This adds to a collection of Carolina Hurricanes blogs about free agents, potential trade targets, team needs, budget analysis and everything else related to building the Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 roster. Next is to condense it all down into a potential game plan for Hurricanes GM Ron Francis entering the busy summer season that starts with the draft and is followed quickly by the free agent frenzy. Without the ability to know for sure who is available at what other GMs want in return, this is obviously an imperfect process but fun nonetheless.
Before getting to the somewhat expected deals, the summer plan starts with a couple stranger deals.
Pretty much nothing for Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell
Blackhawks’ site Second City Hockey wrote about this possibility yesterday (great timing since I actually mentioned Teravainen in my trade target post late Sunday night). The short version is this. The Blackhawks need to retool a bit after their early playoff exit this season at least partially due to their inability to find a #4 defenseman to replace Johnny Oduya. But the Blackhawks have no cap room. And they also have the albatross of Bryan Bickell’s $5.5 million cap hit. He spent last season in the AHL. But no one is taking Bickell. Even if the Blackhawks retained half of his salary, he would still be too expensive for his role and reclamation project status. So the thought is that the Blackhawks will basically need to pay someone in other players to take Bryan Bickell, and the thinking is that the asset to do this could be Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen is a 21-year old with the potential to become a very good player, but his development, at least offensively, stalled somewhat last season. He was leapfrogged on the skilled/scorer depth chart of the Blackhawks by Artemi Panarin and his phenomenal rookie season.
So the basic deal (or offer anyway) for the Carolina Hurricanes is that you take Bryan Bickell and his salary and you get Teuvo Teravainnen for free. I guess the Canes would have to throw in some late round draft pick or tier 2 or 3 prospect but that should be all. If you get wrapped around the axle considering only Bryan Bickell, it seems like a horrible idea. But I think it is actually an interesting possibility if you consider the 2 players in total. I view Teuvo Teravainen as very similar to Elias Lindholm in that he is a pretty good young 2-way player whose progress thus far is that of a decent 2-way third-liner whose offensive production is too low to be a legitimate top 6 forward. But also like Lindholm, Teravainen has a decent combination of skill, smarts and youth that it is reasonable to project to a higher level of play as he matures, obviously with no guarantees. Teravainen is 21 years old and was drafted at #18 overall in the 2012 NHL draft (a year before Lindholm) and put up a similar 35 points in 78 games last season (Lindholm had 39 points in 82 games). Teravainen has 1 year left on his entry level contract at $894,000. I think it would be reasonable to assign a “fair salary” for Teravainen for 2016-17 as about $2.5 million (again similar to Lindholm) as a decent third line player. If Bryan Bickell was instead a free agent, I think it would be reasonable to sign him for $800k-$1 million for 1 year as a risky fourth-liner with potential upside if he could rebound with a change of scenery. Bickell’s skill set as a big, rugged winger is actually a decent fit for the Canes trying to add some size to the roster. So when you add it up, I think a total salary of $3.5 million for the pair could be reasonable. Instead, the total cost is a higher $6.4 million ($5.5 million for Bickell and $0.9 million for Teravainen).
So obviously that is not ideal, but that is the price that the Canes pay short-term to add another good young forward to the mix without having to trade a roster player or significant draft pick or prospect. Importantly, Bickell’s contract is up at the end of the year, so this is a 1-year situation financially and hits in a year when Francis does have some budget.
I think of this deal as spending some of the 2016-17 cash budget to add a player who could benefit the team past the 2016-17 season.
If Francis cannot stomach Bryan Bickell and his cost and the Blackhawks are unable to tether him to Teuvo Teravainen, I think a simpler hockey trade that has Brett Pesce and Teuvo Teravainen as the primary pieces could make sense. As I noted yesterday, the Blackhawks added 25-year Czech free agent Michal Kempny this summer who could theoretically be a #4 defenseman cut from the same hockey miracle mold as Artemi Panarin last season. But that seems high risk and low probability. Instead, could Brett Pesce be serviceable in that role next to an experienced Hjalmarsson? The 2 years remaining on Pesce’s entry-level contract at less than $1 million per season definitely fits the Hawks $ challenges. Meanwhile, the Canes need more help at forward. We can debate what Teravainen’s upside is long-term, but he easily slots as a top 9 forward right now on the Canes current roster.
Draft pick upgrade for the ghost of Pavel Datsyuk (with real Pavel Datsyuk in Russia)
Pavel Datsyuk is widely expected to retire from the NHL and play next season in Russia. He still has 1 more year with a $7.5 million salary cap hit that Detroit will be on the hook for because of his age. Especially, if Detroit tries to enter the Steven Stamkos bidding war, the Red Wings will need that salary cap. So the expectation is that the Red Wings will trade Datsyuk to a team that either needs to take on more cap to reach the floor or at least can because it does not expect to spend nearly up to the salary cap limit anyway. The 3 teams whose names keep coming up in this regard are the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils though there are other possibilities.
The deal is basically that the Red Wings would need to pay something modest (a draft pick) to unload Datsyuk. This type of deal has happened but in most cases there are other negatives – actual salary that needs to be paid, the chance the player does not retire and instead becomes dead weight, injured players who could theoretically return, etc. There really is no risk with Datsyuk. Either he retires from the NHL in which case there is no salary to be paid, or he makes a crazy decision to return to the NHL in which case you just added a still very good top 6 center for a salary (not cap hit) of only $5 million and could not be happier.
Since the risk is virtually zero and there are multiple teams who could do this deal, the reward will be small. I see it as something like Datsyuk plus a fourth round pick for a sixth round pick. But even still, Francis might as well upgrade a draft pick and get a really low odds lottery ticket that Datsyuk magically returns to the NHL in 2016-17.
Brett Pesce + #21 pick OR #43 pick + second-tier future for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
I think it is fairly clear that the Oilers want to parlay some combination of futures or current players into a proven top 4 defenseman. They supposedly missed out Seth Jones when Ryan Johansen suddenly hit the market and was more appealing than Nugent-Hopkins. Travis Hamonic’s request to be traded to Western Canada made him an obvious possibility, but he has since withdrawn that request seemingly taking him off the market. It is believed that the Ducks will part ways with 1 of Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen who are both scheduled to become restricted free agents this summer and get significant raises in the process. Vatanen is the right shot that the Oilers seemingly prefer. Who knows if it is real or not this time of year (bunches of BS flying around), but Tyson Barrie who is also a right shot is alleged to be available from Colorado. Ron Francis has the ability to trump all of these options by including right shot Justin Faulk in such a trade, but he will not. I repeat – he will not!
So how could this process play out such that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sports a Hurricanes jersey come October?
1-Edmonton will first shop any and all available options for a player for player deal that sees Nugent-Hopkins as the key piece of a trade for a proven top 4 NHL defenseman. We have already seen 2 in Seth Jones and Travis Hamonic (probably) come off the market. There are only a couple left and likely to be a few other bidders. Who knows if the teams with the defensemen even want Nugent-Hopkins.
2-If Edmonton is unable to the top 4 defenseman that they covet with Nugent-Hopkins, a couple plan B options could come into play. First, Edmonton could package up some futures including high draft picks and maybe someone like Yakupov, while keeping Nugent-Hopkins. Or they could proceed with the original plan to move Nugent-Hopkins but have to settle for less than originally desired. It is not clear that Nugent-Hopkins fits in Edmonton long-term under any scenario. He slots as a third line center behind McDavid and Draisatl but at a first/second line type salary at $6 million. This might work short-term, but Draisatl is up for a new contract for 2017-18 and then McDavid for 2018-19. At that point, it becomes much harder to fit $6 million into a C3 slot.
Either plan B could send Nugent-Hopkins to the Canes. The most straightforward is Edmonton settling for the next best thing in Brett Pesce + high-end futures. Pesce is a right shot like Edmonton wants. He was also serviceable in second pairing role last season next to John-Michael Liles. And he is 22 years old with only 1 season of professional experience and room to grow. He also has 2 years remaining on his entry-level deal. Edmonton needs depth on defense past the top priority to add top 4 defenseman. Pesce immediately slots as a #4 but has a salary such that the Oilers could take the futures that they already have plus more provided by the Nugent-Hopkins deal and continue shopping for the proven top 4 defenseman that they really want. If that works out, Edmonton could then push Pesce down to #5 and get deeper in the process.
In the event that the Oilers find a trade partner who is willing to part with a top 4 defenseman but is not interested in Nugent-Hopkins, the Canes could replenish whatever pile of futures the Oilers give up and also help free up the cap space necessary to fit the new defenseman and the future contracts of Draisatl and McDavid.
Let me finish by saying that it pains me to include Brett Pesce in any trade options. I think he is a good young player whose style of play complements the Canes other young defensemen. In my ideal world, Francis will magically do some combination of preying on other teams’ financial issues and spending modest draft picks/futures, but it is really hard to add good, proven players without also giving up good players.
#21 pick OR #43 pick + prospect or another later draft pick for Frederik Andersen
At first glance, I think some might argue that offering 2 non-player futures for a goalie with a short but pretty solid track record as a #1 goalie is pretty light. I actually agree. But I think Anaheim and other teams with 2 NHL-capable goalies will be in a hard place this summer. With the potential to lose 1 of 2 goalies for nothing to an expansion draft next summer, the result will be far more goalies potentially available than there are teams needing them.
With the potentially low trade value, I think some teams will choose to just ride it out a year and take their chances next summer. But because of a couple mitigating factors, I think Anaheim is much more likely than most to press forward and trade a goalie even if the market conditions are not ideal. Consider that:
–Frederik Andersen is a fairly significant contract risk. He has arbitration rights which means some random lawyer could very well decide how much he gets paid for his next contract. Andersen has an impressive 35-win season to his credit in 2014-15. He also has a pretty solid 22-9-4 record for 2015-16 with less work, a 2.30ish GAA for the past 2 seasons and a strong playoff resume. Is it possible that his agent believably gets him compared to and even boosted over comparables like Jaroslav Halak ($5M), Mike Smith ($5.7M), Semyon Varlamov ($5.9M), Kari Lehtonen ($5.9M), Jimmy Howard ($5.3M), Ryan Miller ($6M) and wins him a new contract for $4 – $5.5 million as a better than average goalie in the second tier below the elite netminders? I think it is very possibly. And if that happens, is Anaheim suddenly in a very bad spot with him eating up a ton of salary and maybe being much more difficult and less valuable to trade because of his contract? I think so.
–Couple that with the fact that the Ducks probably feel the need to shake up their roster a bit and add to a core that continues to do well in the regular season but has been unable to push deep into the playoffs. They need some budget to add to the roster.
–22-year old John Gibson seems to be the preferred future goalie and is signed for 3 more years, so it seems likely that Andersen is on course to be exposed and possibly lost for nothing in a summer 2017 expansion draft anyway.
The Ducks are not nearly as cap-crunched as other teams, but if Andersen gets $5 million and stays, it could limit the team’s ability to do more than try again with a similar roster in 2017-18. They are at about $53 million with 3 expensive RFAs to be re-signed (Andersen plus defensemen Lindholm and Vatanen). Even if 1 of Vatanen or Lindholm is traded as is possible, the Ducks would suddenly be at about $63 million of salary still needing to add 4-5 forwards.
I think the dance between Canes GM Ron Francis and Ducks GM Bob Murray starts with Murray declaring fair compensation for sure thing #1 Andersen to be the higher of the Canes #1 picks plus another roster player like Brett Pesce who would back fill the roster slot vacated by Vatanen or Lindholm and project to step into Bieksa’s slot long-term. At that point, I think Francis tells Murray that he will instead shop the much less expensive options on the flooded goalie market thanks to the coming expansion draft. In the end, I think Murray has the incentive to avoid the arbitration risk, recoup the salary to spend at other positions and importantly get something rather than nothing for departing with 1 of his goalies now instead of next summer.
My hope is that the market and situation yields a #1 goalie for a very reasonable price in terms of trade value. The Canes would assume the same arbitration risk and ideally would rather pay $3-4 million for Andersen’s next contract but do have some ability to absorb more if they cannot avoid arbitration and it turns out for the worst. If Murray wants fair value for Andersen, then I move on and start working down the priority list of other goalies who might be available because of the potential expansion draft next summer.
I feel like both the Andersen deal and the Nugent-Hopkins deal would require a first round pick. If that is right, Francis would need to make 1 of those deals work with the #43 overall pick possibly by adding another lower pick. In addition, I did not name names for the second-tier prospects. At a basic level, anyone who became a regular at the NHL level last season is off limits as are Sebastian Aho, Roland McKeown, Haydn Fleury and Alex Nedeljkovic. If I could add 1 more to the list, I think it would be Nicolas Roy.
Summary and end results
If Francis pulled this off, the results would be as follows:
–The Canes will have added my top 2 priorities (legitimate #1 goalie and proven top 6 playmaking center) and also a young forward who slots into the lineup immediately plus a depth forward.
–Guessing $4 million for Andersen, $3.5 million for Victor Rask and $1 million for Ryan Murphy, the Canes salary would be at $58 million (not counting Datsyuk who would retire) which is a few million $ above the salary cap minimum and pretty close to my guesstimated $60-62 million internal budget for the Canes this summer.
–The roster would have 2 goalies, 11 forwards and 6 defensemen. Sebastian Aho would make 12 forwards and add less than $1 million to the budget. That would leave Francis shopping the bargain bin for 1-2 more forwards and possibly a depth defenseman for about $1 million each or otherwise using young depth that would cost similar.
–From his stack of futures, Francis will have spent a first round pick, a second round pick and 2 middle-tier prospects but be net plus 1 in terms of young roster players adding 2 in Teravainen and Nugent-Hopkins and parting with only 1 in Pesce. The Canes would still have their own picks in each of the first 3 rounds plus 2 extras in the third round and a 2017 draft slate that includes all 7 rounds plus an extra second and 2 extra thirds. Andersen is also only 26 years old and has the potential to be part of the long term plan.
The resulting lineup
The lineup looks something like:
Andersen / Lack
Training camp would determine who played where at forward. Teravainen and Di Giuseppe have the potential to play either wing and those 2 plus Lindholm are well-rounded enough to play on any type of line. So who slots where is dependent on what works in training camp and on an ongoing basis during the season.
Part 2 of this 2-parter will offer some plan B deals aimed at accomplishing the same thing – #1 goalie, proven top 6 offensive center and ideally another young forward or 2. With the volume of teams with salary cap and expansion draft issues, I think it is important for Ron Francis to be opportunistic and balancing targeting certain players with capitalizing on situations to get good value.