Last week, I wrote a short ‘quick hitters’ article on the upcoming 2019 NHL trade deadline. Since then, the Hurricanes have made modest progress toward playing their way up and into playoff contention for March.
As such, I think my comments on the Canes as trade deadline buyers is even more relevant:
The Hurricanes as buyers
I would not be surprised to see the Hurricanes use the busy time to make a trade for a player with term on his contract who would be part of the team past the 2018-19 season, but I would not expect the Hurricanes to be players in the bidding wars for high-end rental players who are free agents at the end of the season. As I said above, maybe if the Hurricanes trade Ferland, the team spends modestly to back fill that slot.
Even if the Hurricanes are firmly in contention as the trade deadline approaches, I do not see the team as players in the high-end rental market. Maybe the Hurricanes spend a mid-round pick to add short-term help, but if the Hurricanes do a deal, I think it would more likely be a long-term addition.
In that vein, today’s Daily Cup of Joe goes big game hunting in looking for potential difference-makers who could be boost the Hurricanes fortunes via trade.
Identifying the needs
Again, looking longer term more so that pinpointing February of 2019, the team’s biggest need continues to be adding a higher-end scoring forward or two. More specifically, I think the hole in the lineup continues to be a second center capable of driving a scoring line behind Aho’s. Jordan Staal is still fine for his role as a shutdown center once he returns, and Lucas Wallmark has developed nicely at the NHL level this season. In 83 games combined (so just over a full NHL season), Staal and Wallmark have combined for only 11 goals and 30 points. That just is not enough offensively to slot into second and third line slots. And the wishful thinking that Martin Necas would hit the ground running at the NHL level in 2018-19 did not materialize. I am still high on Necas long-term, but exactly what the means for schedule is a complete wild card. If the team were to add a capable, scoring second line center then suddenly the slotting works. Staal is maybe still a bit light offensively, but in a third line role (offensively at least) with two scoring centers above him the group complements each other. And slotted as a fourth line center, Wallmark suddenly becomes a plus player in terms of scoring production relative to his role.
Though I do believe that a center would be the priority, a top 6 scoring wing could help too if the market is better and the cost less.
And again, I will be surprised if the Hurricanes pursue a high-end rental whose contract expires at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Carolina Hurricanes possible trade partners
If I was Don Waddell, I would be in regular contact with the teams that are flailing right now and in ‘anyone is available right now’ mode. Most often, those are the situations that put good players on the market for reasonable prices when teams aggressively seek a shakeup.
Right now, that list seems to include the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators and possibly other teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. So those teams would be starting points for trying to pry loose a good top 6 forward on a reasonable contract with term.
A great fit – Jonathan Huberdeau
A TSN article today suggested that Jonathan Huberdeau could be on the trading block as the Panthers look to reset and also make room for a Sergei Bobrovsky/Artemi Panarin push this summer. The angle of the article is Huberdeau going to Columbus to get Panarin and Bobrovsky at the deadline instead of waiting until summer, so it is not clear he would really be available to the Hurricanes. But if there was a player that I would pursue aggressively and maybe even overbid a bit for, Huberdeau would be that player. Huberdeau is only 25 years old but established as a top 6 forward in the NHL. He had 69 points in 82 games in 2017-18 and has 52 points in 54 games so far in 2018-19. His six goals and 16 assists on the power play would rank first on the Hurricanes and be a nice boost for a current weakness. Also significant is that he is under contract for four more years at $5.9 million per year salary cap hit. With his age and contract term, Huberdeau would be a long-term addition not a short-term fix. As an extra bonus, Huberdeau can slot at center or wing. That makes it possible for him to fill a second line center slot right now and possibly slide to wing if Necas develops and can fill that role down the road.
Who knows what the asking price would be, but because of his age, term and skill set I would bid aggressively in terms of spending futures to add another top half of the roster player for the long-term. Would Faulk plus medium-level futures get a deal done?
Thinking outside the box – Ryan Getzlaf
It is hard to imagine Getzlaf as anything but a Duck, but with the Ducks aging and flailing at the same time, there is talk that the franchise might try to start anew and that that could even include moving the captain. Getzlaf is 33 years old, so he does not have 5-8 year potential like Huberdeau, but if he could both help boost the Canes into the playoffs and build a bridge to the future at center, might he be worth it? His production is down a bit on a struggling Ducks team, but even the down version of Getzlaf is good for a 59-point pace if projected over 82 games. He had 61 points in only 56 games in 2017-18 and 73 points in 74 games in 2016-17, so it is not like he has hit a wall in terms of offensive production. His no-trade clause only allows him to screen out eight teams, so there would be a reasonable chance to obtain him if he is in fact on the trading block. And he is signed for two more years after this one. That might be about perfect to allow time for Martin Necas to develop and also to free up salary when Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton’s contracts would be up. Thinking of Ryan Getzlaf in a Hurricanes uniform is definitely odd. And at 33 years old, he maybe is not what one thinks of in terms of long-term additions. But just maybe two plus years of Getzlaf can push the team up into the playoffs and build a bridge to the next generation.
The return would not be cheap to pry a long-time captain out of Anaheim, but if the Ducks are looking primarily for futures, the Hurricanes have volume there.
The calculated gamble – James Neal
There is no shortage of big free agent signings that have not worked out. Only 50ish games into his time with the Calgary Flames, James Neal looks to be one of those expensive, failed signings. Neal has mostly been slotted as a depth forward and has only five goals and 15 points in 53 games. At 31 years old, he has four more years remaining on his contract at $5.75 million per year. Given the reisk with his age and current level of play, there is no way the Hurricanes would take on the $5.75 million contract and trade significant assets to do so. But with the Flames winning more or less without Neal, one has to figure that the Flames would dump him for virtually nothing just to unload the contract. So if the Flames would be willing to eat the maximum half of Neal’s contract and take almost nothing in trade return just to unload him, could the risk be worth it. $3.4 million per year is a decent price if Neal rebounds even modestly scoring-wise. His production declined somewhat in 2017-18, but he still has an impressive run of ten straight years with 20 or more goals. To do such a deal would require a huge vote of confidence from the scouting staff, but with a fresh start, could Neal be a buy low opportunity to add a proven NHL goal scorer for very little in trade?
If the trade window is open – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
With an interim general manager now in place, the Oilers may officially be in a holding pattern until the off-season, but if the trade window is open, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could still be of interest. With two years at $6 million per year remaining on his current contract, Nugent-Hopkins could be a bit like Getzlaf as a boost for making the playoffs and a bridge to a next center. But at 25 years old, the potential is there that he meshes with the group and fills a key role longer-term. Nugent-Hopkins downshifted to a secondary role when Connor McDavid arrived, but his offensive production has been impressive of late. He finished with 48 points in 62 games for a 63-point 82-game pace and has 52 points in 55 games thus far in 2018-19. Best bet is that the Oilers will mostly sit tight until the offseason, but if in fact the trade window is still open, I would explore the possibility.
The Toronto thing – Kasperi Kapanen and William Nylander
The Maple Leafs ideally need to add a defenseman. The Maple Leafs have impending salary cap issues scheduled to arrive this off-season. And the worthwhile names being bandied around have included William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen. The return to land either would no doubt include a defenseman. Nylander becomes especially interesting after July 1 when the Leafs pay the whopping $8.3 million signing bonus that he is due for the 2019-20 season. From that point forward, Nylander’s actual salary (not salary cap hit) would be a very reasonable $4.9 million. In addition, at least as of right now, the Maple Leafs are on record as saying he would not be trading. Another name making regular runs in the rumor mill right now is Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen is a good hockey player with solid two-way play and incredible speed for today’s NHL. The question for me with Kapanen is what his ceiling is offensively. He is only 22 years old with room to grow, and his current 48-point pace without power play ice time is actually pretty pretty impressive, but I still question if his ceiling is more than that of a great depth player.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are there any other names that you would add to my ‘big game hunting’ list above?
2) Which, if any, of the players that I listed would you target if available? Do you suspect there is a viable deal to be had for any of them?
3) This article covers only players with term, but are there any impending UFA rentals that you would consider to try to push up into the 2019 playoffs?