Patrick Marleau deal terms
Before the 2019 NHL Draft restarted on Saturday, it was announced that the Carolina Hurricanes had traded a 2020 6th round draft pick for Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round draft pick and a 2020 7th round draft. The condition on the first-round pick is that if it becomes a top 10 pick, then the Hurricanes will instead receive Toronto’s first-round pick in 2021.
The essence of the Patrick Marleau deal
In essence, the Maple Leafs compensated the Hurricanes with a partially protected first round pick in return for $6.25 million of salary cap relief.
Canes GM Don Waddell confirms they hope to sell Patrick Marleau on playing in Carolina. Obviously if that doesn’t succeed then they will buy him out.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 22, 2019
The most likely ending seems to be that the Hurricanes buy Marleau out per a gentleman’s agreement, so he can sign an inexpensive deal to return to San Jose to finish out his career. If that happens, the Hurricanes will be on the hook for $2.8 million in actual salary spread over two years and will also incur a salary cap hit of $2.1 million per year over the next two years.
In essence, the Hurricanes will have paid $2.8 million cash to buy a mid to late round draft pick. There is also a salary cap impact but that should not affect the team in 2019-20 or probably even 2020-21.
ADDED NOTE: WILL TRY TO VERIFY BUYOUT TERMS: DMILLERAVID SUGGESTS BELOW THAT CANES AVOID 2019-20 BONUS OF $3 MILLION AND WILL PAY ONLY $816,667 (2/3 OF SALARY). MY LOOK AT CAPFRIENDLY MAKES ME QUESTION WHETHER IT IS ACTUALLY THE FULL BONUS THAT IS GUARANTEED. EITHER WAY, I BELIEVE IT IS FULL $6.25 MILLION CAP HIT SINCE IT WAS AN OVER 35 CONTRACT.
The wild card, leadership and Justin Williams
The wild card is Pierre LeBrun’s mention that the Hurricanes will try to convince Patrick Marleau to set up shop in Raleigh for the 2019-20 season. Relative to buying him out, it could make sense. For an additional cost of only $1.4 million, the Hurricanes would add another veteran and leader. At this stage of his career, Marleau is a bottom half of the roster player, but on a young team perhaps his leadership is worth it.
The current uncertainty around Justin Williams also offers a couple other interesting angles. If Williams decides to retire, Marleau might be a nice addition to add another veteran to the locker room.
But maybe even more significantly, might adding a player like Marleau lessen the load on Williams. My sense from watching the past two seasons is that Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk are more ‘lead quietly by example’ types. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think puts a lot on Justin Williams with such a young roster that will likely include an influx of 2-3 new rookies next season.
I think this is an angle that most will overlook that could come into play if either San Jose does not want to reunite with Marleau or if for whatever reason, Marleau decides to forego a reunuion tour out west.
The bigger sign for Canes’ underlying strategy transition
For a couple years now, the Hurricanes have been stockpiling prospects and draft picks that will allegedly be used to add players to boost the Hurricanes roster. It all makes sense at a conceptual level because teams have used this approach before. And at some point the Hurricanes will trade some futures to add a player.
But I think declaring this as the Hurricanes plan increasingly misses what the team is actually doing.
What the Hurricanes have actually done over the past few years is collect and keep prospects and draft picks. The fact that the Hurricanes who entered with three second-round draft picks actually used all of them (either drafting or trading for even more draft picks) is the quantity sign of the Hurricanes’ strategy. But I actually think the Marleau deal is even more telling. The Carolina Hurricanes who are allegedly cheap spent $2.8 million to basically buy an extra first-round draft pick for next year. No doubt, the Hurricanes will at some point use some of the available futures to trade for a player, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the team’s overarching strategy is to build from within. Every team pays this lip service, but the Hurricanes are at a different level right now accumulating extra draft picks and prospects.
But why help the Maple Leafs? …and my overall assessment of the deal
At a basic level, I like the deal. Without doing any sophisticated math, $2.8 million to add a protected first-round draft pick likely to land in the second half of the round seems expensive. But one can be assured that Eric Tulsky and his team worked that same math in much more detail and were okay with that price for mid to late first-round draft pick. And more than anything, the name of the game is to do deals to improve the hockey team both now and in the future.
As for those grumbling that the Hurricanes should not help the Maple Leafs out of their salary cap situation, I think that thinking is fraught with a couple incorrect assumptions. First, it sort of assumes that if the Hurricanes do not help that the Leafs will not get help. That is far from true. There are probably 5-8 teams that would consider a deal like this. And depending on who free agency goes, there could even be a few teams that need to add salary to make the cap floor. So if the Hurricanes did not help the Maple Leafs with this deal, someone else ultimately would. Better to step in and collect a return rather than just watching someone else do it.
As a somewhat related aside, I am actually in the minority in thinking that the ‘don’t help a division rival’ sentiment is way overdone. Eight teams from each conference make the playoffs. There are 16 teams total. So being overly concerned with helping one opponent in a trade most times just keeps you from gaining an advantage over 14 others.
So without having an exact basis for the value of a mid to late first round draft pick, I like the deal at a conceptual level. I like the clear signal for how the team is building for the future and the financial commitment to it. And I like the idea of being opportunistic when situations like the Maple Leafs’ cap issues come into play.
Within the next day or two, I will post my thoughts on the actual drafting part of the draft and the newest additions to the Hurricanes prospect pool.