Haydn Fleury continues to be a regular talking point in Hurricanes circles these days. He is a young player at the fringe of the NHL/AHL cut line. But with his waiver exemption expired, he is destined to stay at the NHL level for the 2019-20 season because he would be lost for nothing if placed on waivers. Fleury received regular ice time in the third pairing early in the season with Trevor van Riemsdyk out of the lineup, but since van Riemsdyk’s return, Fleury’s ice time has been sparse and random. He has spent a few games completely out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. And he has spent a few games in the lineup in an odd #7 slot when the team went with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. In a couple of those games, he barely saw the ice and was seemingly on the bench only because the team had the lineup slot and no one else to put in it. He did play seven minutes in Tuesday’s game.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a few more thoughts on the Haydn Fleury situation that fly in the face of common wisdom right now.
The team must play Haydn Fleury or trade him
I think this is shortsighted. Those focused solely on the here and now of the 2019-20 season suggest that giving Fleury regular ice time this season and instead punting on his future with the team are the only options. I actually think the path of a random 2019-20 season ice time-wise followed by a bigger role in 2020-21 makes a ton of sense. Both Joel Edmundson and Trevor van Riemsdyk who currently man the third pairing are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. My hunch is that the Canes would like to retain one of these veterans, but I also think that will be dependent on price. Van Riemsdyk is making $2.3 million this year and could garner a raise if he has another steady season and a team that needs middle of the lineup blue line help sees him as a capable top 4 and bids accordingly. Edmundson is making $3.1 million. Something in a $2.5-3 million range is not impossible but is a bit steep for a third pairing defenseman especially with some of the re-signings pending in the next couple years.
So I actually think it makes sense for Brind’Amour to go with what he wants for the 2019-20 season and let the chips fall where they may for Fleury’s ice time but at the same time for the organization to have bigger plans for Fleury as an inexpensive third pairing option for 2020-21. Interestingly, tamping down Fleury’s role in 2019-20 actually helps here too as it certainly keep his next contract in the $1 million per year range.
If Haydn Fleury is not in the lineup, he is expendable as relates to 2019-20
Similarly, many also suggest that if Fleury is not going to be in the lineup that he should be automatically traded or that one of the other defensemen should be traded. The Hurricanes really do not have any proven NHL depth. Roland McKeown might work. Fredrik Claesson has some NHL experience. And Jake Bean could be ready. But I would classify all three of those options as question marks. As such, keeping Fleury or one of the veterans as a #7 makes sense to have depth available in the event of an injury. So even though it is not exciting, I think there is a case to be made that even if Fleury has limited upside long-term that he still fills a needed role as an experienced #7.
Sort of in the same vein, some suggest that choices if the team does swing a trade are Trevor van Riemsdyk or Haydn Fleury. I question how Joel Edmundson would be left out of this mix. Of the two veterans, Van Riemsdyk would seem to make more sense to keep than Edmundson. If van Riemsdyk who is a right shot is traded, that would leave two left shots in Fleury and Edmundson wit neither being especially strong as a puck mover. Van Riemsdyk has a track record as a steady #5 defenseman and would seemingly be more likely to re-sign for next season since he has been part of the team for awhile now. He is also a right shot who pairs with one of the other two. I get that Edmundson brings a different physical element, but I do not think that puts him in the must-keep category.
Ice time, confidence and attitude — the conspiracy theory plan
Another party line right now is how Brind’Amour and the team are stunting Fleury’s growtch and confidence right now by leaving him in a limited role. But here’s the thing…Fleury has had consecutive seasons with at least part of the season in a steady, regular role. I would not say that that comfortable situation has really boosted his developed. At best he has made only modest progress. So what about this conspiracy theory…First, Brind’Amour actually knows Fleury pretty well from being around him for the entirety of his NHL experience. Fleury is pretty easygoing, happy go lucky personality-wise. Is it possible that Brind’Amour’s assessment is that Fleury would benefit from finding a bit more determination, hunger or an edge that dials up the urgency in his game? Especially if Brind’Amour looks forward to 2020-21 as noted above, I do not think it is out of the question that part of what is going on right now is Brind’Amour trying to push/challenge Fleury and see if he can help find a higher gear.
What it takes in my opinion
At the most basic level, I think it is time for Fleury to go for it a bit more. Version 1.0 of Fleury seemed so focused on not making a big mistake that his style of play could aptly be described as quickly making small mistakes to avoid big ones. More than any other defender by a wide margin, the early version of Fleury was prone to quickly get the puck off his stick in defensive zone even if it just meant pitching it to the opposite blue line for a low-pain turnover. Similarly when defending, he seemed to have a propensity to just keep backing up. The result was that very rarely did someone get behind him with the puck, but the negative was that he very regularly offered up a ton of time and space instead of challenging the puck. Against good NHL forwards, this is a recipe for problems. While it might be unnatural for him at first and might come with some growing pains, I think the next step is for Fleury to play a much more aggressive brand of hockey. With the puck on his stick that means being willing to hold and/or carry the puck a bit versus chucking it away in 0.2 seconds if there is not an immediate passing option. On defense, I think it means adding a bit more Slavin/Pesce challenging the puck to his game. I have no idea if Fleury is capable of making these adjustments and what the results will be, but I think it is time to find out if now that he is acclimated a bit if he has a higher gear.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are Haydn Fleury’s days in the Hurricanes organization numbered as evidenced by his limited current role? How do you think this all ends?
2) Do you buy the possibility of Fleury having a light role in 2019-20 but still being part of a longer-term plan?
3) Everyone seems to have thoughts on the Haydn Fleury situation right now. What are yours? Go!