In case you missed it, I put of a special summer ‘what I’m watching’ in two parts for the Carolina Hurricanes prospect camp which takes to the ice tonight at PNC Arena. Part 1 previews the 2017 draftees, and part 2 looks at the returning players.
Craig Custance (who is a pretty reliable NHL source) from The Athletic-Detroit has Patrick Marleau in play and listed the Hurricanes among 5-6 teams that have expressed interest.
I will write up the free agent frenzy more thoroughly in the next couple days but figured I would talk about Marleau specifically and also use him to talk about the Hurricanes’ current situation more broadly.
If you missed it during the draft weekend, I still think my best guess for the trade market still applies. And at least in terms of priorities, I am admittedly expanding the options a bit but only depending on market price but still hoping to stick with original priorities as much as possible.
On Patrick Marleau as an addition
I like Marleau as a player. He reminds me of Joni Pitkanen from years past as an effortless skater who never really seemed to age int that regard. He will be 38 years old when the 2017-18 season starts and is clearly a short-term solution. Further, I would not classify him as the pure playmaking center that I desire, but he is a proven veteran who can play center or wing and who is coming off 48 and 46-point campaigns during the past two seasons.
In short, looking narrowly at building a 2017-18 roster to make the playoffs, the Hurricanes could do better, but they could also do much worse, including just doing nothing.
The cost for Patrick Marleau
The financials of the situation are a significant part of what make Marleau interesting. He is an unrestricted free agent, so whereas some of the younger and better options are alleged to cost a top 4 defense, a high draft pick and maybe more, Marleau costs absolutely nothing in terms of trade. And at some level of unreasonable price for Duchene, Galchenyuk, etc. that starts to matter more and more. He is likely to be fairly expensive salary-wise, but as long as the deal is short-term, I think that works fine for Francis who can use a player like him to hopefully build a bridge to a younger, less expensive replacement. The question is whether Marleau is looking to get what he can for term in what could be his last contract. I go back and forth on whether one year or two is preferred, but if it starts stretching to three or four, I am out. I just would not feel comfortable making a long-term commitment to a 38-year old.
What are the odds?
I think the odds are low for many reasons. First, I see Marleau and Thornton milling around but ultimately returning to give it one or two more kicks of the can in San Jose where the team still seems to be fairly close. If one or both decide to look for greener pastures, best guess is that they will be seeking a chance to win a Stanley Cup. While the Hurricanes are improving, I do not see them as a top 10 destination for a chance to win it all in 2017-18.
I guess the scenario where Francis has an advantage with players like these is if their priorities are receiving a maximum value contract. In this scenario, many teams cannot afford them salary cap-wise, so Francis could win. And for a short-term one or two-year deal, he might do so. But Francis’ nature and track record is not likely to see him bid high on both term and price.
Broader thoughts on using the free agent market for a forward addition
In general, I continue to think the best long-term options are still the original targets in the trade market. But there is a limit to what I will pay for the best available. At some point, finding a good short-term alternative via free agency without paying anything in trade becomes imperfect but palatable and importantly with the potential to be enough to boost the team for 2017-18. Discounted options from Las Vegas as the market cools there still with the need to cut a few more players to reach an opening day roster could also come into play.
As much as I want Francis to add a young, top 6 forward, I am not in the “at any cost” camp.
Playing mind games
Francis has demonstrated an ability to keep the inner workings at 1400 Edwards Mill Road under pretty tight wraps. The free agent rumblings are a bit different because there is a higher volume of agents leaking things to create a buzz around their players and also just a higher level of rumors in general. But at the point where the Hurricanes start to look like they are all in on a decent number of higher-end free agent forwards, my Francis senses suggest that one of two things is up. First is the obvious angle that just maybe Francis is going to swing a big free agent deal. But the other angle is that Francis is intentionally creating some rumbling to make it clear to teams like Colorado, Montreal and others who have appealing forward trade options that he has other options that cost nothing. So as I see the Hurricanes uncharacteristically starting popping up in discussions for big names, I start to wonder if it is all just part of a diligent plan by Francis to ultimately land what he really wants via trade.
What say you Caniacs?
Do you like Patrick Marleau? Do you think Francis could win a higher-end free agent without overpaying in salary and/or term especially given that he will be 38 years old when the 2017-18 seasons starts?
In general, what do you think about using the free agent market for a plan B that does not cost anything in trade assets? (Will save the bigger version of naming names for the Thursday Coffee Shop.)