What is pitched as trade deadline day has actually turned into trade deadline week this season. The Chicago Blackhawks made a flurry of moves on Friday, and on Saturday the Florida Panthers took the controls and made multiple deals. Thus far the Carolina Hurricanes have not joined the activity, but of course Eric Staal’s name continues to be near the top of the speculation list.
After what has transpired over the past couple days, here is what I think it means for the Carolina Hurricanes:
Clues about Francis’ plan
There are of course rumors flying around about Eric Staal with the most commonly noted destination being the Rangers. This makes sense, but I would not put too much stock into rumors around what the Canes are working on or will ultimately do. Fort Knox Francis as he has been dubbed is incredibly good at keeping things quiet. Remember that the Kris Versteeg deal popped out of thin air with exactly no one even remotely mentioned that Chicago and Carolina were even talking. So I am not sure I would put much stock in any of the speculation about what Francis is up to until you see confirmed deals announced.
What does Ron Francis’ lack of activity so far mean?
I think it means absolutely nothing. Those of us who are checking on Twitter or the various trade trackers can sometimes feel like our team is missing the boat if not active, but the deadline is Monday at 3pm. You do not get extra credit for starting or finishing early.
Valuation and market for specific players
Yesterday, St. Louis landed Anders Nilsson, and today San Jose obtained James Reimer. That takes the 2 teams most likely to be shopping for goalies out of the mix and with St. Louis settling for a lesser name, it seems to take 2 teams out of the hunt for goalies while only removing 1 of the top options in Reimer. The big name potentially still in the mix is Dallas. The Stars actually have 2 well-paid, experienced goalies in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, but neither are getting the job done which has defense and goalie the 2 potential areas to upgrade to try to keep pace with the Blackhawks and others in the Western Conference. Cam Ward could be a fit in Dallas. The Stars actually could take as much of his salary as necessary. So that possibility is there. Chad Johnson in Buffalo is the other goalie who could in theory be available, but he comes minus the experience and playoff pedigree of Ward. The biggest question is whether the Stars will add a goalie at all or just hope that 1 of the 2 that they already have can get on track. I pegged the chances of Ward moving at 15 percent yesterday and still think that sounds about right especially with Chad Johnson also out there at a lower salary cap hit for a team just looking for depth.
As far as second/third line forwards go, I would put Jiri Hudler in a similar category with Kris Versteeg. Hudler earned a second round pick and also a fourth round pick out in 2018. Teddy Purcell garnered a third round pick. Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise (together) collected a second round pick and a decent prospect. Radim Vrbata and Scott Hartnell are 2 other top 9 forwards who are expected to be moved. The going market for players like him seems to be a second round pick or mid-tier prospect on the high end and maybe a third round pick on the low end. There is risk in waiting, but Kris Versteeg and his $2.3 million cap hit could be a nice fit in a late bidding war for teams up against the cap on Monday looking to spend whatever salary cap they have left after bigger deals.
Andrew Ladd who went early to the Blackhawks is the closest thing to a comparable for Staal. Winnipeg received a first round pick and a prospect for Ladd. Eric Staal’s ability to limit the options with his no-trade clause could limit Francis’ ability to negotiate, but given the long relationship, I do not think Eric Staal or his agent would sabotage Francis’ ability to get what he can.
I am not sure I would consider free-wheeling, risk/reward Justin Schultz a comparable for Liles, but his trade to Pittsburgh for a third round pick is probably about what Liles would return. If Francis wants to move him, he should have multiple options of teams looking to add veteran blue line help after the strong 2015-16 campaign that Liles has had so far.
What is the most exciting thing I heard today?
Chris Kreider! To be clear, I have no idea if any of the names (and there were a couple others) bandied around for the Rangers are legitimate or even if the Rangers as everyone assumes are in the mix to add Eric Staal. But I have said from the beginning that if Ron Francis does decide to trade Eric Staal the goal should be to add a player who can fill his spot in the roster today plus get futures on top of that. Awhile back, my dream was that the combination of Montreal sinking and simultaneously being unhappy with Alex Galchenyuk would lead to a huge opportunity. Unfortunately, Montreal sunk so far that the team is now a seller too, not a rental buyer. But Chris Kreider would give the Canes and immediate replacement top 9 forward. He also fits Peters’ direction well as a player with a good combination of decent size, above average wheels and enough offensive skill. He is a restricted free agent this summer, so the Canes would need to re-sign him, but he is not free to shop the open market. I would go so far as to say that I would settle for Kreider and a lesser second round pick to get a player and a pick instead of more of a prospect and a pick like the Andrew Ladd deal. Here is hoping that if Francis is talking to the Rangers that he can prey on desperation to win now and collect a first round pick and Kreider which would be an incredibly good deal.
The trade deadline is suddenly less than 48 hours away. Buckle up for what could be a roller coaster ride over the next 2 days.