Canes trade Haydn Fleury for Jani Hakanpaa and a 6th-round draft pick
Just when it seemed like it might be a really quiet 2021 NHL trade deadline for the Carolina Hurricanes, the team made a late deal to send Haydn Fleury to the Anaheim Ducks for a defenseman Jani Hakanpaa and a first-round pick.
In essence, the Hurricanes swapped a third pairing defenseman for another that the organization/scouts thought was a better fit.
Hakanpaa adds a right shot defenseman with a stay-home skill set that meshes well with Jake Gardiner or Jake Bean who can both be a bit of a free-wheeling offensive zone rover at times. Hakanpaa plays with a stay-home mindset that should have him regularly defending behind whatever Gardiner or Bean are up to. Hakanpaa also brings a physical element that could also be part of Fleury’s game but tended to be sporadic.
At 29 years old, Hakanpaa maybe has less potential upside which is undoubtedly what Anaheim wanted in the deal. But at 24 years old, Fleury could also be reaching the point where he just is what he is as a serviceable third pairing defenseman. In that regard, I think the deal is a good one for Fleury who should now get a chance to push for a higher ceiling with less of a logjam in front of him o the blue line.
With Fleury’s contract for $1.3 million the 2021-22 season coming off the books, some might suggest that this helps with the salary cap for 2021-22, but I do not really see that as the case. The Canes will still need to replace him be it by re-signing Hakanpaa or replacing him. Hypothetically, the team could save $200,000 – $300,000 if they replace Fleury with a rookie or veteran on a minimum type contract. But in general, having a proven NHL defenseman under contract for only $1.3 million is a positive not a negative in terms of making the salary cap math work. So I do not see this as a financial move but rather a hockey trade aimed at improving the current roster.
I think the biggest risk is acclimation of a new player versus one that is a known commodity. For whatever issues Fleury has in terms of occasional ‘oopses’ coverage-wise, he has grown as a player, and he played his best hockey in the playoffs last summer. That playoff play is exactly the priority for a Hurricanes team that finally figures to skip the need to make a late run just to get in. So if Hakanpaa does not hit the ground running and with Gardiner and Bean similar players, the Hurricanes could have issues in the bottom pairing. But again, we are talking about a bottom of the depth chart move that should not be what decides the team’s playoff fate.
Finally, I hope Haydn Fleury capitalizes on his opportunity and makes the Hurricanes regret this move down the road. His path to the NHL was not as speedy as some top 10 draft picks, but Fleury has worked hard and improved consistently to get to where he is. With a decent amount of NHL experience under his belt, he should be primed to push to his peak, and in Anaheim he should be given every opportunity to do just that.
The rest of the 2021 NHL trade deadline
Past the Fleury trade, I am torn on the Canes inaction at the trade deadline.
On the one hand, I am mostly in the camp that prefers not to spend a ton of futures for short-term rentals who increase chances still offer no guarantees for playoff success. On the other hand, I do think there are times when teams need to seize an opportunity and strike while the iron is hot. For every team whose Cup window seems to open for multiple years, there are at least as many teams for whom things change quickly and the chance is here and gone quickly. In 2006, the Hurricanes went for it paying significantly to add two veterans who contributed in winning the Stanley Cup.
My wish list would have included adding one more proven veteran forward who could score. Top of my list was Kyle Palmieri who has less upside than Taylor Hall, but is also a better two-way player. Palmieri is one of a few players who garnered a first-round pick in return, so again, I am torn on whether that price is worth it for a rental. With Jake Gardiner just coming off a new bout with a recurring back injury and the team light on deep depth, I would also have considered adding one more experienced depth defenseman on the cheap to be a #8 or #9 defenseman for a deep playoff run.
But at a basic level, I am okay with going with the current team. Assuming he returns and gets up to speed, Teuvo Teravainen will be a great addition who boosts the offense and the defense at the same time. And the greatest upside for the team in the playoffs continues to be a young roster taking another step. So in total, I am fine with mostly standing pat.
That said, the flipside is that a number teams who figure to be in the Hurricanes playoff path did make moves to improve.
In division, the Tampa Bay Lightning who should also get Nikita Kucherov back for the playoffs added David Savard to add depth on the back end.
The Boston Bruins who have ended the Canes playoff runs in consecutive seasons won the Taylor Hall sweepstakes.
The Toronto Maple Leafs also spent futures to add players like they believed they could win it all.
If/when the Hurricanes face these teams, might the Hurricanes wish they added a bit more fire power?
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on trading Haydn Fleury for Jani Hakanpaa?
2) How do you feel about the Hurricanes mostly standing pat while some of the teams the Canes could face in the playoffs acted more aggressively to improve at the trade deadline?