Welcome to the “Insiders’ Knucker Hole”
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This is still a work in process in the figuring it out stage, but the general idea is to provide sort of a sneak preview glimpse into some of the things going on at Canes and Coffee that have not made it onto the formal site yet. This gives me some liberty to share a few unrefined ideas that might/might not ever make it into a Canes and Coffee article but provide an early glimpse of things being considered.
Also be forewarned that since these ideas are still in the brainstorming stage, that you are going to get even more ‘stream of consciousness’ writing style than usual. Just stop reading if you cannot take it any more. 🙂
Today’s topic: Early look at less obvious angles on the trade deadline
The topic of this first “insiders’ knucker hole” update is well-timed with the trade deadline.
Right now, 2 things tend to garner all of the attention around the March 1 trade deadline. 75 percent goes to the rumblings about Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and a rotating alleged young Hurricanes’ defenseman who could be included if such a deal were to happen. The other 25 percent is less interesting speculation on which Hurricanes who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents and could therefore hit the trading block if the Hurricanes slide over the next 2 weeks. Last season, this was big news with Eric Staal and Cam Ward as part of a higher-end list. While the Hurricanes do have a decent collection of players who could get swept into this game, the 2017 list is just depth players of the “lucky to get a third round pick for them” variety.
I have already written about those things in some detail. A detailed article on Faulk for Duchene possibility is HERE, and a less exciting article that takes a high-level look at what Francis might do if the Hurricanes are still in the playoff hunt come late February is HERE.
But I think the more interesting thing to consider is what Francis might be considering to make longer-term changes to the team from the categories of capitalizing on other teams’ roster situations and shopping from the bargain bin.
Arguably, the biggest trade that Francis has made thus far as a general manager saw him take advantage of the Blackhawks’ salary cap situation to add 22-year old Teuvo Teravainen with the primary cost being accepting Bryan Bickell’s contract to help Chicago make the math work. He did a similar deal with Chicago the previous summer when he collected Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom and even draft picks because, again, Chicago needed cap relief. Though I actually got lucky and called the Teravainen/Bickell deal on June 8 almost exactly 1 week before it happened, both of these deals seemed to mostly come out of nowhere.
So when I scribble on a white board, and make a matrix of “Opportunities to capitalize on other teams’ roster situations,” “The Hurricanes LONG-term needs right now,” and “Being opportunistic and cheap” my brainstorming right now goes like this.
Opportunities to capitalize on other teams’ roster situations
On the basic salary cap front, the Blackhawks and Lightning both need help for next summer. The Oilers have some time but need to restructure their payroll a bit to prepare for big next contracts for McDavid and Draisatl. The Penguins could have issues making the math work as a few young players come off cheap contracts and need to be re-signed. Another 8-12 NHL teams have minimal flexiblity and could also come into play.
So brainstorming on that front…
Might the Lightning need to unload an expensive veteran like Valtteri Filppula, Jason Garrison or Braydon Coburn and either take very little in return or even pay in futures to get rid of them (see Bickell/Teravainen deal)?
With the impending cap challenges down the road in Edmonton and the fact that he is struggling in 2016-17, could Jordan Eberle and his $6 million salary become available for almost nothing as a salary cap dump? If no one bites on Eberle, could the Oilers be forced to instead market Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who is a good player but maybe just a C3 in Edmonton with McDavid and Draisatl above him?
With the cap situation and also the impending expansion draft and a couple other goalies available, could Jim Rutherford ultimately be forced to take a small return on Marc-Andre Fleury and his big contract and maybe even eat some salary and/or take the final year of Eddie Lack’s deal in return to help offset the cost?
Another wild card is the impending expansion draft. As deep as the Hurricanes expect to be in the future on the blue line, the team really only has 3 top 4 defensemen right now and that counts Faulk who has struggled in 2016-17 in the defensive part of that role. By no means would Ron Francis go shopping for an expensive long-term solution for that role, but might he consider short-term help on the cheap? Or might he prey on the expansion draft situation to add a player farther along in his development but discounted because of the fact that he could be lost next summer for nothing?
Teams like Anaheim have more players than they can protect at the defenseman position. The likely result is that they will either lose 1 for nothing next summer or trade 1 before then. Could Francis trade a package including a younger defenseman who does not need to be protected (i.e. Fleury, McKeown, etc.) and in return get exactly the player that he hopes Fleury or McKeown will become, except for right now? Could the Hurricanes get someone like Cam Fowler or Sami Vatanen for very little simply because Anaheim does not want to risk losing 1 of them for nothing?
Despite being in the playoff chase, could the Minnesota Wild consider moving a young defenseman who they cannot protect, again for a package of futures who do not need to be protected?
And the options to possibly add a top 4 defenseman for a discount because of the expansion draft opens up the wild possibility of trading a current defenseman (i.e. Justin Faulk) to upgrade the offense (i.e. Duchene) and then back filling the slot. The result is that the Hurricanes end up back at 3 (though different players) in the top 4 on defense and upgrade at forward by paying futures when you consider the 2 deals in total.
The same thing comes into play even more so at the goalie position. If I find time, my hope is to do some math to figure out how many teams need goalies for 2017-18 compared to how many are available. My rough math says there are more goalies than there are slots. Does that mean, Francis could shop the leftovers after the dust settles and get 1 on the cheap with minimal trade value and/or salary retention? Possibly, and definitely worth watching.
At this early stage, here are a couple specific deals that I am pondering…
Ron Hainsey and modest futures (mid-round draft pick) for Jason Garrison. Garrison has a fairly big $4.6 million cap hit for 2017-18, but interestingly, his actual salary is only $2.5 million. At 32 years old, could Garrison have 1 more good year left in the tank and be just what the doctor ordered to help Faulk reach a higher level and help the second pairing improve? The biggest thing Tampa Bay gets is needed cap relief for 2017-18, but they also net a draft pick and probably another if they move Ron Hainsey at the trade deadline. Garrison is only signed through 2017-18 which hopefully builds the bridge to the youth rising up. Hainsey helps offset the salary for 2016-17 and also gives the Lightning another small asset to sell off at the trade deadline if they so choose.
Jordan Eberle for almost nothing with Edmonton eating part of his salary. I am on record as thinking the Hurricanes could use 1-2 more pure scorers. I do NOT like Eberle, especially with his current struggles, nearly as much as Matt Duchene or higher-end options. But price matters too. Could he be had for almost nothing because the Oilers just want to clean up the roster, gain the cap space and move on. If the trade cost was only a medium-tier prospect and the Oilers ate part of his salary, just maybe he becomes enough of a bargain that I settle. I wrote on end about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this and like him as a Matt Duchene-lite to put a scoring-focused center next to Sebastian Aho. He would cost more, so that gets more complicated.
Alex Galchenyuk or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for ???. Both are other “if Matt Duchene costs too much” stories. Galchenyuk is a young, scoring-capable center who just has not found a permanent role with the Canadiens. As a restricted free agent this summer, there are thoughts that they might just trade him rather than going in even deeper with his new contract. Again, he fits my “add a scoring-capable center to pair with Aho” theme. Nugent-Hopkins is not as much on the outs and therefore less likely to be dealt, but who knows.
The general themes I hope to spend more time researching are…
Could Ron Francis add short-term (important), cheap in terms of trade cost (also important) help in the form of a #4 D to back fill Hainsey’s slot and try to help Faulk and the second pairing find a significantly higher gear and also build a bridge (not too long) to the youth?
Is there another Bickell/Teravainen type of deal to be had that sees Francis take a bad contract and get paid to do it? Valtteri Filppula is interesting. I think he would be a great replacement for Jay McClement, but his $5 million salary is way too much. Could Francis get a useful depth player (who costs too much) and collect either a young player or draft picks for doing it?
If the asking price on Duchene is really a great player, a first round pick, your first born child, PNC Arena and everything in it, is there a somewhat lesser option (Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Galchenyuk, etc.) proven forward who might be available for much less because of a current situation?
Ask me tomorrow and it will be different, but for today…
Give me Garrison for Hainsey and a 5th-round pick to take another shot at bolstering the second defense pairing for 2017-18.
Give me Nugent-Hopkins or Alex Galchenyuk for a surprisingly modest package of futures to add a legitimate offensive center to pair with Aho.
Could be an interesting next couple weeks.