At the conclusion of the first round of the 2017 NHL Playoffs, I wrote an article that listed potential impacts on the Carolina Hurricanes from the results.
All three of the Hurricanes’ acquired draft picks were downgraded by first round wins. (One of those picks, a third-rounder from Ottawa, has since been traded away.) The early exit by the Montreal Canadiens was most notable in possibly making players available because of a shake up. I actually wrote about the Canadiens’ situation separately in some detail a couple days later. And I declared the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and to a lesser degree the Calgary Flames to be the up-and-coming young teams in the lead that the Hurricanes were chasing.
With the completion of the second round of the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night, here is another set of Hurricanes-centric impacts:
Carolina Hurricanes’ draft picks
As noted above, the third-round pick obtained from Ottawa is no longer relevant since it was traded for Scott Darling. If my math is right, the 2017 second round pick obtained from the New York Rangers in the Eric Staal trade last season is now pegged at 21st in the second round (52nd overall), and the second round pick obtained from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Ron Hainsey trade is now destined to be in the bottom four in the upcoming draft.
More wreckage to comb through
Of the second-round losers, I think there are definitely impacts to who might be available and interesting to Ron Francis as he works to build his roster for the 2017-18 season and beyond.
First, to be clear, the term “wreckage” is not really accurate for Edmonton. Despite losing the second round, the franchise made progress just by making the playoffs and even more by winning a round and coming really close in the second round.
But despite the positives,there are actually significant impacts that could come into play for the Hurricanes. The rising up of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2017 playoffs has only served to highlight how much the progress is also a changing of the guard. To no one’s surprise, the success is led by the youthful stars, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl and newer arrivals like Cam Talbot, Milan Lucic, Adam Larsson, Patrick Maroon. Gone completely is Taylor Hall who was part of a headline-making trade for Adam Larsson. Seemingly on the way out and maybe now with more urgency and a discount are suddenly aging young guns Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Eberle had a respectable if not eye-popping 51 points in 82 games in the regular season, but collected only 2 points (2 assists, 0 goals) in 13 playoff games and was a team low minus 6 in 13 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins posted a modest 43 points in 82 games in the regular season, and an only slightly better 4 points (all assists) in 13 playoff games. When things mattered most, both players were no better than underperforming depth players. With Draisatl due for a huge raise this summer and then McDavid next summer, salary cap challenges are coming in Edmonton. Both making $6 million annually on their current contracts, one or both of Eberly and Nugent-Hopkins will need to be part of the adjustments necessary to fit Draisatl’s and later McDavid’s contract into a financial structure that fits under the salary cap. Both players were destined to be shopped this summer anyway, but after sub-par playoff performances the urgency maybe increased while the trade price decreased. Better options that might be available, but when Ron Francis starts doing the complicated math that considers value relative to cost, one or both of Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins could represent a massive bargain relative to the other options even if maybe not perfect.
New York Rangers
Despite making it into the second round, the Rangers along with the Capitals clearly joined to pool of teams most likely to make a big deal or two to shake things up. The problem with the Rangers as a trade partner is that will likely be looking to pawn off expensive underperformers and retool their blue line along the way. Though it is possible, I am not sure Francis wants to either help the Rangers by giving them a good young defenseman nor take a big contract off their hands. I guess the possibility is picking up a good veteran forward if the Rangers consider moving one of them in the shake up.
Despite the likelihood that the Rangers will be dealing, I am not sure they will be a great trade partner for the Hurricanes. I am not keen on taking the last year of Nash’s $8 million contract for short-term help, and I am not sure any of the other possibilities are really the high-end scoring help that Francis is seeking. In addition, the Rangers are like the Canadiens in that they would be looking for players not picks and prospects in return as they work to quickly retool and try to figure something out before Henrik Lundqvist rides off into the sunset. That said, whenever a team goes into ‘blow it up’ mode, it makes sense to check in to see what bargains can be had.
And perhaps the most spectacular crash that should be a surprise at this point since it is an annual event featured the Washington Capitals sitting at the top of the league at the end of the regular season only to fail again in the playoffs. Only one day after their dismissal from the playoffs at the hands of the Penguins, any guess as to what direction the Capitals go from here is wild speculation, but early rumblings seem to suggest that a significant shake up with a name player or two departing is not impossible.
A portion of the Nashville Predators’ current success has been the team’s willingness to pounce quickly when unique situations with other teams suddenly made elite players available. First, Nashville acquired Ryan Johansen when things imploded in Columbus. Then Nashville was kind enough to accept P.K. Subban in his prime. It seems unlikely, but 29-year old Nicklas Backstrom would look really nice centering a first line for the next three years or more. Just like with the Rangers, I am not sure there is a great trade fit, but if they start throwing everything out like it is garbage, Francis would do well be be nearby to see if anything could be reclaimed.
Fast, attacking hockey wins
While I would not actually say that it is universal, I think the every-postseason theme of playing fast and attacking is again ruling the day. The teams that win in May and June do usually play decent defense and have at least decent goaltending, but the other commonality is the ability to skate, attack and constantly put pressure on an opponents’ defense. Gone are the days when teams could hunker down, survive in their own end and net a clutch goal here and there to win.
This ongoing trend bodes reasonably well for the Carolina Hurricanes. The team’s back end has evolved to become a bunch that is above average in terms of mobility even if still a work in process in terms of generating offense. I am not sure the Hurricanes are there yet for the 2017-18 season, but I think Peters gets this and is trending in that direction as he finally starts to get enough skill, speed and talent at the forward position.
What say you Caniacs?
From the teams toppled early and maybe looking to shake things up a bit like the Rangers, Canadiens and Capitals do any players jump out as potential targets?
Even if Jordan Eberle and/or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are not your first choice, what kind of price in terms of modest trade assets makes them interesting as Edmonton works to fit Draisatl and McDavid’s next contracts under the salary cap?