For quick and simple chronological clickable links, please check out our “2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes Roster Building Central” for roster moves and “Carolina Hurricanes 2017 NHL Draft Central” for coverage specifically for the draft.
On Wednesday night in scorching hot Las Vegas, the formal part of the 2017 Las Vegas expansion draft officially came to an end. There will surely be additional after effects as Las Vegas now enters the trade market with a current roster of about 35 players.
The direct effect for the Carolina Hurricanes
The direct effect on the Hurricanes is that the team basically paid a fifth round pick and an AHL forward (Connor Brickley) to get back either Lee Stempniak or Joakim Nordstrom who would most likely have been selected otherwise. That seems like a very reasonable price to keep a good depth forward.
The biggest impact of the trade is that the Hurricanes start the rest of the off-season one forward deeper on the depth chart. Stempniak figures to slot somewhere in the top 9 and provide depth scoring again. And Nordstrom figures to play on the fourth line and in a penalty killing role or at a bare minimum serve as a veteran #13 forward who is capable of stepping into the lineup if an injury occurs.
Francis did well to give up only a fifth round pick and a good AHL forward to preserve what he has for forward depth.
Shopping the Las Vegas Golden Knights initial roster
The other potential upshot Hurricanes-wise is the potential to acquire a player or two from Las Vegas to fill needs in Raleigh. The Knights will undoubtedly be open for business tomorrow when the bell rings to reopen the NHL trade wires for all 31 teams.
A mixed amidst some young players likely earmarked to become part of the Las Vegas core and some ‘meh’ veterans, there are some players who could theoretically help the Hurricanes.
I am passing on James Neal again
Neal is a good player. He is a goal scorer. The Hurricanes need goal scoring. The next leap for many will be that the Hurricanes should at least consider pursuing him to boost the team’s scoring. I am on record (and standing by it) as saying that the high-end need for the Hurricanes needs to be more of a playmaker or catalyst type of player and not a finisher who really needs help to play at his highest level. In sticking firmly to those requirements, I will consider higher-end playmakers at high prices, or I will consider depth players at much lower prices. In my article on June 14, I included Neal in a group with T.J. Oshie and others who are good players but not in my opinion what the Canes need most.
Interesting options for the blue line
My article yesterday did a bunch of rummaging without much finding for a #4/#5 defenseman who met a bunch of requirements spanning level of play, price, trade cost and ideally ability to play either side of the ice.
One of the players that I identified yesterday (Jason Garrison) found his way to Las Vegas, as did two more interesting options.
Jason Garrison: Garrison is a unique financial situation. He has a big $4.6 million salary cap hit for the 2017-18 which is the final year on his current contract. But significantly for the Hurricanes who could care less about salary cap, his actual salary is only $2.5 million. IF Francis and his team think Garrison is still capable of being a #4/#5 defenseman and the asking price from Las Vegas is not too high, he could provide a combination of a plan B and injury help for building the top 4 or otherwise a solid veteran presence on the the third pairing. On the downside, a couple checks with contacts who follow the lightning closely had both people saying that they did not think he was still a top 4 at this stage of his career. So it’s possible that he is fool’s gold who is really only capable of being deep depth.
Alexei Emelin: Emelin is a left shot defenseman who brings elements of physical/rugged play and a bit of nastiness to boot. The Hurricanes are light on this skill set and could benefit from adding a player like Emelin. Further, Emelin is an experienced penalty killer with a penchant for blocking shots. As such, he could slide right into the penalty kill hole left when Ron Hainsey departed. Emelin could theoretically be a stay-home complement for Justin Faulk in the event of a top 4 injury or if Noah Hanifin does not stick in this role. Like Garrison, Emelin has only one year remaining on his contract which is perfect. It buys Francis the year he needs and also the ability to reassess next summer based on how the young Hurricanes defensemen progress. The downside with Emelin is his salary. He is scheduled to make $4.4 million which probably invests too much money in something that is not the top priority. But perhaps he becomes more appealing if the trade cost is modest and if Las Vegas retains a part of his salary.
Trevor van Riemsdyk: Another interesting option is former-Blackhawk Trevor van Riemsdyk. Riemsdyk is not as proven in a top 4 role and looks a little more like the other young top 4 possibilities already with the Hurricanes, but if Francis and his scouting team like him, he brings multiple interesting traits both on and off the ice. First, his contract for 2017-18 is a dirt cheap $825,000 before he gets a raise as a restricted free agent next summer. So that obviously works wonderfully. On the ice, van Riemsdyk is capable of playing either side of the ice. That flexibility is significant in puzzle piecing together the lineup with a couple possible variations. Despite being a right shot, he could seemingly slot on the left side next to Faulk if Hanifin does not seize that slot. If not, he could play on his natural right side on the third pairing and provide some experience and stability despite being only 25 years old. van Riemsdyk has already logged 158 games of NHL experience.
David Schlemko: Somewhat similar to van Riemsdyk is David Schlemko formerly with San Jose. A key difference is that Schlemko is five years older at 30 and has significantly more NHL experience because of it. He also has a three-year contractual term which would be a show-stopper at a high price but might not actual be bad since the actual salary is just under $2 million annually. The question with Schlemko is similar to Garrison and van Riemsdyk. Is he capable of being a serviceable top 4 if necessary in which case he is incredibly inexpensive for that role. Or is his ceiling that of a third pairing depth defenseman in which case he fits into the category of players that are a dime a dozen and not so much what I think the Hurricanes need.
Browing the other options
Past Neal and maybe Perron, the forward group is light on difference-makers and populated with quite a few younger players likely intended to become part of the core going forward. There are a few depth options, but no one who jumps out as a player that I would do a deal for in the next few days without exploring better options first. The blue line is definitely the more interesting part of the roster. I think Methot is likely too pricey both contract and trade cost-wise, and I figure that Shea Theodore and possibly Nate Schmidt could be slotted to be part of the core (though I guess technically so could van Riemsdyk).
Is now the time to move Eddie Lack to the desert?
I was not right on much stuff in my early musing on the expansion draft, expecting Lee Stempniak to be protected and expecting much more trade activity prior to the roster freeze. But I was right in that it would not be possible to move Lack as part of the formal expansion draft. That showed up pretty strongly in that Francis was able to entice the Knights to take an AHLer. If I am correct that Francis does want to part ways with Lack, one could infer that the price do so on the front end was to pricey. But once the next round of wheeling dealing starts, just maybe Las Vegas parts with enough salary that it could take more on.
Straw man deals
I would offer Ryan Murphy or Klas Dahlbeck plus a third-round pick for either of Garrison (only if scouting staff sees him as a #4/#5) and maybe even a bit more if necessary to lure van Riemsdyk.
I would offer similar for Emelin either with Las Vegas retaining salary or even better with Eddie Lack added into the deal to offset Emelin’s pricey contract.
A couple other indirect impacts
Another interesting angle is to think about what the expansion draft might have done for/to other teams who could be potential Hurricanes’ trade partners. I do not see much effect for Colorado (Duchene, MacKinnon) in losing a goalie. In Tampa Bay, with another chunk of salary hit gone in Garrison, the prospect of prying a good forward out of Tampa Bay (Johnson, Palat) out Florida because of salary necessities has all but evaporated. And with Montreal losing a top 4 defenseman in Emelin after trading depth in Beaulieu last week, the chances of winning Alex Galchenyuk without including a good roster NHL defenseman now looks much less possible.
What say you Canes fans?
Check out also the Thursday Coffee Shop where draft, trade, jersey and other discussions will be teed up by mid-morning Thursday at the latest.
Are you in the sizable camp that likes James Neal to help boost scoring?
Do you like any of the three defensemen?
Who else looks interesting on Las Vegas’ current roster?