Saturday was an absolutely magical game with emergency backup goalie David Ayres stepping into the Canes’ crease and picking up the victory. The story itself was straight from a story book, and winning without goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek and also key defenseman Brett Pesce was quite the feat.

But with that crazy night gradually fading into the background, the team awoke on Sunday without a healthy NHL goalie and now down two top 4 defensemen with the trade deadline just over 24 hours away. With no practice on Sunday, we do not yet have an update on the three injured players, but Brind’Amour’s comments after the game suggested that all three could be out for awhile.

Needless to say, the ball has very clearly entered Don Waddell’s court with some big decisions to make.

Obviously, the situation has changed a bit, but the starting point for the trade deadline still starts with my original need assessments.

On February 4, I laid out the case for the Hurricanes seeking additions with term, preferably one additional year, instead of 2019-20 rentals.

On February 14, I took a shot at playing Don Waddell and identifying potential acquisition targets.

And on February 20, I provided an update on the trade market after an initial flurry of moves for defensemen, many of whom were on the list to consider for the Hurricanes.

The big change is the loss of two goalies and another top 4 defenseman.

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe expounds upon my comments on Twitter earlier today for how I think the team should and/or will respond.


Reaction to the recent injuries

Despite the injuries, I do not think the time is right to go into desperation mode and over-leverage the future for the 2019-20 season. I do think the Canes should shop aggressively but not for rentals to try to fix 2019-20 but rather for a player or two with term per my initial article. The next leg up for this team will come from the young stars finding a higher gear in the playoffs, not from a whiz-bang addition or two.


The goalie situation

On Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes called up both Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg from the AHL. As far as unproven depth that at least has high-end potential, the duo is a good one. Alex Nedeljkovic has a high draft pedigree and a penchant from playing well under pressure in big games. More significantly, he has been playing at a level in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to suggest that he has mastered the AHL and is ready for a shot at the NHL. Had Don Waddell not found a trade to unload Scott Darling without buying him out and acquired James Reimer in the process, Nedeljkovic would have started the 2019-20 season as the backup. With his waiver exemption expiring next season, he will almost certainly be at the NHL level for the 2020-21 season. Though the ideal scenario would not have been in the middle of a tight playoff race, best was always to get Nedeljkovic some NHL starts in 2019-20 to gauge if/how ready he is. So here we are.

I would go right to Nedeljkovic on Tuesday and plan on getting him one of the weekend back-to-back games and then go from there.

And the current scenario is exactly why the Hurricanes acquired Anton Forsberg as a ho-hum fringe AHL/NHL goalie in the Calvin de Haan trade. Forsberg will not be in over his head as a goalie with 45 NHL starts.

So while neither is a sure thing, the two options that the Canes have in net both have the potential to work out well.

Ideal would be to have a couple weeks before the trade deadline to see if one or both would in fact work out, but that obviously is not the case.

The one wild card is Robin Lehner. I think Lehner is good enough that I would have at least considered adding him even before the pair of injuries. But the important caveat is that in no way would I consider paying a premium or winning a high-end bidding war. More so, I would be willing to step in at a discounted price if no eager suitors emerge.

I think most interesting would be to kill two birds with one stone. First would be to add Lehner for the 2019-20 season as a proven veteran and arguably an upgrade even to Reimer and Mrazek. Second would be to include James Reimer in that deal. To be clear, Reimer has been incredibly good in a backup role this year. But as I said on Twitter earlier today, I think ideal entering the year would be to get a year or part of it from him as a capable 1B of #2 goalie, boost his trade value and then move him to make room for Nedeljkovic in 2020-21. Reimer will be 32 years old in a couple weeks and has a $3.4 million cap hit for next year. Further, of his $3.1 million actual salary, $2.25 million is due upfront as a signing bonus in July, so if the Hurricanes do move Reimer, there is a financial incentive to do so sooner rather than later.

So when I net it out, I am fine with going with Nedeljkovic and Forsberg, especially if either Reimer or Mrazek will be back fairly soon. I would kick the tires on Robin Lehner but not be high bidder in any kind of bidding war.


On the blue line

On defense, I would be fairly aggressively shopping for a defenseman with term. But to be clear, I was actually in this boat even before the Dougie Hamilton injury. Per the article linked to above, I view the Hurricanes as having three bona fide top 4 defensemen in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton for the 2020-21 season. Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury are two options to possibly fill out the top 4 or at least provide depth. My money says that both Joel Edmundson and Trevor van Riemsdyk who are both unrestricted free agents this summer will depart not because the Canes do not want them, but because the team will not be willing to commit #4D type salary with term to either player who ideally slots onto the third pairing with the Canes.

So while the Brett Pesce injury creates a bigger hole short-term, I was shopping to add a player who could help here anyway. I continue to think that Jonas Brodin is the best target. Jeff Petry’s name has come up recently too. I think this is the deal that Waddell tries hardest to bring to fruition on Monday and is willing to bid fairly aggressively.


But I still think Canes aggressiveness is overestimated by the broader NHL media

The hockey media seems to have the Canes as dying to spend one of their first two picks to make a big addition at the trade deadline. TSN’s trade tracker has the Canes first-round pick as an entity in and of itself high on the list.

The media sees the Canes with two first-round picks and quickly assumes that one is extra. Then they ask vague questions about willingness to trade one of them to which the team gives the standard answer of “for the right deal” which is always true. And you connect a couple dots and figure the team is ready to spend a first-round pick.

I think this is overblown and completely misses the recent history of what the team is actually doing. The team has recently stockpiled picks and only very sparingly spent them. The Hurricanes entered the 2019 NHL draft with a bunch of extra picks and expectations that they would use some for trade collateral. Instead, the team traded down with those picks and actually selected even more players while trading none of the draft picks. The Canes also more or less bought a first-round draft pick for $5 million when it took on Patrick Marleau to buy him out.

If anything, the team’s history shows that it has a propensity to use draft picks in quantity to build for the future. I would not be shocked to see the Hurricanes use a first-round pick in a trade, but I would be surprised, and I would expect the acquisition to be huge and not a rental.


My crystal ball

If I had to bet, I think the Hurricanes add Jonas Brodin tomorrow or if not him another defenseman.

Though there are decent veteran options likely to be available for cheap, I would be moderately surprised to see the Hurricanes add a depth goalie versus just going with Nedeljkovic and Forsberg.


What say you Canes fans?


1) What, if anything, would you do to shore up the goalie position?


2) What, if anything, would you do to solidify the blue line?


3) Do you have predictions for specific deals tomorrow?



Go Canes!



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