Here are 7 things I'd like to see the Canes do either before the season starts, during the season, or before the beginning of next year. I know there will be a lot of you that will not agree with me and that's ok. These are my opinions and I'm not trying to upset anyone.
1. Trade Anton Babchuk and soon.
We obvisously are not bringing Babs back to Raleigh. While everyone knows this and getting top value for him will be impossible, we should be able to get something in return. If the Rangers have any interest in him, trade his rights to New York for one of their Prospects (Bobby Sanguinetti-D, Michael Sauer-D, Nigel Williams-D, or Derek Stepan-C). Babs will either grow into a top 4 guy or (more likely) wilt under the lights andpressure of the Big Apple. The Canes could always use another prospect to help build depth.
2. Sign Cam Ward to an affordable long-term deal.
Cam will be resigned, the question is for how much and how long. I would like to see JR work his magic and get Cam signed to a 5 year deal worth $23.75mil. Have him start out a $4.25mil the first year ($750,000 more than he's making this year) and have it increase by $250,000 each year. That's a $4.75mil cap hit each year and locks Cam up through his prime. I would say sign him for longer, but you never know with goalies.
3. Give the prospects an extended stay in the NHL this season.
With so many young guys expected to play in the 10/11 season, we need to be able to guage how they might do at the NHL level. Prospects are no guarnetee and for every one that does work out, there are three that don't. I would like to see what we may have before turning the reins over in 10/11. I'm just a little nervous that 5 or 6 roster spots in 10/11 that might be filled by rookies. Only a few rookies can step in to important roles their first year and contribute.
4. Resign Ray Whitney to a 1 or 2 year deal.
While Ray is getting up there in age, he is still playing at a high level. If he is willing to take a pay cut, he would still be able to play a top 6 role and help bring along some of the younger talent. Carolina has some smallish forward prospects and Ray could help mentor them (I'm really thinking of Boychuk). If Ray would take between $1.75mil or $2.25mil, I would resign him quickly. It would be a pay cut, but he could finish his career in a place that loves him.
5. Trade Sergei Samsonov
Sergei is a good player, but we have plenty of small forwards and could use his salary elsewhere. I don't think we would get a tremendous amount for him, but I think his salary/cap hit is more valuable to us than his services. An idea would be to trade him to Nashville, who could use a 2nd line winger. In return the Canes could possibly get a player, prospect, draft pick, or some combination. Jerrad Smithson-C could be used in a 4th line and penalty kill role. Cal O'Reilly-C, Alexander Sulzer-D, Cody Franson-D, Teemu Laakso-D, Antti Pihlstrom-LW, or Mark Dekanich-G are all prospects. I would like to get either Cody Franson-D or Jerrad Smithson-C and Mark Dekanich-G.
6. Acquire a young defenseman with some experience and/or a 2nd line center. This is the item that will cause the most controversy.
While these type of players could come from our farm system, I don't see anybody ready to jump in and fill these roles. I think Boychuk will eventually be a solid 2nd line winger, Sutter a good 3rd line center, and Bowman a 2nd or 3rd line winger. I think McBain will develop into a 2nd pairing guy, Rodney a 2nd/3rd pairing, Carson a 3rd pairing, and Borer a 3rd pairing/reserve. IMO, the most likely option to acquire a the players I would like to see is through a trade. Because of cap concerns, a few teams might be forced to trade away certain players to get under the cap or prepare for the 10/11 season. Here are a few trade offers I would make if I were the GM. This doesn't mean any would happen, but there always is a possibility.
Carolina get a young top pairing defensemanto match up with Pitkanen in Coburn. They get a prospect that sort of fits a LaRose role in a slightly larger body in Kalinski. They also get a 2nd line center or playmaking winger in Briere. Briere is about a point a game guy when he plays and could help out on the 2nd line, in power play opportunities, or be the playmaker Staal could use. His contract is long and he does have some injury issues, but he does have talent.
Philly would get a 3rd line center and face-off man (who they are searching for and need) in Brind'Amour. He also has history in Philly. They would get a 3rd/4th line checking forward that sort of play the Broad Street Bullies way in Walker. They would get a 3rd pairing guy in Wallin. They have some young defenseman that could fill Coburn's role. They would also get a promising goalie prospect in Murphy. Supposedly, while Philly has a lot of talented players in their system, goalie is one of their weak points. Also, if Cam is locked up and Murphy lives up to his potential; all he is going to do is be Cam's backup until we trade him or he becomes a free agent.
This deal is about the same cap hit for the 09/10 season ($7.825 for Philly vs $7.8 for Carolina), but it offers Philly some cap room once the season is over ($4.225 comes off the books at the end of this season). Philly likes to spend in the free agency market, Carolina generally doesn't. With the Cane kids probably coming up for 10/11, the Canes should still have plenty of cap room.
Either way Carolina gets a young defensman that can play on the power play. Keith is more of a prize and probably is more of a top pairing guy. He would be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights after this season and I think he wants in the $5mil +/ per season range. I also think Chicago would want to exchange the 2nd Round Pick for a 1st Rounder. I think Barker would be more realistic. He is a solid 2nd pairing guy that could grow into a 1st pairing guy. His cap number is more in line with what the Canes could afford.
Chicago would get Corvo, a solid 2nd/3rd pairing guy for them and his contract expires at the end of the season. So there is $2.625mil that could be used toward their RFA's next offseason. The 2nd Round Pick is basically compensation for their young defenseman.
This deal hinges on what Corvo wants in a new contract. I like Corvo andif he is willing to sign for around $3mil, he should stay a Cane. The problem is that I've heard he wants Pitkanen type money andI don't think he quite worth $4mil a season.
Carolina trades Rod Brind'Amour anda 1st Round Pick to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal.
Carolina would get Staal to put on it's 2ndline. I think he could do it, but he's not getting there in Pitt playing behind Crosby and Malkin. He's a big kid and does pretty well in the face-off circle. He would have to increase his points, but he does have potential.
Pittsburgh would get Rod to fill Staal's place at a little less per season and for a shorter term. Rod could play the role Pittsburgh has for him and can still play on the 2nd PP unit. They would also get the Canes 1st roundpick. Pittsburgh would get a little extra money to spendon resigning players to play with Crosby and Malkin.
IMO, this would be the least likely trade to happen, but you never know if you don't ask.
7. The last thing I would like to see happen is the most important. The Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup!