Though other possibilities certainly existed, the most likely outcome from the 2019 trade deadline has been ‘mostly nothing’ for some time now since the team climbed up into playoff position.
Theoretically, the biggest decision was whether to keep or trade impending free agent Micheal Ferland. But with the team playing well and in the thick of the playoff hunt, the probability of him being traded has been diminishing for a couple weeks now. The possibility also existed for the Hurricanes to pull off one last big trade that brought forward scoring help in return for a top 4 defenseman. Though that still might occur, it makes sense to ride current chemistry, roster and rhythm through the end of the season and then reevaluate during the off-season.
My 2 cents on doing nothing
While it does concern me that some of the teams that the Hurricanes are battling for playoff position with added reinforcements, I am fine with the Hurricanes standing pat. First, I do not think the time is now to go all in. Second, I do not think the Hurricanes would really benefit from adding depth for inexpensive trade costs. Third, the team is playing well right now such that not messing with the chemistry and mojo is a legitimate strategy not just an excuse.
A minor (league) move
The Hurricanes did make two separate 1 for 0 moves with the Florida Panthers. The Hurricanes traded Cliff Pu of Jeff Skinner trade notoriety to Florida for future considerations. Pu got off to a slow start in Charlotte and was eventually sent to the ECHL. For whatever reason, he failed to launch in the Hurricanes organization, and for whatever other reason, the team made a quick decision to move on basically giving him away for nothing.
In a separate move (which seems odd), the Hurricanes did another deal with Florida receiving 26-year old AHL forward Tomas Jurco in return for future considerations. The move belatedly back fills the slot vacated when Greg McKegg moved up to the NHL level. The move is intended to add veteran AHL help at center for the Checkers stretch run and playoffs. Ironically, Greg McKegg was acquired in a very similar deal last year at the trade deadline. Fast forward a year and the AHL addition is contributing at the NHL level.
Deals I might steal
The one thing that jumps out to me from the recent activity is pretty reasonable prices for second tier players who would definitely improve the Hurricanes’ forward ranks and potentially boost scoring.
Versatile two-way forward Marcus Johansson cost the Bruins only second and fourth round picks.
Scoring wing Gustav Nyquist cost the Sharks only a second round pick plus a third round pick that becomes a second-rounder if the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
Mats Zuccarello cost the Stars a second round pick and a third round pick. (Both could become first-round picks, the first if the Stars win two rounds in the playoffs and the second if the Stars re-sign him.)
And from the bargain bin, Derick Brassard cost the Avalanche only a third round pick.
To be clear, the Hurricanes might not have had an option on any of these deals, but they do illustrate that good second-line-ish type help was available for a pretty reasonable price.
I really like Zuccarello at that price. I think he could be a Mark Recchi type add that scores, makes the middle of the forward group better and just makes any team harder to play against. Nyquist could have been a nice scoring addition. And Brassard is probably the biggest wild card of the group after having a ‘meh’ 2018-19 season so far, but for a mere third round pick the cost and risk were low.
The Blue Jackets
For me, the single biggest impact on the Hurricanes playoff chances was the activity and lack of activity for the Blue Jackets. Only a couple weeks ago, one line of thought that the Blue Jackets mostly blowing things up early and collecting a good return on Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. Instead, Columbus did exactly the opposite. The more or less cleaned the cupboard on 2019 draft picks and went all in on the 2018-19 season. Matt Duchene could arguably be the biggest trade deadline addition this year, and he is a very good upgrade for a Columbus team that has good depth but is light on true top-end scorers. Ryan Dzingel is another quality addition, and the Blue Jackets added depth in goalie Keith Kinkaid and Adam McQuaid. A couple weeks ago, my hope was that the Blue Jackets would trade their two stars and then fade down the stretch. At least in terms of personnel, Columbus added a huge boost for the stretch run.
The rest of the competition
The rest of the wild card competition was somewhat quieter but did add. Pittsburgh made its big move awhile back adding Nick Bugstad. Today the Pens also added depth for the blue line in Erik Gudbranson and Chris Wideman.
Similarly, Montreal added depth in the form of Dale Weise, Jordan Weal and Nate Thompson.
The Hurricanes internal additions
As I said previously, the big Hurricanes addition is Jordan Staal who just returned from injury. Injected into a lineup that was already winning, hopefully he fits back in neatly and makes the team even better. The decision to keep Micheal Ferland also makes the team deeper especially scoring-wise. Finally and most significantly, though it technically does not really fit in the trade deadline window, the team did make a huge and so far incredibly successful trade when adding Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask. So despite being quiet on February 25, the team has improved on multiple fronts in recent times.
Back to business
Personnel obviously matters, but at the end of the day the results, especially this time of year, come from on-ice results. The Hurricanes have been stellar in that regard for some time now and significantly have been better than each of the competitors profiled above. With the whirlwind of trades over, the team returns to the ice on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
What say you fellow Caniacs?
1) Were you disappointed that the team did not make an NHL-level trade on Monday? Or were you content to ride the winning group from January and February?
2) Of the deals that happened including those that I noted above, which would you steal if you could?
3) What do you make of the competition’s moves, especially the aggressive all-in play by Columbus?