With the Canes not having a first-round draft pick (was given to Montreal along with third round pick to obtain Kotkaniemi) and no trades going down, the first day of the 2022 NHL Draft was mostly a non-event for the Carolina Hurricanes.
But with only DeBrincat of the big names swirling around coming off the table, the Canes could hypothetically be in the mix for any of a number of higher-end additions.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers a bunch of options in stream of consciousness format…
Building a second scoring line
At forward, the biggest issue for the Canes coming out of the 2021-22 season was adding more scoring help ideally at wing. But if Trocheck departs, the team also needs a second line center.
I view the Canes forward depth chart as follows:
Teravainen/Aho/Svechnikov — Despite his rough playoffs, I am doubling down on Svechnikov all day. Paired with Aho and Teravainen, the team has one scoring line.
_____/Staal/Fast — Staal and Fast give the team a great start to a third line that is light on scoring but incredibly good at defending. Despite not scoring much, that line was a big plus, the team’s most consistent and arguably the team’s best in the playoffs. Niederreiter is a good fit, but per my previous article on keep/do not keep for Canes free agents, a cap team like the Canes cannot both have a $5 million slot on the third line and at the same time upgrade the top of the lineup. Be it a young player rising up or one of the current depth forwards seizing the slot, I think the Canes can (or at least needs to try to) build a third line that slots a $1 million-ish player next to Staal and Fast, and I think the chance of this working out fine is very good.
The fourth line probably sees at least one higher-ceiling young player fall to here but also needs to be built witha budget past that.
That leaves the second line. Players whose ceilings could be a good second line player include Necas, Kotkaniemi and Jarvis. Exactly none of those three players has yet to prove he can play at that high of a level for a full (or most) of an NHL season. Jarvis had a tremendous rookie season as an 18-year old which projects well, but he was also invisible for a long stretch and finished with 40 points. Necas has similarly had runs of looking like a top 6 forward but also finished the 2021-22 season with a fit of complete invisibility in the playoffs. Kotkaniemi is maybe most interesting. The Canes gave up a first and third round draft pick and spent the last big chunk of their 2021-22 salary cap budget to add him theoretically as a scoring line wing. After failed auditions both on Aho’s and Trocheck’s lines, Kotkaniemi fell to being a fourth line center. He definitely looked more comfortable in that role and produced reasonably well for a fourth-liner, but the key phrase there is “for a fourth-liner.” The team then made an interesting moving deciding to go double or nothing not once but multiple times in signing a player who was a fourth-line center at the time to an eight-year contract for $4.8 million per year. The HUGE commitment maybe says that the Canes have him pegged as a second line center for a scoring line despite the fact that he has yet to prove he can fill that role?
In ‘win now’ mode, with a two-year window with the current group before needing to re-sign key players currently on bargain contracts, I think the Canes will spend at least some of their available budget on adding more proven components for a second line.
Enter the big names.
Alleged to possibly be available are Evgeni Malkin (free agent who is squabbling with Pittsburgh so far), Claude Giroux (free agent) and Vladimir Tarasenko (possibly available via trade from St. Louis).
If the Canes want to go for it, I think they pour as much money as the budget can hold into a second line for a year or two.
Some other parts would have to move to, but if the Canes could land two of Malkin, Vladimir Tarasenko or Giroux for $7.5 million, things would be tight but could work.
As fellow Russians, might acquiring Tarasenko help lure Malkin? Might any two of the three be intrigued by being paired with another veteran star as 2/3 of a line on a team that is probably within Stanley Cup range? Tarasenko’s contract is already the $7.5 million needed. That number might not be highest bidder, but maybe it is enough especially if the Canes stretch to two years.
For it to work probably requires Malkin. Though Giroux played most of his career as a center, he has shifted to right wing the past couple years which is where Tarasenko plays.
No doubt there is some risk with these players’ ages, but all have produced recently and seem to be a reasonable bet to do the same if healthy.
The Canes have about $19 million of salary cap space available and would then have 16 players under contract. If the Canes could unload Jake Gardiner’s salary (would have to pay futures to do so), that would get them back to having $8 million available to fill 5-6 roster spots. Per my previous article, I would love to see the Canes push for a deal that sends Necas, Gardiner and futures to Arizona for Chychrun. At that point the Canes would have a solid top 4 on the blue line with Chatfield for the bottom part of the lineup, 10 forwards under contract and two goalies. The team would need to fill the last spots with players near the NHL minimum salary, but that could be doable with Lorentz to be re-signed, Drury on his entry-level contract likely winning a spot and another inexpensive signing for the blue line.
If the Canes tried to pull this off, the lineup looks something like…
Jarvis/Malkin/Giroux or Tarasenko
I think the way to pull this off is to talk to Giroux and Malkin’s agents once free agency opens to see if this situation strikes interest with them. If they shrug and do not really care, it will be impossible to just get them by winning two bidding wars. But if they see it as an interesting opportunity, the $7.5 million is not a huge discount and maybe the pairing is what gets them.
As an aside, maybe what is most exciting about dreaming up configurations like this is that the Hurricanes under Tom Dundon are a team that has made some splashes, will spend to the cap ceiling and are legitimately in ‘win now’ range aiming for the Cup.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Would you be willing to throw $15 million to add two aging stars as the core for a second scoring line and then try to fill pretty much all of the other holes on a budget?
2) How do you feel about Tarasenko, Malkin and Giroux individually and any two as a duo at this stage of their NHL careers?
3) Any chance this could actually happen?
4) Of any other big names floating around, who do you like?