Reading JR's Mind

I don't pretend to be able to read JR's mind, but some comments by HMo2 and Elsker about the Canes' options with Boychuk and Dalpe made me realize how interesting it would be to know what JR is thinking these days. Cory's comments about how the defense has played without Pitkanen made things even more interesting.

That crossroads that the Canes were going to reach later this season is here thanks to Boychuk's and Dalpe's surprisingly strong play. JR has more possibilities to weigh than I'd considered because the Canes' playoff chances remain up in the air. It isn't as though the Canes are out of it and decided to try the prospects with nothing to lose. On the other hand, the Canes aren't solidly in the 6th playoff spot and afraid to tinker with a productive veteran lineup.

Think about the questions JR must be asking himself:

1. Are the Canes likely to win more games by keeping and playing Boychuk and Dalpe? That is so very different from wondering how many games it would cost the Canes to let Boychuk and Dalpe learn to play at NHL speed.

2. Would it be worth paying healthy extras to get Boychuk and Dalpe into the lineup?

3. If paying healthy extras is out, would it be worth the risk to send down another forward with a two-way contract (Dwyer as far as I know)?

4. If Samsonov can't be traded, would it be better to waive him and eat the cost of all or half of his salary?

5. Would the smart move be just to send the prospects back to Charlotte because it probably won't cost the Canes any wins or potential playoff revenues and it's the best way to wait for the right trade to come along?

More after the jump.

Boychuk and Dalpe have certainly put the fear of God into the vets at this point. The vets might pick up their play if the limitation isn't top-end ability (as I think it is).

If the Canes are serious about the playoffs and think Boychuk and Dalpe give them the best chance of making it, they have to weigh the cost of healthy extras or waived players against a potential increase in revenues. Boychuk, Dalpe and Skinner have created a buzz, and that might add ticket revenues even without a playoff berth.

The other big variable is of course Pitkanen's contract status. If the Canes determine that they can't resign Pitkanen, they might look for a blockbuster trade that would resolve all the roster issues at once. The Canes have an interesting mix of players to offer: a top-flight puck moving defenseman and powerplay quarterback; a sound, fast, experienced defensive forward who's still young, excellent on the PK and has a 19-goal season to his credit; and a skilled offensive forward who can contribute in some systems and on the power play. All the contracts involved are expiring, whether the PK forward is LaRose or Dwyer. The Canes can offer a ticket out of salary-cap hell.

Funny thing is, the salaries involved may add up to more than $9 M (Pitkanen $4.5 M, Samsonov $2.8 M, LaRose $1.9 M). That's enough to pay Jarome Iginla his $7 M salary and he's only under contract for the next two years. A Staal-Skinner (or Boychuk)-Iginla line might be up there with Stamkos-St. Louis-Lecavalier. That would shake up the division. I don't know why Calgary would make the trade except possibly for cap reasons if they've decided to rebuild, and they'd probably want draft picks that the Canes want to keep. Getting Iginla would also require moving another forward. The point is just that we're talking about enough money to think big. More than $9 M is certainly enough money to bring back a couple of good defensemen if anybody is willing to part with them. It's plenty to cover the recently discussed trade for Kobasew and Burns if the Wild are willing.

I don't have a clue whether any team might be willing to offer players that meet the Canes' needs, but JR must be burning up the phone lines. He does have leverage since he can say, "Thanks for the offer, but I'll let our prospects light up the AHL while you think about our last proposal." That's only problematic if JR thinks it might cost the Canes some wins and hurt their playoff chances. Well, there's that, plus driving some of us fans absolutely crazy. Preserving fan sanity should figure into the decision, shouldn't it, Canes' fans?

What do you think JR should do? What do you think he's probably trying to do at this stage? What deals do you think might be out there?

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