Sunday kicks off open season for teams looking to use heavy ammo in the form of bunches of dollars to attract free agents. For the longest time, the Hurricanes have been small players in these yearly festivities mostly quietly adding depth players while the fireworks were going off across the league. The team did add Justin Williams on the opening day of 2017’s free agency, but even medium size additions have been few and far between otherwise.
With new management in place that already made a blockbuster type trade during draft weekend, might this year be different?
At a minimum, the Hurricanes are definitely in the market for a goalie and per comments by Don Waddell at the prospect camp Summerfest, that addition could be made within 24 hours.
As you settle in for what can be an interesting day on Sunday, here are a few articles from earlier this week that set the stage for today’s deal-making article.
So by position, here is a quick guide to Sunday’s NHL fun…
This is one area where the team is certain to make a deal at some point. Cam Ward seems destined for the Chicago Blackhawks which leaves one opening for a goalie with the Hurricanes. The article above handicapped the primary options.
My 2 cents says this:
1) I want a goalie on a one or two-year commitment. As desperately as I want to improve the position, I just do not see any of the options available as being more than another round of high stakes gambling on a 3-year deal or more. Further, I think each comes with his own set of risks such that I do not see any of the options as being far and away better than the others. So I want short-term
2) I am on record as very much disliking the idea of adding another backup who is unproven in a starting role and hoping that the player can survive the double transition of changing teams and transitioning into a #1 role.
3) So from there, I find it hard to say ‘he will work for sure’ with any of the options available.
I lean toward Robin Lehner or Jonathan Bernier on a short-term deal or possibly even trying to add a higher-end goalie via trade. I am not a big fan of Petr Mrazek who has been linked to the Hurricanes. I just see him as more inconsistent than the others. I also am not as high on Carter Hutton as many. His history is that of a capable but not spectacular backup on good hockey teams until his numbers bumped up in 2017-18 just in time for free agency. I like him, but he looks eerily like Eddie Lack and Scott Darling. If someone else wants to commit a bunch of money over three or more years, I pass. Of all of the names making the rounds, Jaroslav Halak, who gets minimal attention, is actually the goalie with the most starter experience and best basic statistics over recent years if you look out a few years.
What I would do: Steer clear of any big commitment. From there I am torn between Lehner, Bernier and Halak.
The article above talks in more detail about the odd situation that the Hurricanes find themselves in having traded a left defenseman in Noah Hanifin for a right defenseman in Dougie Hamilton. The logjam on the right side features three top 4 types at least salary-wise in Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton and Justin Faulk in addition to Trevor van Riemsdyk who performed well in a third pairing role in 2018-19.
Though I actually figured that something would happen before Sunday when a partial no-trade clause would kick in for Justin Faulk. But even with that not happening yet, I still believe the Hurricanes could be in the market for a top 4 left shot defenseman.
As I said on Twitter earlier this week, the player that jumps out to me is Calvin de Haan from the Islanders. He has had some injury issues over the past few years, but when in the lineup he has been a steady top 4 defenseman. As an efficient, defense-leaning defenseman, his skill set could be a good fit for Dougie Hamilton and in the process leave Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce together.
There are a few other options, but I am not really high on any other blue line free agents for a top 4 role. Tobias Enstrom is one left shot possibility if he is ready to take a shorter-term deal. If de Haan is not a viable option, I think it is more likely that the team balances the blue line via a trade or two.
What I would do: Yes, he will cost a bit too much because higher-end free agents almost always do. And yes the term will be uncomfortably long. But if I was going to go out on a limb in free agency, I think it would be to add de Haan. I think he combined with re-signing Trevor van Riemsdyk balances out a pretty good, experienced blue line without any reaches in the lineup. That could be significant in terms of stabilizing things and creating a good environment for a goalie rebound regardless of who is in net. If de Haan is not obtainable, I would not reach for other options.
Perhaps the most uncertain position is forward. The Hurricanes have a decent starting point and also a bunch of potentially ready youth in Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Valentin Zykov, Warren Foegele and others. But the current version of the lineup feels more like rebuilding with optimism that things happen sooner rather than later.
With the goalie and defense positions still in play and Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk supposedly on the trading block, my best guess is that the team holds off on significant forward additions until a couple other things shake out.
If allowed to dream, Paul Stastny would add an offense-leaning center to the mix to boost the top half of the lineup, but I figure he is a player who will see multiple high bids and would be tough to get and quite possibly not even worth it given the price.
What I would do: It is difficult to handicap the forward situation without an understanding of the status of Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk. If Skinner goes, the team definitely needs to add more proven offense, but that very well could come via trade.
Give me Calvin de Haan and a goalie, and then I think the stage is set for the team to shift to dealing one of both of Jeff Skinner and/or Justin Faulk.
What say you Canes fans?
1) With decision time here, who do you like at goalie?
2) Which reach (unlikely) not named John Tavares do you like?
3) Take a shot…Predict one deal for the Hurricanes either free agent signing or trade.