The 2016 NHL trade deadline was a high profile affair that saw Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis needing to make a sell decision with his team still trying to climb into the playoff chase. And after he made the sell decision, he needed to do deals for 3 big assets that had significant trade value but also complications. Francis traded and gained a good return for all of Eric Staal, John-Michael Liles and Kris Versteeg who needed to be move.
For the 2017 NHL trade deadline, the stakes were a bit smaller with only a collection of bottom half of the roster players to be pedaled. But it is still important to be diligent, execute and put the team in as good of a position as possible going forward.
If you are checking in late, here is a menu of articles on the 2017 NHL trade deadline that includes reviews of the 2 trades the Hurricanes made and also assessments on what the team needs to add to improve.
2017 NHL trade deadline: Simple checklist
Francis entered the trading period with 5 players who were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and therefore had the potential to be dealt. All of Ron Hainsey, Matt Tennyson, Viktor Stalberg, Derek Ryan and Jay McClement were potentially tradeable. (Bryan Bickell is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but was not tradeable because of his contract and the fact that he is still playing his way back up to NHL speed after being diagnosed and treated for multiple sclerosis.)
Of the 5 players potentially on the trade block, Ron Francis moved early and received a good return for the top 2 players on the list in Ron Hainsey and Viktor Stalberg.
Hainsey garnered a second round pick which exceeded my estimate of a third-rounder part 1 of my trade deadline preview after the Hurricanes also agreed to retain half of Hainsey’s $2.5 million salary for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. The return was favorable considering the rest of the trade deadline too. Depth defenseman Kyle Quincey yielded only reclamation project Dalton Prout who had been a fairly regular healthy scratch with Columbus. And partly because of salary probably, Johnny Oduya netted only a wayward prospect and a conditional fourth-rounder. And Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson were not moved at all when the game of musical chairs ended. With a decent selection of depth defensemen that outweighed the demand, Francis did well to move early and even get a modest premium on his return with a second-rounder.
Similarly with Stalberg, I think Francis did well. He received a third-round draft pick that matched the same return for Thomas Vanek who brings much more scoring-wise. Drew Stafford and P.A. Parenteau garnered only sixth round picks, and Jarome Iginla and Dwight King only conditional fourth-rounders. And when the dust settled Radim Vrbata who certainly had value at some point was not moved at all. Only top half of the roster forwards Brian Boyle and Martin Hanzal netted more with a second-rounder and a first and a second-rounder respectively. Again, I think Francis did well acting early and collecting a third round pick. I like Viktor Stalberg and would actually like to consider bringing him back this summer, but he is a fourth line forward, so collecting a top 100 draft pick for him is a solid return.
Jay McClement, Derek Ryan and Matt Tennyson
Francis did theoretically have 3 more players with expiring contracts who could have been rented out. But Derek Ryan and Matt Tennyson are really fringe AHL/NHL players who slot only as off the roster depth on most, if not all, playoff-bound teams. Many teams have that same caliber of player at the top of their AHL depth chart or otherwise could possibly claim that level of player for free off of waivers. Jay McClement is more of a proven NHL player but as a #12/#13 type of player really would only have had value for a team with a very specific need for a veteran fourth-line center who could play on the penalty kill. Past that I do not think his skill set is good enough to break onto most NHL rosters. So in an ideal world, Francis might have collected another 1-2 fifth or sixth round picks, but it is reasonable to believe that he explored those options and there just was not really anything to be had.
2017 NHL trade deadline: Building for the future
The greater excitement for the Hurricanes during the days of wheeling and dealing was the potential to do a bigger deal to begin making longer-term additions with the aim of taking first steps to bolster the 2017-18 roster. I listed a handful of this type of deal in my Daily Cup of Joe for trade deadline day. None of those deals happened, nor did even a lesser wild card deal of seeing Ryan Murphy traded for a similar age prospect or Lee Stempniak included in the trade list despite having a year remaining on his contract.
In a best case scenario, Ron Francis would have brokered a trade for a difference-maker at forward, but 2 things jump out in his defense. First off, despite a handful of big names allegedly being on the trading block, there was not a single deal of this variety completed at the trade deadline. Of the handful of players traded with contract term past 2016-17, none were really in the difference-maker category. And because of the lack of activity around the big names with contract term leading up to March 1, this game will roll forward to June when Ron Francis could be a player with his growing stockpile of draft picks, prospects and futures.
2017 NHL trade deadline: Final grade
When I net it out, I give Ron Francis an A-. It is not so much that he made any mistakes or did not do incredibly well on the deals he made. Rather, I guess I am a hard grader and demand something above and beyond the simple checklist to push up into A or A+ range. Plus with the target of building a playoff capable team for 2017-18, the trade deadline is only the midterm with the final exam and big project still coming. I want to leave room for improvement for what should be a crazy time in late June and early July with the expansion draft, regular draft and free agency line up back to back to back.
How would you rate Francis’ work on Wednesday and in total for the NHL trade deadline?
Did anyone else feel a big of angst and disappointment being a seller yet again?
Are you optimistic that Francis will spend some of what he collected to make a sincere push for the playoffs in 2017-18?