If you are catching up, this is part 3 in a series leading up to the trade deadline. You can catch up on parts 1 and 2 here:
With things just beginning to warm up, our 2018 NHL trade deadline series on the Hurricanes pushes forward into part 3 which will identify the team’s needs.
Deja vu and maybe a second try
A good trade is not simply the addition of a good player. Rather, a good trade is one that finds a good player with a match for what the team needs. At the very front end (entry #1 out of what eventually became 20+) of last summer I mostly wrote today’s article in a pair of articles both posted on May 31. The first was entitled, “Identifying the needs and shopping list”, and the second was entitled, “Remembering the needs and mostly avoiding the shiny stuff,”
In that second article, I wrote:
The next step is to add a player who can make a difference offensively. This is not a good checking line center. This is not a speedy, forechecking wing with ‘meh’ hands and finishing ability. And it is not a lot of other things that include good players. The need is fairly specific, and if one focuses on the need instead of all varieties of shiny stuff on the overstocked shelves this summer, the sorting process becomes easier and the targets clearer.
That is just as meaningful today as it was in early June. The Hurricanes depth at the forward position has improved over the past couple years, such that the team can reasonably fill 9 forward slots with players capable of at least depth scoring. The team does not need another complementary type of player capable of 45 points or possibly a bit more if he plays with an elite offensive player who makes his line mates more productive.
Rather, the Hurricanes desperately need that elite offensive player (or as close as they can get) who makes his line mates more productive.
During the summer, I regularly used the terms “catalyst” and “difference-maker” in an attempt to differentiate what the team needed from a long list of good players who just did not fill the team’s need. The team’s big addition during the summer was Justin Williams. To be clear, Justin Williams is a good player. He makes the Carolina Hurricanes better with his two-way play, his veteran presence and leadership. And the Carolina Hurricanes are very much a better team with Williams than without him. But that said, given that the team was to make only one big addition at forward, Williams did not directly address the team’s need for one more offensive catalyst ideally at the center position. Williams netted 24 goals in 2016-17 on a Capitals team that was an offensive juggernaut. As such, perhaps it should not be a surprise that his goal total (current pace is 13-14) with the Hurricanes is less despite the fact that he is actually on target for a slightly higher point total.
In addition, the depth forwards that Francis added along with Williams (Kruger and Jooris) were both by track record more checking line forwards who were destined to be light on scoring.
So perhaps not surprisingly with a forward addition who was not the pure catalyst who was needed and only checking type additions otherwise the Hurricanes are currently 26th in the NHL in scoring which is a few notches below the 20th that the team finished in 2016-17.
Adjusting the needs for the 2018 NHL trade deadline
So the same applies to the 2018 NHL trade deadline. The Carolina Hurricanes are reasonably well stocked on capable complementary depth scoring forwards with more on the way from the AHL. Over the the coming days any number of names of good players who are more of that will be bandied around. Just because a player is a decent player does not mean he helps the Hurricanes. A decent 47ish-point depth scorer who bumps Lee Stempniak and his 42ish points out of the lineup does not significantly move the needle.
As I see it, the Hurricanes need one of two things:
1) A playmaking type center with the ability to play on and help drive a scoring line and help the two wings on his line push above depth scoring totals and hit a higher level.
2) A finisher with 30+ goal capability who is a notch or two higher than the Hurricanes growing collection of players mostly with 18-25 goal ceilings. The latter is a variation from my focus during the offseason that was more narrowly focused on adding a center who could be a catalyst. The reason is because it is looking increasingly possible that the Hurricanes might be able to pull the playmaking center that they need from within in the form of Sebastian Aho or Martin Necas. If the team does try to go that route (maybe not until 2018-19), it will be important to provide support for the transition ideally in the form of a top-tier veteran scoring wing or two who have experience playing on top-notch NHL scoring lines.
“Avoiding the shiny stuff”
Over the next few days a few dozen names will be bandied around as possible trade targets for the Hurricanes. My starting points is NOT assessing whether a player is a good player or not. Rather, my starting point is assessing whether they fit what in my opinion is the Hurricanes’ needs.
The challenge but not impossibility of the marketplace
The challenge is scarcity and cost. There are not enough top-notch playmaking centers or 30+ goal scoring wings such that every team can simply have however many they need. As such, the price to add such a player is high. But that is not to say that the task is impossible. The upstart New Jersey Devils are where they are now at least in part because they were able to add a legitimate first line scorer in Taylor Hall. Similarly, the Nashville Predators are led at the center position by Ryan Johansen who was obtained via trade. The Islanders who are among the league’s best offensively and are in a dog fight with the Hurricanes for a playoff spot added Jordan Eberle who has 20 goals. The Stars have 21 goals from Alexander Radulov who they somehow stole out of Montreal last summer.
The current trade deadline sees a number of players names who might fit the bill floating around right now, and most are not even rentals whose contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
So saying that there are not enough to go around and that the costs will be high is not the same as saying that such a deal is not possible. The list above proves that it is.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Am I too narrow in my requirements for the kind of player that the Hurricanes need to add? Or do you agree that such pinpoint focus is required to get the help that is needed?
2) Of the forwards alleged to be available, which do you think meet my requirements or are otherwise worth pursuing?