Timing might seem odd after a tough 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, but I am worn out after a long day and have this half-written. Also, as irritating as Tuesday’s loss was, I really think the impact on the playoff chase was minimal. This was going to be a tough game no matter what. For me the only effect is that a win Saturday becomes that much more important.
With the trade deadline on February 28, there is still plenty of time for February results to impact what the Hurricanes do, but here are my early thoughts on the probability of 3 types of trades come late February if the Hurricanes are still IN the playoff chase:
In NHL trade deadline parlance, “rental” is the term used for players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the current season. The idea is the player is being rented short-term for the remainder of the current season with a high probability that the player will sign somewhere else come summer. Teams who are out of the playoff chase have good reason to trade these players who will likely be gone in the summer anyway sometimes to save a few $ and also to collect some return for them. The general idea for these trades is that a team out of the hunt trades a rental player for a draft pick or other futures.
Thus far in his tenure as general manager of the Hurricanes, Francis’ mantra has been to build for the future and add not spend draft picks and other futures. The only time he has used futures as currency is to add other young players and more or less expedite the rebuilding process.
I would be utterly shocked to see any significant deviation from this general approach. Under no circumstances will Francis enter bidding wars for top-tier rentals like Jarome Iginla, Kevin Shattenkirk and others who will cost a second or even first round pick or maybe a package of multiple futures. It just is not happening. Francis will stick to the plan.
That said, if the Hurricanes close out February by ideally winning Saturday and then winning 4 or 5 games out of 5 straight at home leading up to the trade deadline, I actually do think it is possible that Francis spends modestly if he can make a significant upgrade. I think the basic idea would be to spend a lower pick (fourth through seventh round) to add 1 piece that can make a difference, but only if 1 is available for that price.
I think the targets would be a top 9 forward capable of bringing more depth scoring or possibly making a short-term investment in another goalie. But again, I think it would come down to getting a bargain spending only a fourth round pick or maybe a third round pick as a stretch and getting a player who could make a difference not the usual depth forward that these mid-round picks usually garner.
Probability of Francis adding a rental player via trade if the Hurricanes are in the playoff chase: 25%. Because Francis will probably be willing to pay only a discount to fair value, he is relatively unlikely to find a deal to his liking.
A prospect swap type trade
The volume of general manager conversations this time of year can also be conducive to other house cleaning type of trades mostly unrelated to the playoff chase. The biggest I can remember for the Hurricanes was the trade that sent Andrew Ladd to the Blackhawks for Tuomo Ruutu in a swap of promising young players whose development had stalled. On the docket for February of 2017 is Ryan Murphy. He has had a few tries now to seize an NHL roster spot in the bottom pairing but has yet to stick as he was passed by 1 wave of younger prospects (Hanifin, Slavin, Pesce) and seems destined to be soon passed by the next (Fleury, McKeown).
The best thing for Ryan Murphy at this point in his young career is probably a restart in a new situation with a new team. The best thing for the Hurricanes would be to trade Murphy for a similar pedigree player who is similarly struggling to reach his potential with the hope that the trade jump starts the player that the Canes receive.
Probability of Francis trading Ryan Murphy at the trade deadline: 30%. With Murphy signed through 2017-18, there is no rush. Odds are probably slightly higher that this kind of deal happens at the draft in June.
A significant trade to bolster the long-term
While Francis thus far has been unwilling to trade futures for short-term fixes, he did show a willingness to spend futures to add a young player with a long-term future in a Hurricanes uniform when he included a second and a third round pick in a deal for Teuvo Teravainen last summer.
That kind of deal is much more likely to happen during the summer, but I still think Francis explores whatever options might be available in this regard. Tops on the shopping list would be adding another young, top 6 forward with high-end scoring ability.
I went on a 3-day rant about the possibility of adding Colorado’s Matt Duchene back in early January. The mini-series culminated with a willingness to spend pretty heavily to add Duchene whom I consider to be in the tier below the elite players offensively.
Probability of Francis doing a deal to make a significant roster upgrade for the long-term at the trade deadline: 10%. I think the probability of a deal like this happening increases in the summer when there is more wheeling and dealing. The hope is that Avs general manager Joe Sakic goes knee-jerk and does something just to just do something instead of waiting until summer when he would have more bidders.
In short, if the Hurricanes are in the playoff hunt pushing up to the trade deadline, I think the probability of Francis doing a deal is still fairly small and also that the most likely deal would be to part ways with Ryan Murphy in a deal that does not significantly impact the playoff chances/roster anyway. That said, I do think there is some small chance of a surprise of the rental variety on the cheap or maybe even a bigger long-term deal.
What do you say Canes fans?
Do think I am nuts to think that Francis might spend even a late-round pick on a rental to bolster playoff hopes?
Do you agree that Ryan Murphy’s days in a Hurricanes’ uniform are likely numbered either up to the trade deadline or otherwise the NHL draft weekend this summer?
Is there any chance at all that Francis shocks everyone and pulls off a bigger deal with long-term lineup implications?
Sometime in the days ahead, I will write up the flip side of trade deadline in which the Hurricanes fall out of the playoff chase.