end of the year, the Hurricanes will free up about $7 million of cap space importantly from players who do not need to be replaced. Combine that with the fact that the Hurricanes do not have any big ticket re-signings slated for this summer, and the team could have a chunk of cap space available to spend this summer.
…but with the need for contracts to expire at the end of 2020-21
But at the same time, the Hurricanes would prefer not to take on substantial contracts past the 2020-21 season. That is because the following summer sees the Canes needing to re-sign Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton and then after the 2021-22 season needing to re-sign Martin Necas. The result is that the Hurricanes have a short window through the 2020-21 season when they can take on salary, but that window closes at that time.
…and key slots to fill for the 2020-21 season
In addition, the Hurricanes have a few key slots to fill for the 2020-21 season. On the blue line, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson both have contracts that expire at the end of this season. As such, the Hurricanes will need to add a defenseman. And when one considers the risk with Gardiner and the Hurricanes propensity to budget for five defensemen capable of playing in the top 4, it is reasonable to think that the Hurricanes would at least consider adding a top 4-capable player.
I actually think the Hurricanes would be happy to have either Joel Edmundson or Trevor van Riemsdyk back, but I think the chances of that happening are slim for contract reasons. For the reasons mentioned above, I believe the Hurricanes will have a preference to commit as few salary cap dollars as possible beyond 2020-21. So though the Hurricanes might want to retain one of both of Edmundson or van Riemsdyk, if the players prefer a longer-term deal as one might expect, the Canes are likely to pass.
At forward, Justin Williams added scoring-capable depth to a lineup that already had decent depth, so one might think that the Hurricanes are set at forward. While I do agree that there is not a pressing need, contemplating the 2020-21 season again uncovers a possible need. Third line center Erik Haula is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. With his knee injury last year and again the team’s possible preference to commit dollars to 2020-21 but not beyond, the Hurricanes could be in the market for a third line center for the 2020-21 season.
…and it could be hard to add medium-end players this summer bidding only with one-year deals
Certainly, it is possible for the Hurricanes to fill these gaps next summer, but a preference to add players only on one-year deals on that time could greatly limit the quantity and quality of possible options. Good players tend to want and receive multi-year deals as free agents. In addition, those deals have historically been pricey. One-year deals are often for players coming off down seasons and with significant risk.
So the upshot is that I think the Hurricanes might not just be willing to take on a player with a contract through the 2020-21 season but actually prefer it.
Options for killing two birds with one stone
I will at some point write about the rental options too and will also consider these players in more detail, but one can build a pretty sizable list of players could be theoretically be available who meet the requirements of helping the 2019-20 playoff push, slotting into a need for the 2020-21 lineup and having a contract that ends after the 2020-21 season to free up money to re-sign Svechnikov and Hamilton?
Patrik Nemeth — Detroit
Alec Martinez — Los Angeles
Jonas Brodin — Minnesota
At center (with some wings)
Marcus Johansson — Buffalo
Eric Staal — Minnesota
Tomas Tatar — Montreal (wing)
Ryan Getzlaf — Anaheim …could Anaheim be ready to enter full rebuild?
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you think of the prospect of the Canes actually targeting players with another year term at the trade deadline to simultaneously improve for 2019-20 but also begin working on the 2020-21 roster?
2) Which of the players on the list are most intriguing?
3) Who has more 2-year options to add to this list?