The big news in the hockey world today was the coming and going of the 2017 NHL trade deadline. Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis did well to gain a good return trading veterans Ron Hainsey and Viktor Stalberg prior to the bell lap on Wednesday. Wednesday itself passed for the Hurricanes without a trade.
You can find a menu of all of CandC’s NHL trade deadline coverage including analysis on the deals that did happen prior to Wednesday HERE. And the open thread with a few entries for Wednesday’s mostly uneventful day is HERE.
I will post a recap of the trade deadline, an evaluation of Francis’ work and deals that could impact the Hurricanes work to build its 2017-18 opening day roster this summer either late tonight or otherwise sometime on Thursday.
Meanwhile the team still has more than a quarter of the season yet to be played and that starts tonight in Tampa, Florida. With Viktor Stalberg traded, Jeff Skinner back in Raleigh being checked out for an upper body injury and Brock McGinn dinged up in Tuesday’s game, the Hurricanes called in reinforcements in the form of Patrick Brown and Andrej Nestrasil today.
Wednesday’s game features a Lightning team that dealt away a couple players in the past week but mostly has its roster intact and has aspirations of pushing back up into the playoff spot. Adjusted for games played, my math has the Bolts 4 points out of a playoff spot which is significant but not insurmountable if they can get hot. At 8 points back, the Hurricanes are much more into the ‘need a miracle at this point’ range.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning
Following the common theme of late, my watch points for Wednesday’s game are heavy on evaluating players and considering the roster and roles for the 2017-18 season.
1) Noah Hanifin
My simple math has him at 2 out of 3 for playing solid games in a top 4 role since moving up into the slot vacated by Ron Hainsey. Wednesday is another tough test against Lightning forwards who can attack and score.
2) Phil Di Giuseppe
He continues to play well and do the little stuff right. He also continues to maybe be just a tiny bit rushed with the puck on his stick and a chance to score. Scoring production is the dividing line between being a serviceable or even good depth player versus being more than that. I continue to watch to see if Di Giuseppe can slow things down just a little bit, pick spots instead of just firing and start to finish more.
3) The new recruits – Patrick Brown and Andrej Nestrasil
Both players will get another chance at the NHL level to garner attention and try to push for consideration for an NHL spot for next season. Wednesday is game 1 of that challenge after extended runs (the whole season for Brown) playing well at the AHL level.
4) Ryan Murphy
As a player who had a reasonable chance of being traded on Wednesday, he is now signed up to wear a Hurricanes uniform for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. As a player who needs to play 21 of the Hurricanes final 23 games to qualify as an experienced defenseman for the expansion draft, Murphy is almost certain to be in the lineup every night. This gives him a good and likely final chance to carve out a role with the Hurricanes or at least boost his trade value for another team.
5) Playing for pride and showing character
The 2016 trade deadline saw the departure of long-time captain Eric Staal and also veterans Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles and a bunch of air seemed to go out of the team in the process. One notable exception was the surge of Jeff Skinner down the stretch that caused his stock to rise and undoubtedly contributed to him being named an alternate captain. Mostly playing out the string again, March and April will again be a measure of character. Who rises up? Who fades?
The puck drops at 7pm on Fox Sports Southeast (not the more common Fox Sports Carolinas) with John, Tripp and Mike.