Unfortunately, the regular Canes fan rite of passage for April is upon us. With only two games remaining in the 2017-18 season for the Carolina Hurricanes, fans are again preparing for a long five-month offseason before even preseason Canes hockey returns. It is time to adopt another team for the playoffs, check the calendar for the draft and dream big for next season being better.
This offseason is a good one for fans who want to go all out in the ‘dream big’ category. With John Tavares scheduled to become a free agent on July 1 and Erik Karlsson seemingly destined to be traded and the Canes having plenty of cap space, the potential is theoretically there for the Hurricanes to add a bona fide superstar to the roster before the start of the 2018-19 season.
If you prefer to just dream big for a bit without considering viability, turn away now. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers if there is legitimate potential for either player to be a Hurricane come September when training camp opens.
In terms of what the Hurricanes need, John Tavares is an absolutely perfect fit. He could take any of a couple of combinations of wingers and instantly give the Hurricanes the top scoring line that it continues to lack. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen took a huge step up offensively in 2017-18 flanking Jordan Staal who is 40-50-point scorer. Put Tavares in the middle of them, and I think that point per game seasons from all three players is not just possible but the expectation.
But is it possible? I highly doubt it. Tavares has hung on to the bitter end with the New York Islanders despite the team’s struggles. If he was not at least teetering on the fence of staying with the Islanders, he would likely have been gone at the trade deadline to at least fetch a return. So if Tavares as a 27-year old is willing to commit the next chunk of his career to a team that missed the playoffs in 2017-18 and has a murky future, I cannot fathom why he would jump to the Hurricanes to do that instead of just staying with the Islanders. For whatever woes they have, the Isles have actually made the playoffs in three of the past six seasons. If Tavares leaves the Islanders, I believe it will be because he wants a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup, and if that becomes as well as he fits into the Hurricanes lineup, I just do not see a search for playoff hope landing Tavares in Raleigh over another 6-10 possible destinations.
As an offensive defenseman, I do not think Erik Karlsson as directly fills a need for the Hurricanes, but the Hurricanes do need offense, and they do need to somehow build out a capable second defense pairing. Karlsson could fit into that equation as a unique offensive catalyst from the back end who could help boost scoring across the lineup and on the power play.
But is it possible? The competition to land Karlsson’s services will include many teams, so the odds of winning such a bidding war are always low. But I think the chances of landing Karlsson are somewhat more possible, but only if the Ottawa Senators value Justin Faulk as a top 4 defenseman. If they do, the scenario that I wrote up in some detail at the trade deadline still applies. In short, if Ottawa wants to replace Karlsson’s skill set and rates Faulk as a top 4 defenseman, he is a pretty good replacement as a right shot with offensive ability and two years remaining on his current contract at a reasonable $4.8 million salary cap hit. Again, dependent on how Faulk rates with Ottawa’s scouts and management, he represents a decent starting point for building a package, and the Hurricanes have a good prospect pool that can help build out the rest of the package. In addition and important is the fact that Karlsson’s situation is significantly different than Tavares’ in that he is already under contract for the 2018-19 season and then becomes an unrestricted free agent. So wherever he goes for the 2018-19 season is not necessarily a long-term commitment. He could take a year to kick the tires on a new home and build his value before ultimately picking his next long-term destination the following summer. As such, he might be more willing to consider a team like the Hurricanes knowing he could easily exit after a year.
Per my incessant ranting and raving a couple months back, I continue to think that the player who makes the most sense comes from whatever tier lies below the Tavares/Karlsson tier in the form of Max Pacioretty. I continue to think that Pacioretty fits perfectly into a plan to continue Aho’s transition to center by adding a veteran proven finisher to the Aho/Teravainen combination. I wrote up in some detail why I think Pacioretty is a good fit on multiple levels in this article on January 18. As a player who is signed only through 2018-19, the potential is there for him to flee the scene after only a single year in a Hurricanes uniform, but if that season helps Aho’s transition to center and nets a playoff berth, Pacioretty’s acquisition will have paid huge dividends.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you either John Tavares or Erik Karlsson as even remotely viable targets?
2) Are there other players that you would target instead who are maybe from the next tier lower but could bring almost as much at a significantly lower cost?
3) Are you annoyed that after going quiet for a solid five weeks, that I am back on the Max Pacioretty beat? 🙂