After holding out to the wire, the Carolina Hurricanes made a blockbuster trade near the end of the two-day 2018 NHL Draft event. In parting ways with two young, high ceiling players in Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm and adding a bona fide top 4 defenseman in Dougie Hamilton plus a good middle 6 type forward in Micheal Ferland with a blue line prospect to boot, the new leadership of the Carolina Hurricanes made its first foray into high stakes dealing. In so doing, the management group by committee is now one up on Ron Francis in terms of making such deals.
So the burning question is what’s next?
Sticking to the original needs/plan
2) Adding a steady top 4 defenseman to solidify the top 4
3) Adding one higher-end offensive forward
Saturday’s trade made a step in the right direction to address #2 but interestingly in swapping a left shot for a right shot, the move could actually trigger another to balance the lineup.
In working through the checklist, the goalie situation is still untouched. One option, Philipp Grubauer, came off the table when the Avalanche won him, but there are still a couple options available when the free agent market opens on July and possibly a couple more via trade.
Dougie Hamilton adds a bona fide top 4 defenseman, but in some ways he just adds to the work to be done. By trading a left shot in Hanifin and obtaining Hamilton who is a right shot, the Hurricanes now have a log jam on the right side with Pesce, Hamilton, Faulk and van Riemsdyk (restricted free agent).
And while the trade did net a replacement for Elias Lindholm in Micheal Ferland, the team could still use one more scorer.
So what happens next?
I think three things that could become intertwined are being worked on in unison.
On defense, I am on record as believing that Justin Faulk is likely to be traded before July when a no-trade clause kicks in on his contract. And I think the Hurricanes will need to add a left shot top 4-capable defenseman to pair with Hamilton and finally solidify the defense going into the season instead of betting big on players improving or stepping into bigger roles.
From the free agent list Calvin de Haan is the player who jumps out at me. The Islander defenseman has had injury issues, but when healthy he is a solid and steady even if maybe unspectacular top 4 defenseman and quite possibly a perfect fit for the more Pitkanen-ish Hamilton. The challenge is winning his attention in what is always an overbid market for free agent defensemen and probably having to overpay a bit to get him. But as I said on Twitter today, overpaying modestly in the free agent market might not be the worst thing. I think of it as a combination of transactions through which the Hurricanes part ways with Faulk (possibly for a good collection of futures and/or a forward) and also obtain de Haan. The haul is significantly more than just trading Faulk to add a defenseman.
Regardless of how many steps it takes or how it comes about, I think ideally the Hurricanes will part ways with Faulk and will along the way add a left shot defenseman to replace him.
At some point, the Hurricanes need to also add another starter-capable #1 goalie. Unless something changes, odds are that Cam Ward will depart after free agency begins, and the team will add another #1-capable goalie to join Scott Darling.
The most likely options are a small group of unrestricted free agents in Carter Hutton, Robin Lehner and Jonathan Bernier though there could also be goalies available via trade especially if the Hurricanes are in fact shopping Justin Faulk and/or Jeff Skinner.
Thus far, the Hurricanes are roughly break even with the departure of Elias Lindholm and arrival of Micheal Ferland. The biggest question is Jeff Skinner. If the volume of rumors and rumblings are any indication, he seems destined to be gone as well. If that occurs, one would hope that one of the deals returns at least one higher-end forward who can help replace some of Skinner’s scoring
My best guess
1) Justin Faulk is traded this week
With a no-trade clause set to take effect on July 1 and Faulk sitting in a duplicate role as a third top 4 right shot defenseman, I will be surprised if he is not dealt before July. Because the Hurricanes have multiple needs and a couple moving parts, I think the team could go ‘best available value’ for Faulk figuring it can adjust from there.
2) The Hurricanes add a goalie via free agency
While there are certainly goalies who could be available in a big trade that includes one of Justin Faulk or Jeff Skinner, I think the most likely solution is that the Hurricanes add one of Robin Lehner, Carter Hutton or Jonathan Bernier. Carter Hutton seems to be getting top billing right now, but the thought of making a third consecutive bet on a proven backup goalie successfully making the transition to a starting role in Raleigh horrifies. Robin Lehner comes with some baggage, but maybe that shortens the contract and in the process reduces risk. Lehner does have experience as a starter and even success in that role. Like Lehner, Bernier has experience in a starting role including 289 games at the NHL level and experience times three moving to new teams.
3) Jeff Skinner also departs though not necessarily so soon
With the addition of Hamilton and the potential for Skinner’s no-trade clause to throw a wrench in things, Skinner now seems more likely to be with the team in October as compared to Faulk. But the sheer volume of rumors and rumblings around Skinner right now suggest that he too could be on the move.
One interesting thing I read is that even after signing Ilya Kovalchuk the Los Angeles Kings had an offered Jake Muzzin for Max Pacioretty only to have the deal vetoed by Pacioretty and his no-trade clause. I originally suggested this exact trade for Skinner. So if the possibly preferred Pacioretty is not available for left wing scoring help, the question is whether the Kings would instead consider Skinner in a similar deal.
Regardless, the odds seem to be reasonably high that Jeff Skinner could also be on the move.
So the work list is a significant one right now at least considering doing additional big deals for young, veteran top half of the roster players and adding a starting goalie along the way.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you agree that the addition of Hamilton as a right shot spells end of Faulk’s run with the Hurricanes?
2) Which, if any, of the free agent goalies do you like? Do you instead have a potential target or two who might be obtained via trade?
3) Is Jeff Skinner also destined to depart?
4) Who has the guts to predict specific deals?