What is different this year as compared to any other draft week lead up in Hurricanes history is the fact that the Hurricanes (at least allegedly) have a number of big names on the trading block. As such, the price level that the Hurricanes could theoretically be shopping at makes similarly big name additions at least a possibility.
So whereas yesterday’s part 1 of my 2018 NHL Draft week preview did bandy around a few names but mostly focused on the Hurricanes’ side of any potential draft week deals, today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at potential targets for the Hurricanes if they do in fact pull off a blockbuster in trading a high-end player or two.
Reiterating the needs
In my article on June 11, I worked through an exercise slotting the Hurricanes forwards and then identifying needs. The short version is:
1) A goalie capable of becoming the starter
As has become an annual ritual, the Hurricanes need to do something to upgrade the goalie position. Cam Ward had a strong season in a backup role and only faded a bit when pressed into the starter’s role in 2017-18, but at 33 years old, he is not a starter. And Scott Darling faltered mightily in the first year of his four-year contract. One way or another the team needs to do something at the goalie position.
2) A steady top 4 defenseman who can complement and help boost one of Justin Faulk or Noah Hanifin
Another area of concern on the defensive side of the puck is building out a capable second pairing. Noah Hanifin has yet to reach that level on an every-game basis, and Justin Faulk seems to gradually slipping farther from this level of play after achieving it at a young age. I think the time is now to invest in a steady top 4 defenseman who can help solidify the top 4 and ideally make it possible to keep Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce together both at home and away.
3) One higher-end scoring forward
Especially if Jeff Skinner departs, the Hurricanes need to add a top half of the roster scoring forward to boost an offense that languished a bit in 2017-18. The question is whether the team needs veteran help at center until a couple kids emerge or if the team is better off adding finishing on the wing to complement centers who are already in the mix.
Shopping the NHL
What follows is a team by team search for players who could at least theoretically be available and who fill one of the three needs.
I do not view Anaheim as a likely trade partner, but the one player who stands out as long I am putting most everyone on the table and considering blockbusters to be possible, Rickard Rakell jumps out. He could add a young, two-way forward who can also score to the Aho/Teravainen line.
As a player who could become an unrestricted free agent next summer, Oliver Ekman-Larsson would come with some short-term flight risk. But that could also be what encourages Arizona to deal him at a reasonable trade price. As a proven veteran defenseman, he could be the stabilizing force needed for the top 4 even if short-term.
The Bruins are one of a few teams where I just do not see a player who could be available who fits the Hurricanes needs.
With the Sabres still muddling through a rebuild that has yet to yield much for progress, some big names are being bandied around. Ryan O’Reilly is a is 27 years old, capable of playing against anyone and signed for five more years. His front-loaded contract does have a $7.5 million cap hit and also an $8.5 actual salary for 2018-19, but the actual salary is actually a reasonable $6 million in each of the last four years. Rasmus Ristolainen is also thought to be a available but is maybe a bit expensive at $5.4 million per year relative to the level he has reached thus far. Is he a good young defenseman with NHL experience who just needs a change of scenery? Or is he overpriced at a salary for a level of play that he never reached?
In perusing the Flames roster and also considering that Bill Peters is now at the helm in Calgary, I do not see Calgary as a likely trade partner.
I am on record as thinking the trade that makes the most sense is the Hurricanes returning Scott Darling to Chicago and retaining salary in the process. The direct deal could just see the Hurricanes keep the maximum 50 percent salary, or the other possibility is that the Hurricanes take on Marian Hossa’s odd contract that has a salary hit of $5.25 million but an actual salary of only $1 million. But also interesting is Brandon Saad. As a wing with a good combination is size, speed and skill, he could be a good complementary wing who helps the Aho/Teravainen duo step up another notch in 2018-19. If the Hurricanes add a defenseman from elsewhere, Faulk for Saad could be the deal to consider.
After a bit of a bounce back and the departure of Matt Duchene, the Avalanche are not nearly as likely to move a big name as the team was last season. But just maybe Gabriel Landeskog is still available. He could bring more of a physical element to the Aho/Teravainen line.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Especially as a division rival, I do not see Columbus as a likely trade partner.
In browsing Dallas’ roster, the team does not strike me as a great trade partner for the Hurricanes.
Detroit Red Wings
Maybe most enticing with the Red Wings is the potential to capitalize on their seeming preference for retooling such that just maybe the Wings’ #6 pick overall becomes available.
Here the list is plentiful. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would fit if the Hurricanes wanted to add a veteran top 6 center instead of waiting for/hoping the kids are ready on an expedited schedule. If the Oilers want to shake things up in hoping to improve on defense, Adam Larsson fits the bill as a steady, defensively capable top 4.
At first glance, I am not sure the Florida Panthers are one of the more likely trade partners. But the player who could make sense is James Reimer if the Panthers decide they want to lean heavily on Roberto Luongo and save some money at the backup position. Reimer has respectable .920 and .913 Save Percentages in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively and is signed for three years at a nice middle-ish salary of $3.1 million per year.
Los Angeles Kings
Jake Muzzin fits the bill as a steady and proven top 4 defenseman. As such, the rumblings of a potential Skinner for Muzzin deal (with other pieces added) does make sense at least at a conceptual level.
As a team that generally does well during the regular but has yet to come out on top in the western side of the playoff bracket, the Wild could be open to doing a deal or two that shake things up. Nino Niederreiter could be a complementary power forward for Aho/Teravainen.
With Alex Galchenyuk traded to Arizona, one of the regular trade names from Montreal is off the table. But Max Pacioretty is still there and still in the rumor mill. He is a flight risk after only one year when his contract ends next summer, but in terms of finding a player who could complement Aho/Teravainen, Pacioretty would be a great fit as a veteran with decent size, skating ability and finishing capabilities.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of the players highlighted as potential targets do you like?
2) Are there players not listed from these 15 teams whom you would consider?
3) Who wants to take a shot at actually doing deals?