First, if you are looking for a draft preview and missed it earlier this week, please check out:
I am going to defer to the experts on who the Canes will get but offer a few quick comments:
1) I continue to rate speed and skill above size, and the Canes are still deficient in terms of prospect depth at forward. Personally, I would not get too bogged down with position for 18-year olds but rather would enter the draft with a bias (but not an absolute one) for taking forwards over defensemen and especially with the first-round picks with a goal of drafting players with the greatest scoring/offense generation potential.
2) Because I think Francis and his scouting team will enter the draft with the same forward bias, I think the most interesting thing that could come out of the first round (barring a blockbuster trade) would be the Canes selecting a defenseman. I think the probability is low, but there is a possibility. Because some of the defensemen originally projected much higher are falling, the variations on ranking them and the volume of them now projected to fall in the 10s, there is a chance that a player that the Canes rate as the second or third best defensemen and as high as #7-9 overall could actually slip to #21 if other teams’ ratings are different. That makes for an interesting possibility.
Shorter version: Odds are that the Canes will select forwards at #13 and #21, but if Francis does select a defenseman, it would be a strong indication that they really really really like that player.
3) The more textbook draft sees the Canes using first and second round picks not traded on forwards, but after that I really like the idea of getting a defensemen or maybe even a couple depending on rankings later. Right now, the Canes have 4 picks between the third and fourth rounds.
All of Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Trevor Carrick are recent third/fourth round blue line picks who are tracking incredibly well. Was it random good fortune? Or does the Canes scouting staff have a knack for finding middle tier defensemen with upside above their draft ranking? It is impossible to say for sure, but I would definitely willing to bet 2 of the team’s 4 third/fourth round picks hoping for that the Canes scouting staff has a knack for finding good value on defense in the middle rounds.
With that, I will use the rest of this post to address some other random thoughts that have not yet made it into other posts:
Ryan Murphy: I am not at all in the camp of ‘just dump him for whatever’ with Murpy. He has not made the rapid ascent into the lineup and has been passed in the pecking order by younger players in the process. I think that creates an overly negative view of where he is and what his upside is. I still see Murphy as a good third pairing defenseman who brings the skating/speed/scoring that you want to have in your lineup. In such a role, he plays fewer minutes if you are winning and the top 4 is clicking, but he is a good weapon to have for third periods when you are down a goal or 2 and want to aggressively push pace and even take some chances late. ‘
I still think he is the most likely roster player to be dealt this summer because the Canes are heavy on defensemen and light on forwards, but I would NOT just trade him to move on.
Brett Pesce: I am also on record as thinking that Brett Pesce is the other player who could come into play if the Canes try to add a proven top 6 forward via trade. I would much prefer parting with a larger package of picks and prospects, but it is not easy to add top half of the roster players (especially if young) for just futures. There is a part of me that hopes for trades (i.e. Nugent-Hopkins), but at the same time anxiously looks at details hoping Pesce is not a casualty, but also another part of me that would begrudgingly accept it for the right player in return.
Trading up maybe not the one we expect: Every year, the single draft thing that has the greatest speculation but also the seemingly lowest probability of coming to fruition is a team trading up into the elite tier. The price is almost always too much to justify it. That said, I think what might be more interesting for the Canes is moving up 3-5 slots from #21 to land not 1 but 2 forwards from that middle tier of forwards. I am not a draft expert, but my sense is that there is a drop off right around where the Canes #21 selection is. Francis has both 2016 and 2017 extra picks that could be used to get 2 preferred forwards instead of taking whatever falls to #21.
Strange expansion draft impacts – Chapter 43: I continue to find the impending expansion draft as the most interesting science experiment going during the slow NHL summer. I had an interesting conversation on Twitter today and followed up with a post with more detail on my thoughts on why it could make sense for the Canes to add a veteran depth defenseman on the cheap partially as an expansion draft shield for our core of young defensemen. This is something that could wait until the trade deadline (or technically even after the season) and would not really come into play until free agency opens on July 1, but nonetheless it is interesting to consider.
Naming names on trade possibilities:
–Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: I actually think a deal for him is more likely after the draft but before free agency starts (read after Edmonton has time to unsuccessfully shop him for a top 4 D and simultaneously come to terms with Milan Lucic to add a different element at forward), but because I continue to think his playmaking skill set which is in short supply this summer is the single biggest need for the Canes offense, I am putting him here early.
–Brian Elliott/Jake Allen or Marc-Andre Fleury: First, both teams expressed a willingness to enter the 2016-17 season with 2 goalies still on the roster which I note but do not consider to be anything close to a sure thing. Also, I do not think Francis will be ‘replace Lack or bust this summer. But I do think he will explore the possibility of upgrading Eddie Lack’s slot in net. Pittsburgh makes the most sense personnel-wise, but I think is actually much less likely because Rutherford would rather ship Fleury out of division and far away (read Calgary) than to an in-division rival. The Pens could also take Lack’s contract and use him as an experienced backup behind solid but very inexperienced Matt Murray. The St. Louis situation is similar in that they have 1 too many goalies to keep them in next summer’s expansion draft and should therefore at least explore collecting a return for 1 of them now. Like the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins situation, I think Francis will play this very patiently and posture for an extended time if necessary that he is perfectly content entering the 2016-17 season with Lack and Ward as his netminders. I would peg August after most of the movement stops as the most likely time to see a deal like this.
Important to note is that this deal is more complicated now because Francis cannot afford to pay 3 goalies so any deal must either include Lack or be coupled with a separate deal that sees him depart (kind of like how he was swapped for Khudobin in 2 separate deals last summer).
It seems reasonable to think that Francis likes what he has, so perhaps anything this direction is just wishful thinking on my part.
The potentially falling price of James Reimer: If Calgary lands Marc-Andre Fleury as rumored, what does the price of James Reimer fall to? At that point, there is Dallas who might try to wedge a third goalie into their budget (or buy 1 out and replace him) and then mostly a bunch of teams who might be willing to spend a bit extra to add a higher-end backup. But the key word there is backup, and it is also important to note that many of those teams are cap-constrained.
Toronto is set with Andersen. Carolina is theoretically set with Ward. Calgary would be off the board with Fleury. Could Reimer suddenly be looking at deals only in the $2-2.5 million range for 2-3 years? I think it is possible and an interesting thing to watch. My assessment before and after Ward signed was that the game of musical chairs would eventually shift in buyers’ favor as there were fewer shoppers than goalies potentially available because of the impending expansion draft.