My Twitter-size comments from shortly after the news broke that Jeff Skinner had been traded are at the bottom of this post. I stand by that initial reaction. What follows are more detailed thoughts on today’s big trade.

Because of the magnitude of the deal and the fact that I am not sitting down to write this until after midnight, I will break it into two parts. Today’s first part will focus on the on-ice (and to some degree in locker room) evaluation of the trade. Part two will consider bigger picture things like the effect on the fan base and community.



Coming out of the Dougie Hamilton/Micheal Ferland trade and before the Calvin de Haan signing, I wrote an article on July 3 entitled, “Is the other shoe about to drop? And if so, what does it entail?”

In that article one of two possible series of moves detailed on July 3 was:

Justin Faulk is traded for a scoring forward => Calvin deHaan is signed as a free agent => Jeff Skinner is traded primarily for high-end futures possibly with a depth forward or defenseman included

By adding de Haan via free agency instead of trade, this version of dealing sees the Hurricanes replace Faulk, replace Skinner and still net a nice pile of futures to boot.

Two of those three deals are now a reality.

Then on July 4, I followed up with an article entitled, “The next domino is…?”

In that article, I wrote:

So I think the ideal outcome goes like this:

1) Justin Faulk is traded for a comparable forward who is proven at the NHL level and leans offense.

2) Jeff Skinner is later dealt with the primary return being a high-end package of futures.

Obviously, I missed on the order, but I still think it is quite possible that the end result ends up being more or less accurate.


Jeff Skinner for ….?

The official trade was Jeff Skinner for exactly zero games of NHL experience. The Hurricanes netted mid-tier forward prospect Cliff Pu, a second round pick in 2019, a third round pick in 2020 and a sixth round pick in 2020. So in a nutshell, the Hurricanes collected four middle-tier type futures.


The crux of the deal and likely a Brind’Amour influence

In covering the deal thoroughly, I will of course discuss what was received and its value relative to Jeff Skinner, but that is not the point of this deal. This deal is the first of what will likely be two moves (Justin Faulk being the other) to make a change to the culture, chemistry, locker room, leadership, attitude or whatever else you want to call it.

As I said on Twitter at the close of my initial thoughts, especially those who are upset to see a fan favorite depart with no NHL players in return, this deal will be pinned on Tom Dundon and Don Waddell who are favorites for fan wrath right now. But I actually think this deal more than any other that we have seen thus far has Rod Brind’Amour’s fingerprints all over it. From the very outset of trade rumors and rumblings leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft, Jeff Skinner’s name was front and center. The team never denied it, and even commented to suggest that he was in fact available.

I think it is like this. When the team collapsed in late winter and early spring last season, it was an utter train wreck. Anyone who watched it and has been unable to wipe it from his/her memory knows it. Though there were definitely elements of poor play as well, there was something bigger. The positive is that I think Tom Dundon and management recognized it and committed to addressing it. The negative is that this means having to part ways not just with random fourth line depth players and youth but actual core players and leaders.

All indications are that the team did not try to re-sign Jeff Skinner (which would be the only other viable option this summer in my opinion) but instead charted a course to trade him.

Decision-making is reported to be a group effort these days, but I fully believe that Rod Brind’Amour likely had the biggest and likely decisive vote in this decision. Dundon is on record as highly valuing Brind’Amour’s opinion. He knows a thing or two about winning (and also losing) leadership and locker rooms. And he has witnessed the past few years firsthand as an assistant coach. In my opinion, the decision to part ways with Jeff Skinner at a bare minimum had a strong blessing from Brind’Amour but more likely was actually his preference and/or suggestion.

The Hurricanes have already seen significant changeover with the departure of depth forwards Derek Ryan, Lee Stempniak and Marcus Kruger, team icon Cam Ward and high draft pedigree youth in Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. But absolutely nothing had changed with the formal leadership group of the team with all of Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner still in tow.

In looking for a restart and a change in attitude and culture, you can not just chip away at the depth players on the roster. There must be change to the leadership too. If not, departures look more like scapegoats and accountability seems to come with exemptions.

Personally, I do not see Jeff Skinner as any kind of locker room cancer or negative in that way. But he was part of a leadership team that failed and did so in a way that needed change, and I also think his departure is part of a necessary change to the team’s culture.


Replacing Jeff Skinner on the ice

The positive

The headline of this deal for many who are against it is the fact that the Hurricanes lost a player who was second on the team with 24 goals in 2017-18 even in a down year. He is a proven and consistent NHL scorer. What’s more, he is incredibly good at both creating and finishing his own offense which means that he is capable of scoring regardless of line mates.

The negatives

No doubt, the Hurricanes ability to score goals stepped down a notch with Thursday night’s trade. But I think oversimplifying his departure as now needed to add X goals fails to consider the totality of Jeff Skinner’s game and pros and cons.


Lack of development in terms of decision-making and defensive play

As I wrote awhile back, winning hockey games is not about scoring goals. Winning hockey games is about scoring more goals than you allow. And in this regard, it is not clear that Jeff Skinner, regardless of who replaces him, is a net positive. His game never matured in terms of decision-making and defensive play without the puck. When coaches and broadcasters feel the need to note and praise a player for brief spurts of responsible play six or seven years into his NHL career, it is telling as to where his game really is defensively in total. Because of that, the Hurricanes have generally lost/been outscored with Jeff Skinner on the ice. Significant is that this has been true regardless of what level he has been scoring at and generally at a worse level than the rest of the team. I fully realize that plus/minus is a flawed stat, but when it holds negative across seven seasons it is not a fluke, and when it is consistently worse than the rest of the team and partial season line mates, that normalizes reasonably well for situational negatives like playing on a bad team, weak goalie play or whatever else that should also impact team mates.

My burning question is whether it is possible to replace Jeff Skinner with a player who maybe scores 18-20 goals but is a better all-around player and actually improves the team regardless of scoring.


Lack of chemistry with line mates

Another angle dives into a regular topic of controversy which has to do with line mates. Many argue that Jeff Skinner has played largely with depth type forwards as line mates which no doubt is true. His regular centers the past couple years have been Victor Rask and Derek Ryan. What follows is the suggestion that Skinner would have been better with more help on his line. My opinion is different in that I think the one glaring weakness of Skinner’s game offensively was that he seemed to lack an ability to either make his line mates better of have them make him better. His whirling dervish one man attack with the puck on his stick did net goals but did not so much generate offense for his line mates. Further, his propensity to play with the puck on his stick did not mesh well with centers more accustomed to handling and distributing. Skinner’s foray with Jordan Staal was an unmitigated disaster that saw the two both finish at the bottom of the league for plus/minus. And years of playing on the same team with Eric Staal but rarely with him was actually coaches (all three of Maurice, Muller and Peters saw it the same way) understanding the lack of fit with his style of play and a stereotypical offensive center.

In building a 2018-19 set of lines that included rookies Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov, I was mostly at a loss with where to plug in Skinner. At a high level, putting a veteran who is a good offensive player with the two rookies seemed to make sense. But my fear is that that could have instantly put both Necas and Svechnikov in complementary roles that could stunt their development. Necas’ strength is that of a puck-carrying/distributing center who needs to play with the puck, not in a read and react role (i.e. what Victor Rask does when playing with Skinner) next to a wing who tends to keep the puck.

While there is definitely a loss on the power play and in terms of scoring in general, the bigger question is whether the offensive positives significantly outweigh the negatives that also departed when Skinner was traded and whether a lesser scoring, well-rounded forward can replace him.


The return

In return, the Hurricanes received what I would call a medium-level prospect and three draft picks.

As I said on Twitter initially, the return is underwhelming and disappointing. I am obviously not privy to what other deals might have been available, to what degree Skinner’s no-trade clause hindered things or to what degree all options were thoroughly explored, but my initial thoughts are that even if Skinner needs to go, I would have held out a bit longer.

But there are a couple mitigating factors. First, if I am correct that this change is as much about leadership and culture transition as anything else, it is not as simple as just keeping him into the season and waiting out a better deal.  Second, especially after watching the Tavares situation unfold, if the decision had been made not to re-sign him next summer, then the market is what it is, and maybe you have to take the best available offer versus maybe getting nothing in the end.

Cliff Pu

He rates as a good second-tier type prospect definitely with NHL potential but probably more in a third line type role. Steve Kournianos’ well-timed article at The Sporting News this week had him ranked ninth in the Buffalo Sabres’ prospect pool (which rated first in the NHL).

The draft picks

Even with some changes, the Sabres still have a good chance of being a bottom half team in 2018-19 which could push the second round pick closer to the first round. But again, the Sabres have three first round picks for 2019, so one would have hoped that the Hurricanes could pry one of those loose.


More succinctly, the return just was not good. As part of a series of two moves that saw the Hurricanes net a replacement forward in a deal for Faulk, I was actually okay with trading Skinner for futures, but I would have hoped for a first-round pick and/or a higher-end prospect.


The other domino

Back on July 4 after the Hurricanes added Calvin de Haan, I considered Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner to be an interconnected set of dominoes. Because it is hard to trade a scoring forward for a scoring forward (team needing offense does not gain much just trading offense for offense), my expectation was that the team would first trade Justin Faulk for a forward who could replace some of Skinner’s offense and then possibly trade Skinner for futures. These deals are complicated and because Faulk has two years on his contract there is maybe less urgency, but if forced to bet, I would still say that Faulk also departs before training camp. In terms of actual news breaking, August is usually a slow month, but my hunch is that Waddell will be busy trying to pull off one last trade before training camp.


Netting it out

1) As a former player and captain who gets it who has been in the locker room for the past couple years, the one thing I trust Rod Brind’Amour with is effecting the change needed in leadership, culture, etc., and more than anything, I think that is what this deal represents.

2) The 30-goal potential that was lost will be hard to replace, but I think focusing only on goals for and ignoring goals against fails to understand the full version of Jeff Skinner.

3) Regardless of who replaces Skinner, the team improved defensively today and possibly also in terms of building out lines that mesh and see 1+1+1 be greater than 3.

4) In the bigger picture, this deal is in my opinion the biggest for the fan base since the Eric Staal trade in terms of rocking the community and representing the painful version of possibly necessary change. I will address that significant aspect of this trade in part 2 hopefully on Friday.


Twitter-size comments from shortly after the Jeff Skinner trade announcement

I will post detailed thoughts later tonight but wanted to open this up for reader comments.

Initial Twitter-size comments are here:


What say you Canes fans?


1) Deal/return aside, what are your thoughts on parting ways with Jeff Skinner?


2) What are your thoughts on receiving a package of four futures in return?


3) What are your thoughts about this being more about the broader transition than on-ice production?


4) Anything else?


Go Canes!

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