This week is definitely peak (Apex reference) season for the Carolina Hurricanes off-season. Prospect camp is chugging forward at the same time that Francis has been knocking out a run of small moves leading up to a somewhat bigger one on Thursday night.
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On the prospect front
My ‘what I’m watching’ (part 2 of 2 with a link to part 1) for prospect camp. In total, the two-part series work through all of the Hurricanes prospects in camp this week.
See what readers think in polls and discussion in a Thursday Coffee Shop post dedicated solely to the prospects and this week’s prospect camp.
On the 2017-18 roster-building front
Yesterday, I took a broad look at the free agent pool that officially becomes available on Saturday and considered it as a plan B for adding a top 6 forward.
Prior to that I looked more specifically at Patrick Marleau.
And by Friday morning, I will have a ‘doing deals’ type of preview and also a special Friday/Saturday Coffee Shop article will have polls and an open forum for discussion of the NHL’s free agent season which starts Saturday.
Hurricanes part ways with Eddie Lack and Ryan Murphy as expected
But getting to the matter at hand, on Thursday night the Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team had traded Eddie Lack, Ryan Murphy and a 2019 seventh-round draft pick for 22-year old defenseman Keegan Kanzig and a 2019 sixth-round draft pick. The Hurricanes also retained half of Lack’s salary ($1.5 million actual salary).
The move knocked out two predictions of mine from awhile back. Back on April 20, shortly after the season ended and before the trade for Scott Darling, I listed an Eddie Lack departure among five off-season predictions.
Only a couple days ago in an article entitled, “Three situations where my thoughts differ from what I am seeing elsewhere”, I predicted an Eddie Lack buy out. Though I was technically wrong in terms of him being bought out, my basic assertion that he did not have any trade value with a $3 million salary more or less remained true. The Hurricanes had to eat half of Lack’s salary, include Ryan Murphy who I think would have had modest (fourth-sixth round draft pick) by himself to move Lack. And financially, the end result was not significantly different from a buy out with the Hurricanes paying $1.5 million of Lack’s remaining salary instead of the $2 million that they would have been on the hook for with a buyout.
As for Ryan Murphy, I assessed him and initially predicted that he would be gone before the start of the 2017-18 season way back on February 27. I reiterated my opinion that he would be traded during the off-season when I wrote his report card article on May 20. The writing on the wall for Murphy became even more obvious when the team acquired another right shot defenseman in Trevor van Riemsdyk.
So in that regard, the departure of both players matched my expectations.
Eddie Lack: After two years struggling to get his feet under him with the Hurricanes, Lack gets a change of scenery and a fresh start. I think this is the best possible thing that could happen for Lack’s career. At this point, I think a rebound is significantly more likely elsewhere without the baggage of his two years with the Hurricanes in tow. He leaves as a bit of a reclamation project trying to consistently find a level of play that he has been unable to muster on a regular basis since leaving Vancouver. The move also makes total sense for the Hurricanes. Lack was #3 on the depth chart and paying a #3 any more than an AHL salary does not make sense especially for a team like the Hurricanes with an internal budget.
Ryan Murphy: Like Lack, I think the move is the best thing possible for Ryan Murphy. In the past couple years, he had been past on the Hurricanes’ blue line depth chart by Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce and was likely to be passed by Haydn Fleury this fall. Despite multiple tries and a decent amount of NHL experience, Murphy has not been able to stick even in a #5/#6 depth role. Maybe more significantly, I think Murphy just needs a complete reset in terms of how he plays the game. In trying address (and making some progress) some defensive weaknesses in his game, Murphy in my opinion shifted way too far toward buttoning down his game with the puck on his stick and playing not to make mistakes or turnovers. In the process, he gave up the single greatest strength in his game (skating and carrying the puck) and in the process the upside that made him a first-round draft pick. I think the starting point for rebound by Murphy starts with him getting back to at least trying to play like a skating and attacking offensive defenseman.
Keegan Kanzig: Kanzig is a hulking defenseman who is literally capable of making Julien Gauthier look small. Kanzig’s tale of the tape comes in at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 247 pounds. The 22-year old was a third-round draft pick in 2013 and just completed his first professional season splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. He is not surprisingly a physical, stay-home defenseman who can take care of the rough stuff when necessary.
I have a few queries out to try to gauge what Kanzig’s ceiling might be and will provide an update either here or elsewhere when I get responses, but at a basic level, he fits into the prospect pool as a player with a couple more years on his entry-level deal.
My thoughts on the trade
To be clear, I am not privy to what other options (other than the buy out route) there might have been for Lack and Murphy, but I am not a big fan of the trade. For me, the trade is mostly the equivalent of trading Ryan Murphy to save $500,000 in salary. Past that, the Hurricanes received very little in a negligible draft pick upgrade from the seventh round to the sixth round and also what I believe to be a lower-end prospect and AHL help.
Part of me thinks Murphy should have garnered just a bit more and would preferred to just buy Lack out and either trade Murphy straight up for futures or possibly keep him a bit longer to try to showcase him a bit first. But my hunch is that the reality is that Murphy, like Lack, just really did not have much trade value at this point, and Francis made the decision to clean up the slate a bit and move forward on two players who were not part of the plan.
On Eddie Lack as a person
I said on Twitter after the deal was announced that Eddie Lack might have the greatest ratio of fan love relative to ice time and accomplishments in Hurricanes’ history. No doubt, players like Ron Francis, Rod Brind’Amour and many more rate higher on a Hurricanes’ favorite list. But for being a back up goalie for just two years and never really finding a higher-gear in terms of winning, Eddie Lack garnered much more than his fair share of fan attention. I think that is a huge testament to who Lack is as a person. He is a good person and an incredibly likable player and one who is easy to cheer for in his next endeavor despite his struggles in Raleigh.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are you surprised to see either Eddie Lack or Ryan Murphy traded?
2) What are your thoughts on value of the trade? Do you prefer this deal to simply buying Lack out (which would have cost $500,000 more) and either trading or just temporarily keeping Murphy?