First and foremost, thoughts and prayers go out to Heather and Jordan Staal and their family
If you were away from Hurricanes hockey on Sunday, the team issued a short announcement saying, “The thoughts and prayers of the entire Hurricanes organization are with Jordan and Heather Staal on the loss of their infant daughter, Hannah. We ask that you please respect their family’s privacy at this time.”
My wife and I lost what would have been our first child to a miscarriage many years ago. I do not know the specifics of the their situation nor do I pretend to know exactly what Heather and Jordan Staal and their family are feeling, but my heart and prayers go out to them right now.
If you are late to the NHL trade deadline and Canes and Coffee’s series covering it, you can find links to the series leading up to today at the bottom of the article.
Today’s finale before the last day frenzy commences takes a shot at handicapping Monday and potential (even if unlikely) deals that I think make sense.
Does the state of the team change things for the trade deadline?
For those clamoring for rental type acquisitions whose contracts expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, I think the past week does impact the potential for going that route. The Hurricanes increasingly look like a team that could miss the playoffs and because of broader issues, not because they are just one specific player short. In addition, the prices on the higher-end rental players thus far has been cost-prohibitive. Rick Nash netted a first-round draft pick, a 2016 second-round draft pick in Ryan Lindgren, a seventh-round pick and two at least serviceable roster players in Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey. That is a bunch for a player who could be gone on July 1.
But as far as my targets in part 5 of this series, nothing changes much. I passed on rental players in total as a category and instead focused on players with contract term that stretches beyond the 2017-18 season. As such, the help trying to right the ship before it is too late is valuable but not the only thing being acquired. I would still take any of the players listed in that article.
There are players available right now who just do not become available
I think a huge part of being successful as a general manager in the NHL is being opportunistic when unique possibilities present themselves. Francis has done exactly this on a small scale twice taking advantage of the Chicago Blackhawks’ salary cap challenges to add players at less than market value. His first deal netted Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom for almost nothing. His second deal netted Teuvo Teravainen for modest futures because Francis was willing to take on Bryan Bickell’s contract and in the process helping the Blackhawks get under the salary cap. But there is another level to this kind of deal. Capitalizing on rare situations that made elite young players available, General Manager David Poile from the Nashville Predators somehow managed to add a first line center in Ryan Johansen and a top pairing defenseman in PK Subban. The Predators made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017. With the Oilers trying to figure out their salary cap math, the New Jersey Devils happened upon a deal for Taylor Hall that is a key driver of their surprising 2017-18 success. These deals are hard to do and often come with risk because of the stakes, but in a game where the best players often drive results, finding a way to add even one more elite player without giving up similar can be the difference between struggling below the playoff cut line and making a leap like New Jersey or Nashville have.
The current trade market has a handful of players who easily have the potential to be the next Ryan Johansen, PK Subban or Taylor Hall for an acquirer. Erik Karlsson is a generational talent as an offensive defenseman and catalyst. And because of Montreal’s woes in 2017-18, I think people underestimate just what Max Pacioretty represents. He is an elite finisher (who couldn’t use one of those?) with leadership abilities as a captain and a skill set broader than his scoring.
My untouchables or very close
From the Hurricanes prospect pool and futures, Martin Necas is as untouchable as is possible for a player who has yet to play in an NHL. His potential and demonstrated trajectory to be a true first line NHL is hard to give up for a team that desperately needs that. I also am not fond of giving up first-round picks simply because of the lottery ticket potential to yield a very good player only a couple years down the road. I do not cling nearly as tightly to any other Canes futures including Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen and any draft picks in the second round or later. To be clear, this is not suggesting that I want to trade any of these players for a specific reason. Rather, it is recognizing that you have to give up something to get something.
From the current roster, I have Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce as nearly untouchable. Parting ways with either one creates a big hole at the top of the blue line depth chart which makes most trades a sideways move that fills one significant hole only to create a new one. At forward, I have Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal as pretty much untouchable. Aho is probably only line mates away from being a point per game player in 2018-19 as a 21-year old. The past couple games demonstrate just how much Jordan Staal does in an understated way despite not being a top-end scorer. Noah Hanifin would take a comparable age player with a similar ceiling for me to consider it. He continues to be a work in progress defensively but his strides offensively in 2017-18 keep his ceiling very high and not something I would care to trade out of in just any old trade. To be clear, I am not anxious to trade any of Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen or Elias Lindholm, but they are players that I would consider letting go if I could get comparable or better value in return that improves the team. As far as Justin Faulk, the similar theme is that I am not looking to discard him, but if someone else values him as an offensive top 4 defenseman and is willing to trade that value for him, I would be all ears simply because I just do not think he has been more than a good offensive #5 defenseman on the defensive side of the puck for almost two years now.
So while that might seem harsh, I think the only way Francis is going to pull of a big deal and the only way that this team will get the jolt it needs is if the “won’t trade” list is culled to a small handful and then options are explored for a good deal for anyone else.
From the selling teams’ perspectives trading players with term past 2017-18, they might be better off waiting until the summer when salary cap limitations are eased and more teams can bid on top players. But from Ron Francis’ perspective, the trade deadline offers an opening for him to make an offer that makes it worthwhile for the selling teams to just collect now and not risk the situation dragging out if they still cannot get what they want during the offseason.
I would actually be okay if that meant that Francis had to overbid slightly to win an elite player, I would be okay with that especially if the overpayment is in the form of mid-tier futures or players that are in the middle or bottom of the current roster.
As such, I would be putting forward reasonably aggressive bids and then seeing if quantity of relatively low value upgrades can close it. More directly, I am willing to spend an extra mid-round draft pick or two, a #9 forward or a middle quality prospect to make things happen.
While it is possible that he might just cost too much, I am on record and truly believe that the Hurricanes have exactly what it might take to put together a perfect offer that replaces Karlsson, betters the top-tier prospect requirement with a player with NHL experience and then must navigate how much more and what must be included to close the deal.
The deal: Justin Faulk + Haydn Fleury + 2018 second-round draft pick + Nicolas Roy or similar mid-tier prospect + whatever collection of lesser items. My starting point for what and how much other stuff must be added starts by asking how hard it would be to replace that player. Third/fourth-line type forwards and third pairing or depth defensemen can generally be replaced via free agency or a trade for a modest price. I am fine with having to back fill a roster slot or two or maybe even three if it nets an elite player like Karlsson. The Hurricanes have a couple promising players in the AHL. They have Marcus Kruger, Josh Jooris and Phil Di Giuseppe who are serviceable for 2017-18 if needed. The one caveat is that I would be very hesitant to take Bobby Ryan’s contract to get this deal done. Four years is a long time to eat a contract north of $7 million.
Max Pacioretty or Mike Hoffman
What is most interesting about Max Pacioretty is how he just seems to get lumped with some other pretty good players available at the trade deadline. I guess because of the Canadiens’ struggles in 2017-18, I think people significantly underestimate him. If the Canadiens were even sitting in the last wild card slot, he would be untouchable as a captain and offensive leader of a team headed to the playoffs. Instead, Montreal’s implosion has Pacioretty as the baby being thrown out with the bath water.
I like Max Pacioretty more than Mike Hoffman, but thing the two players are somewhat similar in terms of skill set and the slot they fill. As such, I would consider a similar offer for Hoffman with less willingness to make small upgrades to get the deal done.
The deal: Again, I would not include Martin Necas nor would I be happy to include a first overall draft pick, and it might that one or both of those is a deal breaker. But I would be willing to bid really aggressively outside of that from the Hurricanes next tier of futures. Jake Bean or Julien Gauthier (a 1st-rounder) + 2018 second round draft pick + Nicolas Roy (or similar) + a lesser roster player (Derek Ryan, Joakim Nordstrom or Lee Stempniak who could be flipped for another draft pick).
Considering the next tier(s)
Again, I am out for any player whose contract expires after the 2017-18 season. If I was Ron Francis and nothing bigger seemed possible, I might consider a lunchtime speed dial spree that sees what I could obtain for a fourth or fifth round draft pick, but in general I do not care to spend for short-term band aids that might yield nothing and be gone in two months.
I do see value in other scoring-oriented forwards with term left on their contract including Detroit’s Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, but I see both players as below Pacioretty and Hoffman such that they could just become yet another depth scorer. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is potentially the closest thing available to being the offense-oriented center that the Hurricanes need, but with him just starting to skate after injury, it might be better to just hold until summer on him.
What is the probability that one of these deals gets done?
Admittedly, the probability of Francis pulling off a blockbuster is low. Best bet is that the sellers hold off to see if they can get more with more suitors during the offseason. But again, the fact that many cannot bid right now is just the opening that Francis should try to capitalize on.
If I had to bet money on the Hurricanes trade deadline, I would bet that Francis maybe does one deal to sell off an impending free agent (Derek Ryan, Lee Stempniak, Marcus Kruger, Josh Jooris) to clear one more spot for an AHL call up and add a future in the process.
This is obviously not exciting, but I have already half-written in my head an article for Tuesday that defends Ron Francis for not being active at the trade deadline. You will have to wait for the details, but the short version is that I think he did miss last summer by not adding more offense though it is possible he just did not have budget under Peter Karmanos. But the trade deadline when the majority of acquisitions do not yield anything close to fair value is not the time to try to desperately right a previous wrong. That time is June.
The Coffee Shop will be open for NHL Trade Deadline banter
Feel free to chime in here too, but the Monday Coffee Shop will mostly just be a forum for all day NHL Trade Deadline discussion.
Previous NHL Trade Deadline articles
If you are catching up, the full series of articles leading up the trade deadline has clickable links below.
From the category of dramatic, exciting and admittedly unlikely, I wrote about why I actually think a deal for Erik Karlsson could make more sense than most might initially believe.
From the category of less spectacular NHL trade deadline coverage, thus far we have: