Today it was announced that the Carolina Hurricanes had acquired Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell for a 2016 second round draft pick (Rangers pick #50 overall) and a 2017 third round draft pick (Blackhawks own pick previously obtained in Versteeg deal).
This was actually the first deal noted in my June 8 post entitled “Carolina Hurricanes trades (names and deals) for building 2016-17 roster (part 1/plan A)”.
Most of my thoughts on this deal are old news for anyone who read that post, but with real and exciting news in June, I will of course pounce on the opportunity to discuss this deal in more detail.
In my other post, I compared Teravainen to Elias Lindholm. The 2 really do have an uncanny resemblance in terms of skill set, stage of development and potential 2016-17 and future role for the Hurricanes. Teravainen is a 2012 first round pick (#18 overall). Like Lindholm he is 3 years into his NHL career (though a little older because he did not immediately make the jump to the NHL). Teravainen’s skill set is that of a heady, 2-way player who projects to be a pretty good offensive player. He is also a natural center who can play there but has more recently played on the wing (again like Lindholm). Teravainen was projected to be a good complementary top 6 scoring forward for the Blackhawks, but the out of nowhere emergence of Artemi Panarin pushed Teravainen down the depth chart and out of the Blackhawks core. Teravainen’s 35 points in 78 games are again eerily similar to Lindholm’s 39 points in 82 games. I think it is fair to say that both Teravainen and Lindholm are established solid 2-way NHL third line forwards with a pedigree, potential and skill set to do more.
But I think that is the key point and what makes this deal incredibly good for Francis. Teravainen is easily a decent top 9 forward for the Hurricanes right now – not projected, not might get there in a couple years but rather proven in such a role at the NHL level. If his offensive upside materializes, things only get better. Importantly, he is only 21 years old and also has 1 year remaining on his entry-level contract which pays him a modest $894,000 for the 2016-17 season before he becomes a restricted free agent.
At a basic level, Bryan Bickell is the primary cost of obtaining Teuvo Teravainen without having to give up a decent NHL roster player or really high draft pick to do so. The negative on Bryan Bickell is his contract. Despite spending the vast majority of the 2015-16 season in the AHL, Bickell will earn $4.5 million ($4 million cap hit) on the last year of his contract in 2016-17. He is overpaid, and the Blackhawks desperate need to free cap space made it possible to take this contract and get a nice payment (Teravainen) for doing so.
At a player level, Bryan Bickell is actually a decent fit for the Hurricanes roster. At a rugged 6 foot 4 and 223 pounds, Bickell brings size to the roster in a #12 or #13 roster slot somewhat in the same vein as Brad Malone but with the potential for more offensive upside. Last season was a wash out for Bickell, but he put up 14 goals and 14 assists in the 2014-15 season and has a track record as a strong playoff performer. 28 points is obviously not worth $4.5 million, but those numbers would represent solid depth scoring as measured against fourth line standards.
Worst case is that Bickell does not work out, becomes a financial cost for obtaining Teravainen and is gone next summer. Best case is that he refinds his game and becomes a solid fourth line player with a skill set that the Canes need.
At first glance, the Bickell salary immediately jumps out and makes the deal seem bad financially. But it is not as bad as that first impression would indicate. If you consider Teravainen’s true value as pretty similar to Lindholm’s as a solid young third-liner with upside, his fair value for 2016-17 is probably something like $2.5 million. If you consider that the Canes do need to add some size to the lineup and also add a couple forwards on the cheap to fill out the roster, I think a free agent/fair market value for Bickell would be something like $800k to $1 million for a single season for a team willing to take on inexpensive risk.
When you add it up, I think a fair value for the pair would be about $3.5 million, so Francis in paying the duo $5.4 million for the 2016-17 season, he is overpaying relative to a fair value by about $1.9 million. That is the cost (instead of a much better prospects or picks) to bring in 21-year old Teravainen hopefully to become a long-term and important part of the forward group. The real cost is that Francis will probably have a tiny bit less budget to build out his 2016-17 roster.
The trade cost
I think the key thing is that the Canes gave up exactly zero roster players and zero top-tier prospects or first-round draft picks to obtain a 21-year old roster player with upside. I suppose one could quibble about whether it should have only been a second round pick or if a second and a fifth would have been enough or whatever.
But ohhhhh the signal!
For me, the most exciting thing for me about this trade is the signal that Ron Francis is sending to the Carolina Hurricanes fan base. The 2015-16 season saw a fortuitous draft (Hanifin falling to #5) and ahead of schedule development of 2 players moving up from college (Slavin, Pesce) instantly put the Canes development on the blue line about 2-3 years ahead of schedule. The team entered the season with a defensive corps that looked really promising for about 2017-18, but by February suddenly looked really promising for 2016-17.
But the issue is that the forward ranks were nowhere close to that schedule. After the departure of veterans Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg at the trade deadline, my estimation of the Canes forward lines was that they had found a combination that worked for a really good second/checking leaning line (Nestrasil/JStaal/Nordstrom) and had a pretty good young third line in Skinner/Rask/Lindholm but had a gaping hole in terms of having an offense-leaning first line to balance out Jordan Staal’s line. We can debate whether Skinner belongs on a first line or whether Lindholm could be a complementary player on such a line, but I do not think the answers really matter. It is really just shifting around some pretty gaping holes at forward.
Francis’ mantra since the beginning of his days as GM has been the goal of building an organization that is deep with young talent and can not just return to the playoffs but do so using a model that makes it possible to do it consistently. But with a prospect pool that is incredibly light at the forward position especially in terms of high end talent that could be used to build a scoring first line, what was he going to do?
At a basic level, there were 2 options. The first would be to slowly and steadily rebuild roughly on the original schedule. With the volume of draft picks that the Canes have at their disposal, the team could build out the forward ranks from within in 2-4 years using internal talent. The problem with that is that it suddenly does not line up with the blue line’s development and could leave the organization and the fan base still multiple years away from having anything more than a marketing pitch level of hope for playoff hockey.
The other option is to spend some of the draft picks and possibly blue line futures to expedite the process of building out the forward ranks. The key is to do it opportunistically and by finding a way to do it with young players not aging veterans such that the solution is not a short-term band aid but rather fits with the goal of both getting younger and building for the future.
So the Teravainen/Bickell is a pretty strong indication that within reason, Ron Francis is looking to spend some of the draft pick currency that he has amassed and build with youth but also do so in a way that plays for 2016-17.
As a season ticket holder and father of children who barely remember the 2009 playoff run, THAT IS INCREDIBLY EXCITING!
Almost perfect fit role-wise
As noted, Bryan Bickell slots as a fourth line or possibly #13 forward. In that role, he actually has scoring upside if he can rebound with a change of scenery. If you put price aside, I view Bickell as being an okay replacement for Malone significantly with potential scoring upside.
Teuvo Teravainen’s flexibility is an ideal fit for Ron Francis’ fluid process of trying to build out a 2016-17 roster with a ton of unknowns right now. Teravainen is a natural center but has spent most of his NHL time playing wing and can play on the left or the right side. With it unclear where Sebastian Aho might slot (also could be wing or center) and my assertion that the Canes really need to add a playmaking center to be the catalyst for a scoring line, Teravainen is a nice flexible puzzle piece. If the Canes do add a scoring center, Teravainen’s skill set could fit on the wing of that scoring line or possibly on a more 2-way third line with Victor Rask. If Francis’ budget and the market conditions prevent him from adding a high-end center, there is actually a chance that Teravainen could step into that slot.
Shorter version is that Bickell actually fills a fourth line need and that Teravainen’s flexibility makes it much easier for Francis to opportunistically shop for good players and not have to narrow down too much on C vs. LW vs. RW.
So where does Teuvo Teravainen slot?
The next question is always, “Where is he going to play?” I think that is to be sorted out at training camp. I think it is much most likely that Teravainen will play on the wing. Whether that is on a line centered by Victor Rask or a new line that fills the hole left by Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg’s departure is something to be sorted out in training camp and determined by chemistry and performance during the preseason.
I have something else less exciting already sitting in the queue, but my hope is to write a “What’s next?” type post for Thursday’s Daily Cup of Joe.