With the Canes in Toronto with Eric Staal and others still in tow a mere 4 days before the trade deadline, the volume of speculation, ideas and microphones in front of Eric Staal’s spot in the locker room were scheduled to be many. We did actually get some small news bits out of it all in the afternoon:
* Brad Malone was waived. Best guess is that this is simply a flexibility move for in case GM Ron Francis does something. With Malone, the Canes roster sat at 23 players which would create at a minimum timing challenges with doing a deal that adds an extra NHL player above the number traded. With the injuries to McClement and Nestrasil on Thursday, Malone could be back before he ever really leaves.
* Eric Staal took a maintenance day in fighting the flu or whatever that has been making its way through the Canes locker room over the past week. Good for him just dodging the media circus whether or not it was truly health maintenance versus media avoidance maintenance.
* And we also learned by mid-day that Justin Faulk would miss another game with his ailing lower body injury now more officially pinpointed as an ankle injury.
With the minor stuff Thursday afternoon and a loss that pushed the Canes even farther from the pack in the Eastern Conference, the burning question is what Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will do at the trade deadline.
At this point, even if the Canes lose twice this weekend, the team would still come out the other side of the trade deadline still in the mix in the Eastern Conference. As such, any deals that trade roster players for futures obviously hurts those chances. In addition, with Faulk’s injury lingering, Canes GM Ron Francis is in a really hard spot. It is hard to quit on a season that still has hope. It is also hard to pass up the opportunity to add more futures, possibly even in the form of young players, that are so desperately needed to build out the forward ranks and also add future depth at the position. Finally, it is also very hard to find any middle ground between the 2.
If I had to guess right now, I think it will go down like this:
1) Eric Staal. I do not think he will play out the season in Raleigh and then become an unrestricted free agent. I think Francis either re-signs him or trades him hard though it may be. Staal’s no-trade clause obviously has something to say about this, but I cannot imagine him getting in the way of a trade to a playoff team. I also think that the Jets’ ability to get a good young player and a first round pick for Andrew Ladd is encouraging.
2) Kris Versteeg. I think his situation could depend more on the 2 games this weekend and also what happens with Eric Staal. If Staal stays, I think that might make it easier to part with Versteeg to at least collect some futures especially if the return is decent.
3) John-Michael Liles. I think he stays. My guess is that the return for him is modest and also that his relatively high $3.8 million salary cap hit makes him harder to move. And with Justin Faulk’s situation, I think this is the 1 asset that Francis might completely just take off the table unless the Canes lose twice this weekend and it prompts an all-out yard sale.
4) Cam Ward. I have long thought that he would finish the season in Raleigh simply because his cap hit is too prohibitive to fit with any team that just needs a backup/plan B. Only in the case where a Cup contender lost a starter, did not have an adequate backup and wanted an experienced replacement could he be moved. I just do not see that situation right now, so I think he finishes the season with the Canes.
With that, I should have just set the wheels in motion for everything to turn out exactly the opposite. 🙂
Hunker down, Canes fans. It could be a tough weekend and Monday morning, but the future continues to look incredibly bright.