After a short hiatus, Canes and Coffee returns today with the intent to resume steady coverage on an almost everyday basis. Thanks to those who reached out. Nothing is wrong or bad; just hit a busy patch of life that seemed to keep stretching out.
I have a mental backlog of things I hope to write about in the coming days, but of course the focus of today’s Daily Cup of Joe is Monday’s NHL trade deadline from an eclectic set of angles.
What should the Hurricanes do?
The burning question for a team like the Hurricanes is what should it do. By virtue of battling for the top spot in its division and also the entire NHL, the Hurricanes have risen quickly to become a legitimate Cup contender. For teams in this category, it can make sense even to pay high trade prices for rentals if it can push the team over the top in the playoffs. In Hurricanes context, no doubt the Hurricanes paid a hefty price for Doug Weight and Mark Recchi leading up to the 2006 NHL trade deadline, but after hoisting the Stanley Cup a few months later, no one even cared what the price was.
So on the one hand, the Hurricanes are legitimately in the group of teams that should consider spending a bit of futures to upgrade if it thinks it can address a significant weakness.
But the burning question is if/what the Hurricanes could add to improve a team that is pretty good. At least within the lineup, the team is deep on the blue line, and at least so far things are clicking offensively. Teuvo Teravainen could be considered a trade deadline acquisition when he finally returns to the lineup. So while more good players can always help, I do not think the Hurricanes have any glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed to compete with the best.
So my wishy-washy top level answer is that the Hurricanes do not have to do anything, at least big. I would be perfectly fine if management added a depth player or two (see below), steered clear of the bigger bidding wars and gave its young core which is still growing a chance to take a next step on its own.
But where could at least minor improvements be made?
With Petr Mrazek playing incredibly well (albeit in limited games due to injury) and Alex Nedeljkovic making challenge for more starts, I cannot see why the team would be anxious to roll the dice and take on the risk that comes with that to do something different in goal for the 2021 playoffs. If the team falls short in the playoffs and especially if goaltendig plays a role in that shortcoming, ask me about John Gibson during the off-season. But for now, I think you ride goaltending that is playing very well.
At forward, there were some options good enough to make any team better. I really liked Kyle Palmieri as veteran top 6 scoring depth but was also fine with passing on the high asking price. Taylor Hall theoretically offers scoring upside if he can un-Buffalo his 2020-21 season. But again, I am fine with passing on the chance to spend a first-round draft pick for a rental. The trade deadline upgrade for the Hurricanes is Teuvo Teravainen who is a pretty good addition.
Where I do think the Hurricanes could use help is on the blue line. The top 4 is set, and even the third pairing is fine. But with the uncertainty in terms of level of play and recurring injury for Jake Gardiner, the Hurricanes light on deep depth on defense. If Gardiner was to go back on the shelf, the Hurricanes have very little for help with meaningful NHL experience. The Canes lost Gustav Forsling to waivers. Joakim Ryan has 141 games of NHL experience, so he sort of replaces Forsling. Joey Kean could provide deep depth but has yet to play an NHL game. Roland McKeown could provide depth with some NHL experience, but he is playing in Sweden. For a long playoff run, you can never have enough capable defenseman. Based on that, I could see the Hurricanes adding a depth defenseman for a mid to late round draft pick.
The Haydn Fleury rumblings
Over the weekend, Haydn Fleury’s name was chucked into the trade rumors. I mostly addressed those rumblings on Twitter.
2/3 More likely, @Canes want to get early/quick read on where Gardiner is after layoff from recurring back issues.
That helps decide if they need more D help at the deadline.
Better time to trade Fleury would be at start of off-season after using him for depth for playoffs.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) April 10, 2021
3/3 That said, it is wheeling and dealing time, so if Waddell can sell high to a team that really likes Fleury, he would be in play.
With Canes blue line depth, he slots only as a serviceable 3rd pairing defenseman which can be replaced.
Guess we will see on Monday.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) April 10, 2021
Betting against Pierre LeBrun is a dicey proposition, but I will be gutsy and say that I think he is misreading the situation.
He seems to be implying that the Hurricanes scratching Fleury in place of Gardiner suggests that Fleury could be available. Sure, that is possible, but I think more likely the team is trying to quickly get some kind of read on Gardiner’s viability as part of deciding if/how aggressively they pursue blue line depth on Monday. Trading Fleury if not defenseman is added would leave the Hurricanes six deep on defense counting a player who just returned from a recurring back injury with Joakim Ryan as the only real depth behind that. That hardly seems like a move the team would make by itself.
So here is the scenario where maybe it makes sense…
1) If there is a team out there that values Fleury as a rising you player who can play in the top 4 and is willing to pay a bunch for that, maybe the Canes sell high. On a deep Canes blue line, Fleury is really no more than a capable #5/#6 defenseman who could be replaced.
2) So if the price is high for Fleury, I could see trading him to collect that return and then adding a cheaper rental defenseman or two to backfill the slot. The basic idea is to end up not much worse off defensively and collect a good return for Fleury in the process.
But more so, I think it makes sense to keep Fleury for the playoffs and possibly considering trading him during the off-season.
Playing 4D chess
Tampa Bay has added rental help. Florida has added rental help. Toronto has added rental help. Boston has added rental help. And the New York Islanders have added rental help. The prices paid in draft pick futures have been pretty high in a number of these deals. As such, those deals are all the kind that pan out or do not based solely on the 2021 NHL Playoffs. But consider the Hurricanes 2020 NHL trade deadline. Rather than adding rentals, the Hurricanes instead moved twice in a big way to add players with term adding Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei. Both players had multiple years remaining on their contract. Sure they helped the 2020 playoff chances, but had an end game much longer than that.
Classic Tulsky/Waddell 4D chess on Monday would be skipping the high prices for rentals and instead spending maybe even a bit less to add a player with contract term. With Svechnikov’s next contract looming and Hamilton also up for a new contract, the team cannot afford to add significant salary cap, but is there a moderately priced higher-end depth defenseman or middle six forward available with a favorable contract with term? That is the kind of addition that would be right up the Hurricanes’ ally.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you expect from the Hurricanes on Monday? What do you want from the Hurricanes on Monday?
2) Are you okay with standing pat other than maybe inexpensive depth and just seeing if the young core can take another step forward?
3) If Canes deals do happen on Monday, also feel free to share your thoughts on those moves here.