On tap below is part 3 of 3 searching all of the other 30 NHL teams seeking potential trade targets for Ron Francis’ summer efforts to build the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes.
As noted previously, some teams are better fits than others, but for the sake of thoroughness, I did my best to find at least one player for each team.
The Senators are one of multiple teams in the final 10 who have decent depth at forward and therefore could potentially lose a pretty good forward to the expansion draft. This situation presents the possibility that Ottawa could instead deal a player or two. In searching through the Senators roster, no one jumps out as being both likely to be available and capable of filling a Hurricanes’ need, so I will not force the issue. I would be happy to have Viktor Stalberg back though he is a free agent not a trade target. Possibility-Very low.
Due to being reasonably deep at forward, the seven-player cut line for expansion draft protections should see a decent player or two available from the Flyers. For me, the player who ranks as interesting and likely to be available is Michael Raffl. Raffl is a solid all-around forward who is sound defensively and positionally and has some offensive ability. His $2.35 million annual salary commitment for the next two seasons is something that could work. The question is if he has more to give offensively which makes him a bargain at $2.35 million. Possibility-Low. Though I like Raffl as a player, I would rather pull as much of Francis’ budget as possible to add more of a difference-maker than a couple depth players. In addition, Philadelphia might actually prefer to lose Raffl to Las Vegas rather than trade him in division.
Prior to the acquisition and signing of Scott Darling, Marc-Andre Fleury might have topped the list. But with the goalie slot now overbooked with three, trading for Fleury obviously makes no sense. I will use my second ‘pass’ for the last group of 10 teams, as I just do not see anything that makes sense. Possibility-Very low.
The Blues are deep at forward and therefore likely to see their expansion draft loss at that position. The last couple protected players are debatable, but I have seen a few suggest that veteran wing David Perron will go unprotected. He can play either wing, is signed for one-year at $3.75 million and is coming off a decent 46-point season. I put him in a similar category as Lee Stempniak as a steady and proven veteran who will provide depth scoring but is not a true offensive catalyst. Possibility-Very low. If the Hurricanes were a salary cap team and looking to add depth without too much regard for cost, Perron could interesting, but with a limited budget, I think $3.75 million is too pricey even if the trade cost is modest.
San Jose is another team that is deep on the blue line and will encounter expansion draft decisions because of it. The result is that the Sharks will have to expose two of Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun. Dillon and/or Braun could be interesting #4/#5 options, but their $3.8 million salary commitments are probably a bit more than Francis wants to add, and their three-year terms are similarly a bit long. I think ideally Francis is looking for a shorter-term option to buy time for the youth to develop and ideally at a lower salary that leaves more money to add a top 6 forward. Possibility-Very low. The Sharks have a couple good players who could be available before the expansion draft, but they are not a perfect match contract-wise.
Tampa Bay ranks right up there with the Chicago, Edmonton and Anaheim for having players who could be available because of both expansion draft and salary cap reasons. I have to figure Steve Yzerman would be happy to unload Alex Killorn and his sizable contract, but I do not see Francis being interested. Rather, Francis would at least be in for a conversation on Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson or possibly Ondrej Palat at forward. All three are restricted free agents due big raises on a team that does not have cap room to fit three big raises. Best bet is that at least one of the three will need to go. At 21-years old and coming off a solid 2016-17 season with upside from there Drouin is enticing but also likely to be the subject of a decent bidding war. Johnson brings proven offense in the form of a C1/C2-capable, offensive-leaning player. And Palat though might not as great of a fit is a good player who would be interesting at the right price. Less exciting, but potentially interesting is Jason Garrison because of his unique contract situation. His cap hit is $4.6 million which is a problem for the Lightning, but his actual salary is a much more modest $2.5 million. Could Francis obtain Garrison for virtually nothing because Yzerman needs the cap relief? At 32 years old, is Garrison still capable of being a #4/#5 defenseman, or is he just deep depth at this stage of his career? Depending on how the Hurricanes scouts answer that question determines whether he is interesting. Possibility-Medium. There are definitely players of interest. The Lightning are nearly certain to do a deal or two. So the potential is definitely there.
On the surface, the Leafs and Canes do not appear to be great trade partners. But if they did do a deal, it could be a blockbuster. The Hurricanes want to add a top 6 scorer ideally in the form of a young player. The Leafs need one more top 4 defenseman to solidify their blue line. The Leafs are deep with high-end talent at forward where the Canes need help. And similarly, the Canes are deep with high-end talent on the blue line where the Leafs need help. With Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading the top of Toronto’s offense, could William Nylander be expendable if he yields a similar age, similar talent defenseman? On the Hurricanes side, with three young defensemen already in the top 4 and a couple high-end prospects on the way, could the Hurricanes part with either Brett Pesce or Noah Hanifin if he returns a comparable player in terms of age and skill level at the forward position? Possibility-Low. These kind of deals rarely happen, but I guess there is a chance that both teams deal from their positions of strength to address weaknesses.
For Vancouver, I am going to go in an opposite direction. Is it possible that Vancouver would take Eddie Lack back. It is possible that Vancouver will re-sign unrestricted free agent Ryan Miller, but if not, the Canucks need a backup goalie. I recognize that Lack’s past two seasons have diminished his value, but when he left Vancouver, he was a fan favorite and also a goalie capable of leading the team into the playoffs. With Vancouver languishing a bit and the ‘rebuilding’ word being tossed out, just maybe Vancouver would take Lack and his feel-good vibes as a positive for fans if Ron Francis added a draft pick as compensation for picking up the last year of his contract. Possiblity-Low, but not impossible.
As division rivals Washington and Carolina seem to be unlikely trade partners. And it is unclear what the Capitals will try to do this summer after another disappointing early playoff exit. But if they decide to shake things up by dealing a core player, Francis should at least take his turn in the call line. From the category of pipe dreams, if Washington wants to do something drastic, Nicklas Backstrom would be a great three-year solution for the Hurricanes top scoring line. Or if instead, the Capitals want to unload restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, he would work too. Possibility-Very low. Best bet is that some time to cool down since April’s disappointment will see cooler heads prevail in terms of doing something drastic and dumb, and even if Washington did do drastic, it would be even more shocking to see them do it in division. The two teams are not great trade partners otherwise.
Winnipeg is one of a handful of teams for which three expansion draft protection slots are not enough. The Jets have Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Jacob Troub and Tyler Myers. If Tyler Myers is the #4, he could be an interesting pickup with some risk for the Hurricanes. I wrote up his situation in more detail in an article highlighting unique contract situations. He missed the majority of the 2016-17 with an injury but was a legitimate top 4 prior to that. In addition, he is another unique contract situation with a steep two-year cap hit of $5.5 million annually but actual salaries of only $3.5 million and then $3 million. That is a little high but not outlandish for the #4/#5 defenseman that I think the Canes could use, and if he is destined to become an expansion draft casualty, perhaps the trade cost is really low. Possibility-Low. I think a deal like this could actually make good sense, but it still seems like a long shot given the amount of money involved and the fact that the Hurricanes have more pressing needs.
Admittedly, the last set of 10 teams was a stretch in many regards to find a legitimate target. Only Tampa Bay and Winnipeg because of a single unique situation stand out to me as likely trade partners.