Veteran defenseman Niclas Wallin in the longest-tenured Hurricane. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2000 Entry Draft, the 34-year-old just finished his eighth season in Carolina. He has been part of one Stanley Cup champion team, another Eastern Conference championship squad and was on board for this year's trip to the NHL's final four.
But while Wallin put up his typical annual numbers (10 points, 64 games, 42 PIMs), many believe his effectiveness has diminished the past few seasons.
|2008 - Niclas Wallin||64||2||8||10||-1||42||0||0||1||1||53||3.8|
The Good: As stated above, Wallin consistently puts up the same statistics. Since his second full year in the NHL (2002-03), the Swedish blueliner has scored either 10 (four times) or eight (twice) points. He's always played between 16 and 18 minutes a night, had 40-70 penalty minutes, and — outside of the 77 games he played in 2002-03 — played between 50 and 67 games each season. He can still be a serviceable penalty killer and physical presence, has lots of experience, is good in the room and has been a clutch player. With Wallin, everyone knows what they're getting.
The Bad: Part of what you're getting is a player who has been a minus player most seasons. Twice he has been on the right side of the plus/minus ledger, but just barely (plus-1 in 2001-02, plus-2 in 2005-06), and he has neared minus-20 two times. He seems to have slowed a step in recent years and sometimes struggles with faster players in the post-lockout NHL. Despite his defense-first game, he blocks few shots (81, sixth on the team) and he takes too many minor penalties (more than 20 every year since the lockout) for a guy playing third-pairing minutes.
The Stats: Wallin's favorite math equation? 2+8=10. This season was the third time the rearguard has finished with those offensive numbers.
- 2 goals — the third straight year Wallin has scored two goals and the fifth time in his career.
- 8 assists — matches his career high, done two other times (2002-03, 2006-07).
- 10 points — also a tie for his career best, the fourth time he's hit double digits.
- Minus-1 — when his plus/minus is near even, the Canes do well. He was plus-1 in 2001-02 (lost in Cup finals) and plus-2 in 2005-06 (won Stanley Cup). He was minus-2 in 2006-07, but Carolina missed the playoffs.
- 0 major penalties — despite his physical style, Wallin has not taken a major penalty since the lockout. Oleg Tverdovsky, David Tanabe and Casey Borer have combined for four.
The Money: Wallin earned $1.725 million this season, the third year of a four-year contract that paid him that much annually. It includes a no-trade clause. GM Jim Rutherford has tried to trade Wallin in the past but was denied by the defenseman. With just one year remaining on his deal, Wallin may be more attractive to other teams — and more open to going elsewhere — if Rutherford explores moving him. Also, do not rule out a buyout if the Carolina front office thinks one of their young blueliners is ready for duty.