I have spent the majority of the first half of June laying groundwork for building the Carolina Hurricanes 2017-18 roster. If you want to catch up, a full chronological menu of those articles can be found at the “2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes Roster Building Central.”
With the seal seemingly cracked on trade season with a significant deal on Thursday with Jonathan Drouin going to Montreal for high-end defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second-round draft pick, I guess it is time to take a shot at the lottery in naming specific deals. With the volume of variables, players potentially involved and information that is not available to the public, this is admittedly a tough guessing game. But there is enough information to at least identify the types of deals that make sense. And by pulling a rabbit out of the hat in calling the Teravainen/Bickell trade a week before it happened last year, I proved it is at least possible.
For trying to name a deal and at least putting forward the types of deals Ron Francis will be considering, I will break it into two parts. First is the big game hunting for a top 6 difference-maker at forward. Second will be everything else.
If you have not read it, a starting point for identifying and landing a difference-maker at forward is my top 10 list of such targets and also taking a quick look toward the bottom of the article where I offered a simple ranking of probability.
Adjusting for yesterday’s Jonathan Drouin trade
A starting point is making a quick adjustment for the Jonathan Drouin trade. He was #4 on the list and is now obviously off the board. There are also a couple other domino effects. First is that Tyler Johnson who was #8 on the list is now much less likely to be available. The game going on on Tampa Bay right now is trying to make a couple moves to free up cap space to fit as many of the team’s players as possible. Drouin’s trade eliminates a player due for a huge raise and leaves more room to keep Johnson. The Drouin trade also makes it even more unlikely that Ondrej Palat who I listed as an honorable mention (would have been #11 or #12) will be available. But most significantly, I think the trade makes it even more likely that Alex Galchenyuk will be on the move as Montreal tries to retool.
Naming names and doing deals
In shopping my top 10 list, an important starting point is acknowledging that many of these players either might not be available at all or might only be available for an exorbitant price (which is not too different than saying that they are not available). I put Henrik Zetterberg, William Nylander and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the unlikely category from the beginning. As noted above, Tyler Johnson might now also be tougher to pry loose. And of course Jonathan Drouin is out of the picture.
That pretty quickly culls the list to five players spread across only three teams.
Colorado Avalanche: After an abysmal 2016-17 season, Avs general manager Joe Sakic will deal out of desperation this summer. A big name forward is almost certain to depart. The burning question is which one(s). Trade deadline chatter had either Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog on the trading block, but more recently Nathan MacKinnon’s name has entered the trade arena. He is my top target, but who knows if he is even available. Duchene is also a tremendous consolation prize and great fit for what the Hurricanes need.
Edmonton Oilers: Readying for big new contracts for Leon Draisatl this summer and Connor McDavid next summer, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that one or both of Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will depart. Both have lost a significant amount of luster during the Oilers’ youth movement, but both are good proven NHL players with scoring ability.
Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk is a curious case. He has not set the world on fire in his first few years in the NHL and has had some growing pains along the way, but in total he has really been pretty good, especially offensively. Yet for whatever reason, he has been on the outs with Montreal for awhile now. With the team looking to retool after another disappointing early playoff exit, he seems destined to be some combination of a scapegoat, way to open a roster spot and trade chip.
There are a few other players on the list who are more exciting, but the key commonality between these five players is that they are very likely to actually be traded this summer. That, of course, is a critical component to Ron Francis doing a deal.
Naming names and doing deals
Most likely – Alex Galchenyuk
Galchenyuk was available and a pretty good fit for what the Hurricanes need anyway, and the Drouin trade might have actually set things up even better. Drouin adds another high-end offensive piece in Montreal which makes Galchenyuk even more expendable, and the departure of top defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev could see Montreal happy to refill that slot on their organizational depth chart. Especially if Montreal has bigger plans of leaving Drouin on the wing and still making a play for Matt Duchene as a scoring center, Galchenyuk would be a cast off and Montreal might be okay with not receiving salary back.
The deal: A defense prospect and a fairly high draft pick for Galchenyuk. The peak deal would be either Haydn Fleury or Jake Bean plus a second round pick, but better would be if Francis could instead offer Roland McKeown and/or make the pick a third-rounder. When you consider this from a Montreal standpoint netting both deals, they basically traded Galchenyuk for Drouin with mostly equal swaps in blue line prospects and draft picks (possibly with a draft pick gain depending on the conditional pick). From a Hurricanes standpoint, Francis nets a young scoring-capable C1 without giving up a young roster defenseman. Might there be sexier options? Sure. But “not giving up a young roster defenseman” is a win that should not be discounted.
The fallback of playing the waiting game and shopping for value in a pricey market – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle
Going even deeper into the ‘not that sexy’ bin is the duo in Edmonton. Only three years ago, they were two-thirds of a pretty good young offensive team that was abysmal defensively. Fast forward to today, and they have been surpassed on the depth chart by rising stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl. Their luster is about fully worn off, and at least one if not both of them seem destined to become salary cap casualties sometime between now and next summer.
Are they fading former stars? Were they never really that good to begin with? Or are they maybe tremendous ‘buy low’ opportunities for very good, even if not elite, NHL forwards? That is what Francis and his scouts must decide. The price on one or possibly both of these players has a chance to be much more reasonable than many of the other top shelf alternatives.
The deal: I think the ceiling deal at least for the Hurricanes for either of these players is similar to the Galchenyuk deal. There are rumblings that one could be moved in a pre-expansion draft deal for an unprotectable defenseman like Hamonic or de Haan with the Islanders or similar with a few other teams that have four good defensemen who are not expansion draft exempt. I actually think the Isles deal makes a ton of sense and could happen. If such a deal does not transpire, I think the game enters Francis’ arena shortly after the expansion draft. At that stage, I think something like a good prospect (likely a defenseman) plus a non-first round draft pick could get it done if Chiarelli does not have the defenseman he wants as an offer but realizes he still needs to work the salary cap. For a deal like this, a player like Stempniak or maybe even Nordstrom could also replace a small part of the futures, as the Oilers will need to back fill the forward position. By no means does a player like Stempniak or Nordstrom get a deal done, but one could decrease the amount of futures required.
The possible dream – Nathan MacKinnon
I am on record as liking him above all other options. A decent number of other people have similar opinions. But I admit that it does not make much sense for Joe Sakic to trade MacKinnon.
That said, I think a reasonably possible chain of events could make that happen, and it goes something like this…
After an abysmal 2016-17 season, Sakic needs to do something big this summer to at least roll dice and get results that make him look smarter again. It is fairly clear that Duchene and Landeskog are trade bait and that the desired return is a top 4 defenseman. But at least at the February trade deadline, Sakic did not get an offer he liked. Duchene and Landeskog had tough years in a rough season all-around for the Avs, so just maybe their stock is not what Sakic believes.
But he will shop them aggressively. Pre-expansion draft there are a number of top 4 defense options who could be available, but not all of these teams can take and protect a forward before the expansion draft. If there is a deal to be done with a team that can, I think Sakic does it. But if he misses this window or does not like the deals in front of him, all bets are off.
In that scenario, it takes the following for Francis to make a pitch for MacKinnon that at least gains consideration:
1) Sakic must have no offers he likes for Duchene or Landeskog that net him and acceptable defenseman.
2) Francis must either offer Noah Hanifin plus more or possibly a top 4 defenseman that he acquired for just this purpose pre-expansion draft. (See ‘crazy’ expansion draft article on this.)
3) This gives Sakic a tough decision to make between trading Duchene or Landeskog for less than fair value or begrudgingly upping his ante with MacKinnon but at least netting fair value for doing so.
To be clear, I put the odds of this scenario playing out as very low but not impossible. Especially pre-expansion draft there seem to be enough top 4 defensemen who could be available such that Sakic do a deal closer to what he wants.
The deal: If enough of the chain of events occurs such that MacKinnon does come into play, the trade would be a steep Noah Hanifin plus to net MacKinnon who is very much in Hanifin’s category for draft pedigree and ceiling but is a bit farther along in terms of realizing it.
The (good) consolation prize in Colorado: The deal that Sakic wants anyway is probably about the same for Duchene except maybe with slightly less futures to sweeten the deal. The big question is whether Francis would pay this or similar for Duchene (or also Landeskog who I do not like quite as much).
How would I play it?
Though it would not be a bad deal in my opinion to trade a defenseman for Duchene or maybe a couple other forwards, personally my my ‘will include Hanifin’ list stops at MacKinnon. My plan B is to buy the best player I can get without including a young top 4 defenseman if MacKinnon is not an option. Galchenyuk is at least in play, and I though less exciting, the Oilers’ options could come cheaper.
If word drops (seems like maybe it will not) that Detroit is rebuilding, I still love Zetterberg as bridge to the future.
Within the next few days, I will write up the list of less Earth-shattering possibilities that sit behind the top priority of adding a top 6 forward.
What say you Canes fans?
Does Ron Francis have another Friday happy hour deal in him today?
Will we see a few big deals completed leading up to tomorrow afternoon’s expansion draft roster freeze?
Is Nathan MacKinnon a pipe dream not worth considering?
What do you think Francis will do? What do you think Francis should do?