On Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had traded Marcus Kruger and a third-round draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Jordan Martinook and a fourth-round pick. I offered my thoughts on that trade HERE.
With the move, both Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger who were added only 10 months ago to solidify the fourth line are both gone.
Jordan Martinook adds another young veteran player to compete for a depth forward slot along with Joakim Nordstrom and Phil Di Giuseppe if both are re-signed. But more so than a new round of veteran checking line forwards filling out the bottom of the lineup, the move could pave the way for a transition to stocking the fourth line with young players who are scoring-capable and in the process working toward a more balanced lineup. In a new NHL where teams no longer carry skating-lite enforcers, good teams with depth are moving quickly in this direction. Last season, when a Columbus fourth line with Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner started scoring, Coach John Tortorella opted to leave the line intact and create lineup balance and match up challenges for opponents. The move flew in the face of old school NHL tactics that saw producing fourth-liners quickly promoted to a higher line. A key strength of the Vegas Knights is their depth and the fact that their fourth line is pretty close to on par with the team’s higher lines. And one can bet that the trend will continue.
The Hurricanes may not be quite where they need to be in terms of forward depth for the 2018-19 season, but at the same time, the team has a number of younger players who played well in the AHL in 2017-18 and deserve a chance to show if they can carry their success to the NHL level. Coupled with the potential for the team to wing it a bit with two young centers in 2018-19 (subject of Thursday’s Daily Cup of Joe) and the stage could be set for a fourth line that features young upstart forwards with the potential to score. If you consider the possibility of Necas and Aho at center, that means that Rask could get pushed to the fourth line and/or alternate with Necas a bit depending on situation. As a decent two-way center, Rask is a decent fit for young forwards who can attack offensively but maybe need a little support defensively.
So while veterans like Martinook, Nordstrom and Di Giuseppe will definitely be considered in training camp, I think the door is officially open for players like Warren Foegele, Aleksi Saarela, Valentin Zykov and others to play well and stake claim to fourth line roster slots that in the old NHL would have been reserved for safer, sounder veteran depth forwards. With exactly that variety of player not working in 2017-18, the team should be open to young players who might be marginally riskier but also have significantly greater upside offensively.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are you ready for a youth movement on the fourth line that prioritizes young legs and upside over NHL experience?
2) Of the veteran holdovers (assuming those not under contract are re-signed) in Joakim Nordstrom, Phil Di Giuseppe, Derek Ryan and Jordan Martinook, which have the best chance to still be holding a spot in the lineup come October?
3) Which of the young guns from the AHL do you believe will start the 2018-19 season on the Hurricanes roster?