Right now, I think the Carolina Hurricanes have 8 reasonably sure things at forward for the 2016-17 season in Jordan Staal, Andrej Nestrasil, Joakim Nordstrom, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, Phil Di Giuseppe and Jay McClement. Though I am on record as hating the idea of anointing Sebastian Aho as a 2016-17 NHLer before he earns it, he is trending in the right direction. Even with Aho, that only makes 9 forwards which leaves 3-4 slots to be filled. When I slotted the roster for 2016-17 in this Hurricanes blog, I view these slots as more trying to build a first or second line and not just adding depth forwards for the bottom of the lineup.
I think idea of adding goal scoring wing(s) and expecting a bunch of goals is flawed
I recently read a couple articles that had the usual laundry list of decent free agent forwards who could theoretically help the Canes. Both articles seemed to just lump offensively-capable forwards into a single category without much regard for who helped how. I think the idea of adding finishers without support is flawed. Putting a 30ish-goal finishing wing on a new line without playmaking help seems like a recipe for another underperforming potential finisher – reference Eric Staal, Elias Lindholm and even to some degree Jeff Skinner (especially for 2014-15). In general, goal scorers need help, and right now the Canes lineup is light on pure playmaking. Jordan Staal is a good NHL center and had a great 2015-16 season, but he is not from the playmaking mold. Victor Rask took another positive step forward and is offensively-capable, but he is not a true playmaking center either. And if Francis spends the budget he does have adding scoring wing(s) and the other center slot is filled by a depth player, I fear that a goal-scoring wing would be set up to underperform expectations and leave the offense short again.
Most bang for the buck comes from adding a player who can contribute but equally importantly boost others
For me, it is not simply about adding decent forwards of any variety as if they are all the same, especially since Ron Francis’ budget will only hold 1-2 higher-cost players. Instead it is about thinking about how to get the most bang for the buck from the top player added. My starting point for injecting offense into the current Canes roster is to add a playmaker, ideally a center, who can be an offensive catalyst for an entire line. I think there is more goal scoring to be had from some of the Canes current forwards like Lindholm and Skinner if they can find chemistry and more grade A scoring chances. As such, I think that a playmaking center who can also pot some goals has the ability to have a multiplier effect on the offense. Such a player would add goal scoring but equally significantly could boost goal scoring for 2 other players and also the power play.
So when I look to add players at forward, I first aim for a playmaker who can be a catalyst for a scoring line, and then I add the finishers only after that and with whatever trade assets and salary budget is left.
Think Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Frans Nielsen before Milan Lucic, Mikkel Boedker, David Perron and other players whose production would be limited without playmaking help.
This week has been busy, but my hope (maybe this weekend) is to push past options and types of players the Canes need to naming names and trades over the next week or 2.