See also initial thoughts on Canes obtaining defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils for prospect Janne Kuokkanen and a conditional fourth-round pick.
See also initial thoughts on Hurricanes acquisition of defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers for a 2020 first-round draft pick.
Late morning, the Canes jumped in with both feet into the 2020 NHL trade deadline frenzy when they acquired center Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers in exchange for NHLers Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula and prospects Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen.
Filling a need
In Vincent Trocheck, the Hurricanes filled a need that has existed for literally a decade. With Jordan Staal as a defense-leaning top 6 center whose strength is not scoring or playmaking, a balanced scoring lineup for the Hurricanes requires the team to have a higher-end scoring first line but equally importantly a third line that leans offense and can generate scoring chances. With Sebastian Aho anchoring the top line, the first line objective has been achieved, and as we have seen recently when the team goes top-heavy for the first line with Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov, it can be lights out. But as has been the case in many games since that line was put together, the Hurricanes have been a bit of a one-headed monster. To make the model work, the team needs a third line that can also drive offense. And in today’s NHL, a consistent scoring line generally needs two things. First and foremost, the line needs a playmaker who can on a consistent basis generate scoring chances for his two line mates. Second, the line needs wings who can finish at a decent rate. I think first is much more so the key. It is possible to generate decent third line scoring simply with sheer volume of chances if the center can make offense happen. On the other hand, even good scoring wingers struggle when they do not receive enough scoring chances.
What about the current options in Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark?
Erik Haula is a good player and capable third-line center but significantly, his skill set is not that of a true playmaker. He gets high marks for being a solid two-way player who can play in any situation. And he gets high marks for having a knack and nose for the net as a receive/finish scorer both at even strength and on the power play. But Haula is not so much the type of center who drives bunches of scoring chances for his line mates. In addition, he fits into the same category of Joel Edmundson and Trevor van Riemsdyk as a player who could be re-signed and fit on the 2020-21 roster but is more likely to receive a better offer elsewhere. With Andrei Svechnikov, Dougie Hamilton and Martin Necas due for new contracts in the next couple years, I do not think the Canes would/will offer enough to these players in term and/or salary for the depth type roles they slot into.
I have long been less positive on Lucas Wallmark than the consensus. That is not to say he is not a good NHL player. He is. But the issue for me is that I think his ceiling is that of a great C4 who is competent and capable filling in as a C3. But again in a model where the team ideally needs the third line to lean scoring and offense, Wallmark just is not the right type of player in terms of generating offense as a playmaker for a scoring line. In a deep dive in my article on January 3, I talked about where Wallmark slots, issues with how he fits into Canes structure with Staal as C2 and also the potential salary versus slot issues for 2020-21. Like Haula and Staal, he gets high marks for his two-way play. And like Haula, he brings some receive/finish ability as a goal scorer. But he just lacks enough dynamic with the puck on his stuck to boost the play of line mates by generating bunches of scoring chances.
As with Haula, his contract situation is also an issue but in a different way. Wallmark is an absolute bargain at $675,000 for the 2019-20 season. But he is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. On pace for 31 points and with a role on both special teams, what might an arbitrator award him? Could he push up to $3 million range? If so, he becomes an incredibly pricey C4 at a time when the Hurricanes needs to reign in costs a bit to make the math work with Svechnikov and possibly also Hamilton are re-signed.
So if the team agrees with my assessment that Wallmark just is not the right player for the C3 slot and has a high estimate for what his next contract looks like, then the logical decision is to sell high. Put another way just for example, would you rather have Wallmark at $2.8-$3 million or Trocheck at only $2 million more?
Vincent Trocheck is the long-needed C3 who can drive offense and balance the Hurricanes lines with Jordan Staal’s scoring-lite line in the middle. Trocheck is a bit undersized but is the type of playmaking center who plays with the puck on his stick and makes offense happen for himself and more so his line mates. He posted a massive 75 points in 2017-18 including 44 assists. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, he has scored at a solid 55ish-point pace.
There are no guarantees obviously, but in Trocheck the Hurricanes have added the type of player that has the potential to help them take the next step in terms of truly being three lines deep and creating match up problems past the top line. Of players currently in the system, I view only Martin Necas as a potential for that role. But Necas struggled as a center last year and has settled in and looks good as wing. So both the viability and the schedule for moving Necas to center while promising are incredibly uncertain especially in terms of timing. As a player with two additional years of contract term, Trocheck is not a short-term fix but rather a longer-term upgrade who could serve as a bridge to Martin Necas (or not) on a timeline that is not forced/rushed.
The trade package
In giving up two NHL players and two prospects, the Hurricanes paid a fairly high price for Trocheck, but when I look a layer deeper, I think the Canes paid more in quantity of assets that had less value rather than giving up a higher-end asset.
As discussed above, Haula was unlikely to return and was filling the slot that Trocheck now goes into. Also significant is that by including Haula in this trade, the Canes still have about $2.7 million of cap room to possibly do another deal. Also as noted above, Wallmark at a minimum was a significant risk to price his way out his C4 slot in arbitration next summer.
As far as the prospects, I wrote on Twitter and in my Daily Cup of Joe today that I thought the NHL media was greatly overstating the Canes probability of trading a first-round draft pick. Sure enough, in this deal the Canes managed to include two medium-grade prospects and not lose a draft pick at all. Priskie was a great free agent addition last summer, but he is still a project with an uncertain NHL future and is soon to be 24 years old. Eetu Luostarinen had a strong NHL audition but based on that projects to likely have a ceiling as an NHL depth forward. So both prospects have NHL potential, but each has a low probability of becoming more than a depth player who could fairly easily be replaced.
So when you net it out, yes the Hurricanes paid a lot in terms of quantity. But they really did not give up a higher-end asset to get a good middle 6 forward. In addition, both of the two NHL players were probably not great fits past 2019-20 anyway.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on the addition of Vincent Trocheck?
2) What are your thoughts on what/how much the Canes gave up?
3) With cap space remaining, do you think the team has another deal coming yet?
I’ve always like Trocheck – plays hard, physical, fast, edgy, skilled – and I even mentioned his name last week as a target. I’m actually surprised FLA would give him up for this package? Which part of this deal was the most attractive part from their perspective? Do they have cap issues?
I guess Marty plays C the rest of this season and no one has to sit in the press box. Interesting that we gave up prospects and not futures in this deal. I’m not sure how to feel about losing those two specific prospects but happy to have retained our two 1st and 2nd-round picks.
I like it … doesn’t solve the immediate need on defense now but solves the Center problem over the longer term. Being bold worked in the Dougie trade; let’s hope that this one turns out just as well.
On the prospects versus picks, I have a half-written article on Canes strategy in this regard.
Short version is that the greatest value in a draft pick is not getting fair value or slightly better for each pick. Netting a depth player from mid-round pick is a win but really does not move the needle much in terms of building a great NHL team. Rather the greatest value in a draft pick is that it represents a lottery ticket to possibly win an Aho, Slavin or Pesce even in a later-round.
So the model is thus…Collect and use as many draft picks as possible especially in mid to high rounds. Hope some of those are winnners. At the point where you realize that a player has a modest ceiling and is not a lottery winner (Roy, Saarela, Luostarinen, Priskie) consider trading them while they have value.
If it is correct that someone like Roy has a ceiling as a 4C or maybe middle of road 3C at best, you can add that any given summer via free agency for next to nothing. There is no real value in that. The value in prospects is finding the occasional home run who can be a top half of the lineup difference-maker.
Fans tend to greatly overvalue actual prospects because they focus on the positives and potential. But after 2-4 years of development, it is fairly easy to sort players based on what their ceiling is. I think Canes will continue to do that and show a preference for trading players over picks when possible.
lol…Guess that was nothing close to ‘short’.
I thought it was a lot initially, but I have come around to the trade.
I was losing Wallmark that initially tipped the scale – “we are losing all that and Wallmark”??
What made Wallmark special in a Canes uniform was his ability to step up and “be” Jordan Staal for a couple of months when Staal was out with his concussion. That is something most 4Cs cannot do.
But you don’t overpay a 4C because he might be called on to fill that role again in the future.
You are right about the finances – I was think he would arb out at around $2-2.5M, which is still high for what his role would be – a 4C able to slot up if necessary.
It is a small price to pay for a player like Trocheck – meanwhile hoping his lessened play this season is not a true trajectory for him.
I have to think we are picking up someone else – I could see us riding Ned and Forsburg until Mrazek is right. But we can use a D, yes?
I am not crazy about it. I totally get the Haula self rental angle and I see the long term cap planning as well. I thought Priskie was supposed to be this stud 4 year D from college. I can only think management was not as high on him after his AHL year. Loosing a totally responsible guy like Wallmark, who can play anyplace, is a big give.
This is 4 pieces for 1. Trocheck is not having one of his great years. Haula has 12 goals, Wallmark has 11 and Trocheck has 10. He better shine or we totally blew it. The one thing I know is I would not be a good GM and I do not have all the info like they do. I have come to trust their decisions, so I only hope we will be happy a year from now. I think most comments I have been reading say we got fleeced. It could equally be a gamble that pays off and we get a great C. Time will tell. My initial take is I am not sure we made a good deal here, but I am reading what others believe as well.
Like TJ I am coming around to this trade.
While somewhat skeptical that thedailyfaceoff.com keeps their Corsica positional rankings up to date, it’s a reasonable place for a sanity check. Add a reasonable measuring stick like: given their are 31 teams with 4 lines, then you want each forward to be in the top 124 players at their position. More specifically top 31 players on the first line, top 62 on the second line, top 93 on the third line, and top 124 on the fourth line. Minimums of course.
As of this morning, Wallmark is #138 C and Haula #70. Trocheck is #50 C. So Haula slotted in as a 3rd line center (top 1/3) while Trockeck slotted in as a 2nd line center (Middle 1/3). Add a right shot and other considerations listed and this is an upgrade.
The numbers say Wallmark is replaceable, noting that is a harsh business statement and not a personal comment. I like the player and his game and didn’t like to see him go.
Matt I agree with your theory on draft picks being like lottery tickets, with little statistical difference in chance of winning + or – at least 2 rounds (outside of the first 10 picks). That’s why the canes traded down twice for more picks – the math says that will yield a better outcome statistically over time. Add in salary considerations, and you want as many shots as possible to find players that will be difference makers in the league and/or contribute while on ELC.
1 – Simmons, Marleau, Grant, Pageau – so many other trades today are GMs giving up assets for unrestricted free agents. Don is playing two years ahead by filling a real hole in the roster. You nailed it in your write-up this morning, Haula’s contract was a liability.
There’s a real chance the Canes don’t make the playoffs (those injuries will be tough to overcome) and to let Haula, TVR and Edmundson all walk could set the team back. Maybe, due to injuries, they’re forced to ride out the two defensemen; but Waddell is so much more focused than I remember him being in Atlanta.
2 – Losing ‘Bar Down Wally’ is no fun, you want to see him do well. I finally got to see Priskie skate a couple of weeks ago, he was the Checker’s 5th best defenseman: he has a long way to climb to get on the ice in Raleigh.
3 – I wouldn’t put it past them to make one more move.
Thanks for the Priskie comment. It’s good to have some eyes to confirm he was not progressing like we hoped.
It’s pretty clear the trade is long term thinking. It is what we should be doing. Our brain trust is doing pretty good which is why I did not come out guns a blazing negative. There is not much doubt that Trocheck is an upgrade for any single player, but we sure gave up a lot. Hockey trades do not come for free.
Priskie has progressed nicely – but he started from a lower place than expected and had trouble finding his way in the pro game. That has been discussed a number of times by Warsofsky in interviews with Shaya. He is improving – but he is certainly not going to be NHL ready by the end of his contract with us.
Guys coming out of college at 23 have a short window to make the show. Not many teams wait multiple years for guys that old.
And to be clear, my comment was not meant to be a knock against Priskie; he may still be a solid NHL blueliner. The Canes just have a glut of quality AHL guys all looking to make the leap.