Nearing the second half of the slowest month of the hockey season, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a random collections of Hurricanes musings.
Is Edmonton now primed for a Justin Faulk trade?
Today it was announced that former Hurricane Andrej Sekera would be out indefinitely with a torn Achilles tendon suffered during offseason training. Many thought that the Oilers could be in need of a defenseman like Faulk even prior, so Tuesday’s news could increase Edmonton’s incentive to do a deal for blue line help. Sekera is a left shot and Faulk a right shot, so Faulk would not directly fill that slot. But at a broader level, Edmonton needs defensive help, and even with Sekera out, the team is still shallower on the right side where CapFriendly shows only Adam Larsson and Matthew Benning as right shots currently on the roster.
The name that goes back multiple years is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I would do that deal in a heartbeat. Nugent-Hopkins has three years remaining on his current deal at a reasonable $6 million per year. Recently in Edmonton, he had assumed a role a bit like Staal’s centering a line that took as many of the tough match ups as possible while McDavid’s line drove the offense. Nugent-Hopkins could also shift to left wing possibly on Staal’s line if Sebastian Aho’s transition to center continues and Martin Necas proves ready for the NHL.
Free agent options for blue line depth
If Faulk stays, the Hurricanes are seven deep and at or near the top of the NHL in terms of salary committed to the blue line. In such a scenario, there would be no need to add on defense especially with Roland McKeown and Trevor Carrick in waiting at the AHL level. But if Faulk departs, I have to wonder if the team could add one more veteran NHLer to the mix.
One way to do so would be to work the late September/early October waiver wire like they did when they added Jakub Nakladal just before the start of the 2016-17 season. But another possibility is to spend a modest amount more and add a more proven player, albeit late in his career. A couple names on the free agent list stand out. Tobias Enstrom is likely not a top 4 anymore at 33 years old, but might he be serviceable depth if he can be signed for an appropriate salary? Alexei Emelin brings a different skill set in the form of an older player still available as a free agent. He served a lesser role, but was still a regular on a very deep Nashville blue line. In the form of a depth player, he could bring some physicality and nastiness in addition to still being a capable penalty killer. Luca Sbisa is another veteran still available via free agency. The 28-year old does not bring a ton offensively, but he could be a serviceable third pairing defenseman. To be clear, none of these players are the type that are intended to bump someone else out of the lineup but rather bring experienced depth.
Why not go with an internal option like Roland McKeown or Trevor Carrick?
The Hurricanes do have a couple internal options that could be viable.
I like Roland McKeown as ready depth in the event of an injury. He has only 10 games of NHL experience, all during the 2017-18 season, but has never looked to be in over his head. Thus far, he has always risen to the occasion when given the chance to play in a Hurricanes uniform. His starting point was winning the training camp try out for the last NHL roster spot before the 2016-17 season only to have the team think better of it, replace him with a waiver claim and send him to play a bunch of minutes in the AHL as par tof his development. My issue with McKeown is not whether I think he can handle it but rather that at his stage of development, I think he is better served playing 20 minutes per night at the AHL level instead of sitting in the press box as a #7 at the NHL level.
Trevor Carrick is the other likely option from within. He has been sitting at or near the top of the Charlotte Checkers blue line depth chart for a few years now, but for whatever reason the team has not given him much of an NHL audition. He has logged only three games at the NHL level including one during the 2017-18 season. My read on him from yearly preseason check ins is that he is likely a fringe AHL/NHL player who might/might not prove serviceable in a regular NHL player. At the same time, I continue to hope that he at least gets his chance. If Faulk departs and the team does not go the free agency or waivers route, Carrick has a good chance to start as the #7. Unlike McKeown, he has little to gain from more AHL experience having already logged 274 games at the AHL level. As such, he could make more sense than McKeown for a #7 role that waits in the wings for ice time.
What say you Canes fans?
1) As we push farther into August, do you think the probability is rising that Faulk starts the 2018-19 season with the Hurricanes?
2) If Faulk does depart, would you consider adding a veteran free agent for blue line depth if the price is reasonable?
3) Or if not, who do you like between Roland McKeown, Trevor Carrick and other Charlotte Checkers options for blue line depth?