On January 2, 2017, I started into a short series of articles identifying trade targets heading into last winter. Part 2 assessed options and named Matt Duchene as a top target. That deal obviously did not come through, but boy did the debate about a trade for Duchene have legs once everyone else started writing trade deadline articles in the weeks that followed and the extending all the way into the offseason. With Matt Duchene now in Ottawa and struggling thus far to adjust (6 points in 23 games), Francis so far won by losing that deal.
Following last year’s theme, today’s Daily Cup of Joe cuts straight to the chase and takes a look at the handful of teams in the Eastern Conference who are currently below .500 and therefore likely to be considering trades either now to shake things up or in late February as trade deadline sellers and compiles a short list of seven players who could be of interest to the Hurricanes. My hope is to write a similar article for potential Western Conference sellers in the next few days.
Especially with Lee Stempniak nearing his return and adding forward depth for the Hurricanes, there is no guarantee that the Hurricanes will do anything, but with it nearing that time of year, it is at least worth exploring possibilities.
Shortly into the 2017-18 season, rumblings of the possible availability of Evander Kane, who is in a contract year, surfaced. With the Sabres struggling, he figures to be one of the top rental trades at the 2017 NHL trade deadline.
Kane brings some off ice baggage with his incredibly strong play as a power forward. He is currently on pace for more than 70 points this season, and he brings the power forward and crease crashing skill set that the Hurricanes are light on. The issue with Kane is not whether he can make the 2017-18 Hurricanes better but more so questions about how much he costs and if that is too high especially if he is acquired as a rental and not a long-term addition to be re-signed.
Detroit Red Wings
In searching the Red Wings roster for potential help for the Hurricanes, I do not find much in the way of potential help (importantly) with a reasonably favorable contract. Too many of the Red Wings players are signed long-term for more than I would pay for them if they were free agents. That said, there are a couple possibilities.
Nyquist is a flexible forward who can play any of the three forward positions. He brings a decent amount of the creativity and playmaking that I have long coveted in a center, but Nyquist has yet to convert it to more than higher-end depth scoring somewhat similar to what the Hurricanes already have. Further, Nyquist would add yet another undersized skill player to the mix. Somewhat like Brassard, Nyquist could potentially fill a playmaking center void for a couple years until Aho is ready to move over or Necas emerges to claim that slot. Nyquist is signed through the 2018-19 season and will earn $5.5 million that season.
All indications are that Henrik Zetterberg is content to finish his NHL career in a Red Wings uniform, so his mention is most likely a moot point. But if he has a change of heart and per my article during the offseason, I continue to think he could make a ton of sense for the Hurricanes because of his skill set obviously but also his unique contract situation. At 37 years old, Zetterberg’s scoring pace has slowed a bit, but based on his 68 points in 2016-17, I am inclined to attribute that more to Detroit’s struggles than Zetterberg’s decline. His $6.1 million salary cap hit for three more years after 2017-18 looks daunting until one looks in more detail. He makes $7 million for 2017-18, but then his salary is a reasonable $3.35 million for 2018-19 and then only $1 million annually for the last two years. So I think of his acquisition as committing to a sizable partial year cost for 2017-18, $3.35 million for 2018-19 and then two years of either having him for a fourth line price or maybe more likely him retiring (either would be fine). Like Brassard and Nyquist, I view Zetterberg as being an interesting option to add a veteran center to the mix short-term to buy time for the slot to be filled internally in a couple years.
The Canadiens have proven to be wheelers and dealers even in good times, so if I was Ron Francis, I would make sure I am making regular calls into the Bell Center to assure a place near the front of the line if/when the next round of deals happens.
One of the holdovers from last summer’s trade rumors is Alex Galchenyuk. Just like every other year, he has been up and down the lineup and in and out of the dog house. His 21 points in 39 games are not great, but they are not horrible either on a Canadiens team that is struggling. Galchenyuk has an impressive skill set with size and both playmaking and finishing ability, but the issue for him has always been consistency. He is an NHL veteran in his sixth season but is still only 23 years old. The burning question with Galchenyuk is whether he is a player on the brink of putting it all together or whether he is destined to just continue being a talented but inconsistent player. Reports of substance abuse issues in Galchenyuk’s past add yet another question mark to the equation. Galchenyuk would be a high risk/high reward addition who clearly has top line potential but might never reach it.
If the babies start being tossed with the bath water in Montreal, Max Pacioretty is a really intriguing possibility. Nick Kypreos from Hockey Night in Canada recently reported that Pacioretty is being shopped. He is not the top priority playmaking center, but I view Pacioretty as being another Justin Williams type of addition. He is just a really good all-around hockey player with size, leadership skills and scoring capability to boot. The 29-year old left wing has been a model of consistency in recent years posting at least 60 points in each of the past six seasons (prorated for the lockout year). Pacioretty is 29 years old and signed through the 2018-19 season for $5 million per year. Though age and remaining contract term are maybe not ideal, they are not horrible either which makes Pacioretty the type of player that might be a good fit at least short-term if Francis decides to aggressively push for entry into the playoffs and is willing to spend to do so.
No. I am not going to suggest that the Hurricanes should pursue Matt Duchene. At some bargain price, I would actually consider him, but it seems highly unlikely that Ottawa would take a huge loss on that deal after only a couple months.
Left wing Hoffman is a speedy sniper with a nose for and willingness to go to the front of the net despite being a bit undersized at 6-1 but only 180 pounds. He has established himself as a goal scorer at the NHL level with 27, 29 and 26 goals over the last three seasons. His pace is slightly slower this year, but it seems to be driven by a drop in shooting percentage. Hoffman is a bit pricey at $5.65 million per year for 2017-18 and also the next two years. Hoffman could be a decent option for more goal scoring from the wing, but I am sticking to my guns as preferring to spend any significant chunks of salary budget on adding a difference-maker at the center position, but if Sebastian Aho becomes that perhaps someone like Hoffman could thrive on his wing.
After a drop off adjusting from his move from the Rangers to the Senators in 2016-17, Brassard is actually having a decent 2017-18 campaign despite the Senators’ struggles. He is currently on pace for just over 50 points on a team that is struggling offensively. He was up near 60 points in his last two seasons with the Rangers and fits the bill reasonably well as a playmaking centerman. He brings more size, but the question is if and how much of an upgrade he really is over Derek Ryan who has been reasonably productive in 2017-18 for the Hurricanes. Brassard’s contract is reasonably favorable. Though his cap hit is higher, his salary for the 2017-18 is only $2 million (the rest was a signing bonus that was already paid), and his salary for 2018-19 is only $3.5 million. Could the two-year term for the 30-year old veteran be perfect to allow a little more time either for Sebastian Aho to move to center or Martin Necas to prepare for this role?
My 2 cents
Though I do see the upside in each, I am not particularly high on Mike Hoffman or Gustav Nyquist. I think any of the other five players at least have the potential to provide a significant boost to the current Carolina Hurricanes roster. My gut tells me that Evander Kane will prove to be too pricey and that Henrik Zetterberg will never become available. That puts Montreal front and center if they get crazy and either Alex Galchenyuk or Max Pacioretty become available without costing too much. Derick Brassard could be a decent stopgap at center to buy time at the center position in the form of a veteran with decent size and playmaking ability.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Do any of the players above interest you, or are you content to ride through the winter and into spring with the current roster barring injuries that force Francis’ hand?
2) From the Eastern Conference teams currently struggling, are there any other players who are of interest to you?