In the span of a couple days, the Canes have been linked first to Frederik Andersen and then to Patrik Laine. This time of year, it can be hard to tell what is real and what is more so everyone spit balling to pass time.
I wrote in detail about the Hurricanes internal situation discussing impending free agents to be re-signed or let go. And yesterday I wrote in detail about Dougie Hamilton’s situation. And on Tuesday I nearly wrote an article on Twitter about why I do not think Patrik Laine is a great fit for the Canes when considering the financials.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks less at specifics and instead considers the Hurricanes trade situation at a higher level.
No incredible urgency
The Hurricanes are still a young team with improvement and growth to be had just from young players continuing to mature. And making the playoffs in consecutive years and having some success suggests that the team is on the right track. So I think an important starting point is to recognize that there is no incredible urgency to fix any glaring holes. The Hurricanes made moves at the trade deadline to add Brady Skjei and Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck especially has the potential to fill arguably the biggest need at forward. And Skjei makes a pretty good blue line even deeper. So if the Hurricanes enter and exit the upcoming off-season without making any big additions, in no way would I see that as a problem.
That said, teams should always be at least exploring ways to improve.
Per my starting point above, I do not think there is a need to add a goalie, especially for 2020-21 with three goalies already under contract. As I said in a recent article, the glaring errors by Mrazek and Reimer in games 4 and 5 against Boston seemed to put an unfair outer shell on an otherwise strong playoff performance by the goalies. They were not the reason the team lost. The Bruins were better and the Canes goalies did more to help than hurt the Canes chances of winning anyway.
I would consider upgrading at the position if the right opportunity comes along. I feel like the team is open for what happens in net for 2021-22 and beyond. But I would not go desperately win a bidding war to acquire a goalie via trade, and I would also be cautious jumping into the deep end for high-end free agents that will likely cost maximum term and salary.
I think the single biggest need for the Hurricanes at the forward position as the team is currently configured is to find/add a center who can be a catalyst or at least key component of a second scoring line. With Jordan Staal always being light on scoring/offense anyway and now destined to gradually assume a slightly lesser role, the Hurricanes really need a second line center who can be a difference-maker and balance the forward lines. Vincent Trocheck was acquired with that aim. Through 7 regular season games and then a long delay before 8 playoff games, he has yet to click in a Hurricanes uniform. He seemed to show signs of being ready to break out in both short stints, but in a results business, he came up short offensively producing only a single goal and 3 assists in 15 games for a 5-goal, 22-point pace. Regardless of how much he looks okay, that level of production obviously will not cut it long-term. But the sample size is tiny and split into two odd chunks separated by a four-month layoff, so a bit of patience seems much more reasonable that a quick knee-jerk reaction to 15 games. If things look the same approaching the midway point of the 2020-21 season, then things could change, but I would expect the same Canes brain trust that acquired Trocheck to give him some time to get up and going.
I continue to think filling this slot successfully is the single biggest thing for taking another step forward. Scoring depth will help against good teams especially during the playoffs, and this would also help slot Staal into a role where he can be a positive playing to his strengths in a slightly reduced role.
As an aside, I continue to think that Martin Necas represents the greatest upside to the team if he can switch back to center like Aho did and excel. But after a tough go playing center in his rookie season and a better sophomore campaign with less responsibilities playing wing, it is not certain if/when the team will considering re-trying him at center.
Scoring help on the wing
The other need at forward is scoring from the wing. Andrei Svechnikov continues to track nicely toward being the scoring power forward that he was projected to be when drafted. Depending on who else is on his line, I think Teravainen could afford to shoot and score more, but regardless he is a legitimate top 6 wing. And though I think he might ultimately be more valuable as a center per my comments above, Necas contributed in spurts playing right wing. But that is where the success stories end for the Canes wings in 2019-20. Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele are serviceable middle of the roster wings but are light offensively for a true top 6 slot. Ryan Dzingel arrived with a good scoring resume but never really clicked. And after a strong start after his arrival, Nino Niederreiter has been unable to find his scoring touch.
But following my starting theme, the Hurricanes have a couple in Svechnikov and Teravainen and okay depth beyond that. Ideal would be to add one more true finisher, but I do not think that is do or die.
So if I summarize the situation at forward, I think at least 30-35 games with patience make sense for Trocheck in the C2 slot before considering other options. And I think at wing the team would love to add one more option for finishing and if it can find a way maybe clear a roster spot and some salary by trading Niederreither and/or Dzingel.
On the blue line
My starting point is a Tweet from Tuesday:
An expected @Canes off-season rite of passage is opposing fans offering very little in trade for likes of Slavin/Pesce who are in their prime and signed to great long-term contracts.
True to 2020 craziness, seems like @Canes fans are ones wanting to trade them this year.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) August 31, 2020
Using another of my favorites, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Unless the Hurricanes have bad information on Pesce’s shoulder injury that really concerns them, I do not see why the team would consider trading him. He is the anchor and solid part of a second pairing whose other half could be an ‘iffier’ player. Fleury really emerged, but it is important to remember that he did much of that playing in a third pairing role. Gardiner looked better in the latter half of the regular season, but was an utter mess before that. It is questionable whether he has enough quickness/lateral mobility to be a regular in a top 4 slot. And Skjei had some ups and downs. When in a rhythm, Pesce is so incredibly sound which I think is what helps make the other half of that pairing work.
And despite the fact that something needs to be figured out next summer contract-wise, I do not get why there would be a big hurry to unload Hamilton who was arguably the best offensive defenseman in the NHL last season (Carlson also has a claim). Even if there is uncertainty with re-signing Hamilton, the Canes are suddenly a team that is trying to win now, so it can make sense to keep players if they help the here and now even if they might not be long-timers.
So I would expect Brett Pesce’s name to be in the trade rumblings and rumors from now until the start of next season, but I doubt there is much to it. And though Hamilton might be somewhat more likely to go if his agent shows up wanting a maximum deal, I think he too is much more likely to start the 2020-21 season in a Hurricanes uniform than in someone else’s
Past that excitement, the Canes are deep on defense, so I would not expect any major additions. It could make sense to add a fringe AHL/NHL defenseman or two on two-way contracts to provide deep depth, but unless I get surprised by a Hamilton or Pesce deal, I would not expect much movement here.
What say you Canes fans?
1) How do you feel about running with mostly the same team for 2020-21?
2) How patient would you be with Trocheck? Do you think the team would consider giving Necas another look at center? What, if anything, do you think the Canes will do at forward?
3) Do you think there could be any fire to go with the smoke with Pesce and Hamilton’s names being bandied around already?