With free agency opening in time for lunch break on Wednesday, today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers quick thoughts on most of the names being bandied about right now.
For me, it’s like this.
First and foremost, the Canes need to add a steady and sound top 4 defenseman to get the defense back to being a strength. That is going to be difficult and possibly require taking on risk because of the limited options.
Second, pour most of the rest of the budget into building a bona fide second scoring line. With Trocheck, a single higher-end wing might do it. Without Trocheck, the Canes need at least two players here.
Third, use whatever budget is left to opportunistically add bargain-priced scoring depth at forward and fill out the blue line depth.
In a nutshell, I am looking for three key parts which will be challenging RD2, C2, LW2 or RW2.
This market is about as challenging as the goalie market. I am on record as thinking that Jakob Chychrun is a price worth paying heavily for. Past that, creativity trading for a player not known to be available would be great here. After that, finding a winner could require tremendous work by the scouting team to pick a winner from a bunch of options that come with significant risk in the form of contract and/or cost.
Still sticking with him as my top trade target per previous yammering.
If forced to pick only for next year, ignoring contract and age risk, I would put Klingberg below only Chychrun and would be very happy to get him. But he is 30 years old and was asking Dallas for a 7-year contract in the neighborhood of $7 million per year. As much as I do think the Canes need to go for it and likely take on some risk to do so, that is just too much in my opinion. I would actually feel more comfortable paying him max dollars for two years ($8 million), but he will not take that.
Not really sure how people see him as an option. From watching him in 2021-22, I think the 37-year old version of him is limited to being a good third pairing power play specialist. His remaining contract is 3 years at $8 million per year. Even if San Jose picked up half his salary, I would pass at $4 million per year. It is too much for what he brings, and that third year is a key year when Canes must re-sign or replace Aho, Teravainen, Pesce, Skjei and Jarvis.
He is the one where I defer to the scouts. He had a horrible start to 2021-22 which could have suggested he was done but then did rebound a bit. But still three years (see above why 3 years is significantly tougher to take than 2 given Canes situation) at $6.25 million is a huge, risky bet. But the good version of Petry from as recently as 2020-21 would work.
He is a newer entry to the rumors and rumblings. If the Panthers are trying to free up cap space to re-sign Giroux, I guess he (and others) come into play. I would peg him as a little bit light in terms of the ‘solid and steady’ that I ideally want in the top 4, but he put up a respectable 40 points last year and did play in the top 4 on the NHL’s best team in the regular season. And another HUGE factor is that his salary at $3.25 million for only one year is light years less risky than many of the other options. He would be an unrestricted free agent next summer, but you bring him in with modest risk and get either an exit ramp or the chance to re-up next summer depending on how it goes.
Ironically, a team that figures to struggle defensively seems maybe willing to trade its best defender. At 25 years old and signed for $6.75 million per year for three years, that is a bit high but not horrible for a bona fide top 4 defenseman. The question is if Provorov is maybe not quite that on a good team. I lean toward passing even if he is available, but he could be one for the scouting team to do the difficult assessment and decide if he is a diamond in the rough.
I threw this one out there on Twitter asking if people would consider him if the Blackhawks retained half of his salary (making his cap hit $4.75 million) and was surprised that the vote split about 50/50. I get that a bunch of his luster wore off last year, but he is a proven right shot top 4 defenseman who is only 27 years old. No doubt there is risk in the 8-year contract, but I still think $4.75 million is a bargain. That said, this is likely just a thought experiment. It would not make sense for the Blackhawks to retain that much salary because it would stretch past the couple years allocated to rebuilding. But then the Blackhawks have done some wacky things already this off-season, so it does not hurt to ask.
Fresh up a Stanley Cup win, Manson figures to become a free agent on Wednesday. I peg him as more of a depth defenseman who fits only for a price that makes the rest of the math work.
Maybe he slotted higher at times on a Leafs team that has been struggling to cobble together a blue line when all of their budget is spent on high-end forwards, but I view him as more of a great #5 defenseman on a good blue line. His price is right at $2 million for a depth role, so maybe if the Canes cannot land what they really want and instead try to go the route of adding multiple lower cost options hoping one works (sort of like 2021-22 which had mixed results), he could fit in that scenario. But I would not be ponying up Necas or similar and counting him as a bona fide top 4.
If St. Louis does not re-sign him, he will become a free agent on Wednesday. He had a decent run on the top 4 with the Islanders. Not sure I have a great read on what he brings two teams later at 31 years old.
I like him instead of Brent Burns but importantly NOT as the top 4 D that is a priority but rather as a third pairing power pay specialist and ONLY if the deal includes a third team (Edmonton would not do it) eating half of his salary to put his cost at $2.25 million. For that price, he is a good replacement for what DeAngelo did well.
Coming off a $9 million per year contract but now 34 years old, I have no idea where Subban’s salary lands for his next contract. I would not consider him for the top 4 slot at a salary appropriate for that role, but would consider paying a premium price above a normal third pairing salary. In that scenario, you put him in the #5 slot and on the power play and hope he can still play at a higher level than that. This requires him taking one of those discounted veteran contracts hoping to win a Cup, so the chances are low.
For the bottom three defenseman (third pairing and one extra), I figure the Canes have Jalen Chatfield and a slot for a power play point that is currently filled by Jake Gardiner. That leaves one more slot ideally for a $1M-ish defenseman. Fleury could fit there but as a left shot more so if the Canes parted ways with Gardiner and added a right shot offensive defenseman (i.e. Barrie). After being let go by three teams in less than two years, the combination of being a bit hungry and returning to a place that is familiar could be a decent combination. That said, there will be other depth options.
My 2 cents
I am on record more than a week ago as being willing to give up Martin Necas (23 years old) plus a higher-end pick or prospect for Jakob Chychrun (24 years old) and ideally upgrading the futures a bit to get Arizona to also take Jake Gardiner. Arizona will have room to take some salary that they need to at least reach the salary cap minimum. Then if Edmonton is still peddling Tyson Barrie, I would do a three-way deal that sees another team take half his salary to make the Canes cap hit $2.25 million. Add Chatfield and the best the Canes can get for about $1 million, and the team will have filled the #4-#7 slots for a total of about $8.5 million which leaves a good amount of budget to build a second scoring forward line.
For most of the other higher-end options, the risk/reward trade-off is incredibly scary in my opinion.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Please feel free to add anyone that I missed in the comments.
2) Who do you like most from this list?
3) Which of the higher-end players that come with some kind of risk would you consider?
4) Would you consider skipping the high-risk options and adding a couple middle-priced players hoping something works?