It is no secret that the Carolina Hurricanes will aim to make changes to a 2017-18 roster that was not good enough to make the playoffs. Tom Dundon said as much at the end of the season. And that direction simply makes sense given the need to improve and hopefully find a combination of changes that also help generate a winning culture. So the concept of the Hurricanes making most of the roster potentially available for the right price is not outlandish. But today when TSN’s Bob McKenzie put a spin on the situation that made it seem aggressive and borderline fire sale, the Twitter part of the Hurricanes hockey universe reacted.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe grabs the bull by the horns and identifies reasons to keep and reasons to trade not just depth players but rather a handful of players who would represent more significant deals.
With three years of contract at $4.1 million per season and coming off a really tough 2018-19 campaign, Scott Darling has negative trade value. As such, any deal would require that the Hurricanes retain salary and likely still pay in trade assets to unload Darling.
Reasons to keep: The cost to unload him is likely just to high right now. Keeping Darling for at least the 2018-19 season helps in two ways. First and ideal would be if he rebounded under Brind’Amour’s coaching regime, he could suddenly be worth at least most of his salary. With all of Anton Khudobin, Eddie Lack and to some degree Cam Ward struggling under Peters, there is at least a possibility that the coaching change helps. In addition, even if year two goes the same as year one, he would only have two years remaining on his contract this time next year which makes a trade or possibly buy out less costly.
Reasons to trade (or buy out): As far as making the 2018-19 playoffs, goaltending is high up the list of potential improvements that could make a difference and yield a return to the playoffs. Spending one of two NHL slots on Darling is at best a dice roll. If owner Tom Dundon is willing to eat a loss on Darling’s contract, I believe there are better options to fill an all-important goalie slot on the roster.
Reasons to keep: Hanifin is 21 years old with elite skating ability, good NHL size and a ceiling that is very high. Trading him now risks riding through three learning years only to see another team reap huge rewards when Hanifin puts it all together and becomes a top 4 or even top 2 defenseman.
Reasons to trade: Despite all of the potential, his upside is really just that so far. He exited the 2017-18 season still as a third pairing defenseman who needed to be sounder to be more than a fill in or liability defensively as an every game top 4 defenseman. In addition, he is due for a new contract this summer. If he Hanifin gets paid for his draft pedigree, potential and improvement scoring-wise, he could enter the 2018-19 season as an incredibly expensive #5 defenseman still toting “potential” as his greatest calling card. The timing could be right to collect trade value for his upside before it starts to dissipate.
Reasons to keep: he is only one year removed from being a rare breed of defenseman who can pot goals like a forward. His run of 17, 16 and 15 goals in the three seasons prior to the 2017-18 season are elite blue line goal scoring in today’s NHL. In addition, he is a player who did reach a high level defensively, so the possibility to return to a high level defensively, rebound from a slower 2017-18 season scoring-wise and be a solid offensive top 4 defenseman is clearly there.
Reasons to trade: Faulk is 2+ years removed from being top 4 caliber on the defensive side of the puck and seems to be trending in the right direction. Based on his 2017-18 season and not projections, I would put Faulk somewhere in the neighborhood as Hanfin right now as a player who brings some offense but is really not more than a #5 defenseman on a good team because of defensive issues. With his escalating contract, Faulk is scheduled to be paid $6 million in each of the next two seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Unless a rebound is expected, I think there is a case for just taking the best you can get to free up salary and a blue line roster slot.
Top defensemen who I do not see being moved
Remember that one challenge is finding enough legitimate top 4 defensemen right now. As such, I do not see the team moving Jaccob Slavin or Brett Pesce who have quickly established themselves as at least capable second pairing defensemen and have reasonable contracts to boot.
Reasons to keep: One of the team’s deficits in 2017-18 was pure goal scoring ability. As such, trading a player who finished second on the team in goal scoring with 24 in 2017-18 and had a whopping 37 goals a year before that seems like an odd part of addressing that situation. When one considers that he needs little help to score, he seems even more like a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.
Reasons to trade: But the flip side of the Jeff Skinner coin is his 2017-18 relapse to a ‘gambling for goals’ style of play that saw him finish dead last on the team with a minus 27. I know we are not supposed to talk about plus/minus but as someone who watches the Hurricanes game in and game out, the eye test pretty much matched up as he regressed in terms of defensive play and decision-making. He is scheduled to become a free agent next summer, so if he is not part of the long-term plan, the time to act on that decision is sooner rather than later.
Reasons to keep: Rask’s situation is a bit like Darling’s though not as extreme. Coming off a light season offensively, Rask is an expensive checking line center at $4 million per year exiting the 2017-18 season. But he does deserve some credit for maintaining his two-way play, so perhaps like Darling now is not a good to sell at an all-time low.
Reasons to trade: But because he is only 25 years old, sound defensively and with higher scoring totals in years past, there could be a market for him. If so, I think one could make the case that he is redundant with Jordan Staal and gives the Hurricanes one too many ‘not enough scoring’ type centers in its top 9. As such, if there is a deal to be made, there is a case for taking it.
Reasons to keep: Though it took awhile, Lindholm has developed into a solid two-way player. As such, he is capable of being a decent, complementary player on any kind of line and also offers some flexibility as a right face-off man and center or right wing. Even if he does not emerge as a higher scorer, I think he is a legitimate top 9 NHL forward who is capable of filling a role on a good team.
Reasons to trade: If the offense just is not coming (and enough time has passed that this would be a reasonable projection), then he is really just a good depth forward. As such, he is the type of player who could be replaced. As such, if another team sees him as more than a depth forward and is willing to pay for it, just maybe you take the return and hope to back fill the slot from Charlotte.
Reasons to keep: Despite not being a true top 6 forward scoring-wise, I still believe that as a shutdown center who can eat up a ton of hard match ups/minutes that Staal is clearly more part of the solution than the problem. He anchors a line capable of lining up against other teams’ best players and breaking even. That would be hard to replace especially if the goal is to win now.
Reasons to trade: As a captain for a failed 2017-18 season, trading Staal would definitely represent a shake up. In addition, because of what he does defensively, I think Staal could have the greatest trade value of the players listed. As such, a what he could return in trade could be a significant contribution to a deeper rebuild.
Top forwards who I do not see being moved
Per the reports, Sebastian Aho is the only forward who is officially spared from the trade rumor mill. I think it is safe to put Teuvo Teravainen in that group too because of his chemistry and production playing alongside flag bearer Aho. Justin Williams should also be safe because of his leadership and ability to be Brind’Amour’s top lieutenant.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of the seven players listed do you see as most likely to be traded before the start of the 2018-19 season?
2) Which of the seven players listed would you be most unwilling to trade?
3) Pulling out your crystal ball, how do you think it all ends when the curtain closes on the upcoming offseason?