There have been a lot of interesting discussions about whether the Canes should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline and related discussions about which players should go, which players should stay to further a playoff run, and which prospects should or should not be bundled for what kind of return. These discussions haven't come close to reaching a consensus and yet there are several opinions that I think just about everybody seems to share:
1) The Canes' current roster isn't good enough to get out of the first round if the Canes make the playoffs.
2) The Canes' defense has to get better through external moves--significant help is not coming soon from the system.
3) The Canes need a top pairing defensive defenseman.
4) The Canes probably couldn't afford an established top pairing defensive defenseman if they did manage to land one in a trade and couldn't afford to sign one as a free agent.
5) The Canes' offense will probably improve some next year through the growth of individual prospects such as Boychuk and Dalpe, but there's serious doubt than any current Canes' prospect is going to be a first-line scoring forward that scares other teams and helps the Canes get the most from their top player, Eric Staal.
6) The Canes couldn't afford an established first-line scoring wing (such as Mike Richards, again Elsker's idea) if they landed one in a trade and couldn't afford to sign one as a free agent.
7) The Canes need more size and grit to compete with top-tier teams and keep their young prospects in one piece.
The list above details some serious constraints on JR's options and implies some priorities. The biggest constraint is that you can't just get the proven guy you want and plug him in immediately. Another big constraint is that you should be biased against finesse players, both small or nonphysical forwards and small, mostly offensive or not very physical defensemen.
We've thought about the big issues facing the Canes as how to get a top-pairing defensive defenseman and how to get a better first-line forward than current options. On reflection, I think we're grappling for a solution that's probably unrealistic given all the constraints and priorities: directly transforming current Canes with expiring contracts into the missing ingredients so that the Canes quickly become much more competitive. I think we should back off and think more along the lines that Elsker often recommends--asset management. But in this case, I think it would be interesting to think more in terms of asset building for mid to late next season or even the season after rather than for this year's playoffs or the start of next season. I suspect the constraints above are forcing JR to think in terms of less-than-immediate asset building, not creating an instant powerhouse through a couple of quick personnel moves.
If the Canes are building assets toward becoming a top-flight team as soon as realistically possible, then just about all current assets are on the table. Expiring contracts or not, almost everybody could go if the price is right. It's all a matter of setting the right price. Could Boychuk or Dalpe be traded? Not for a short-term fix for a playoff run this year, but for a long-term talent upgrade, yes--if the price is right. But the same is true of Ruutu as well, and probably true of every Canes' player except Staal, Ward and Skinner.
So I thought it might be interesting to shift the discussion from specific trades to the kind of value that would make it worth giving up each of the current Canes' players. We could state value in two ways: player description by role and quality (such as first-line scoring right winger, top-pairing defensive defenseman) or draft pick, not just by round but by position within the round (very specifically for the first round: top 10 first-round pick, top 3 first-round pick; a little less specific for rounds 2-5: early, middle or late second round pick, early, middle or late third round pick,etc.)
(A note on the need to add a first-line scoring wing: Most of us seem to think that Skinner should not play on the same line with Staal. I'm in the minority in still wanting the Canes to give that a serious look over an extended period, but it's unclear to me that putting Staal and Skinner together on the first line would be the best course. There's a chance it would be, but only a chance. Staal and Skinner are both first-line quality players. That's why it might make sense to put them together. Boychuk, Dalpe and some current Canes are definitely good enough to be second line players but might not be good enough to be first-line players. If Skinner and Staal worked out as linemates, everything else might fall into place. If. But for this discussion, it's probably best to assume that Skinner should not play on Staal's line.)
After the jump, how I would price some current Canes' players and prospects in these terms and an invitation to some of you more knowledgeable Caniacs to say how you would price Canes' players.
Prices that seem unrealistically high just mean that I don't think the Canes should trade the player unless they get an extremely compelling return. Besides the question of fair value, there's the question of whether the change would be worth disrupting the team, gambling the loss of a player who currently plays a vital role for an equal or superior talent who might or might not fit in as well with the Canes and their style of play.
The way I would price Canes' top prospects may seem high. That's because I think it makes little sense to trade a Canes' prospect who has emerged as an NHL player for a draft pick unless it's at the very top of the draft. Why start over with a different prospect who is less known and proven? On the other hand, if the draft pick is high enough, I'd make the trade. Boychuk for the 15th pick in the draft this year? No way. For the top overall pick? Absolutely. Also keep in mind that none of these values considers those established top-pairing and top-line players that the Canes would love to have but can't afford.
I found I don't think trading any established NHL player for a 4th round or lower pick really makes sense unless you're doing it to unload a high salary or a bad contract or to open a roster spot for a prospect who's ready.
They players I wouldn't make available at any price are Staal, Ward and Skinner.
OK - How I would price some Canes' players and prospects for rapid asset building:
Pricing Tier 1
Top 5 1st round draft pick, or top NHL-ready prospect projected as first-pairing defensive defenseman or first-line scoring right wing.
Pricing Tier 2
Top 10 first round or earlier draft pick, NHL-ready defensive prospect projected as first or second pairing defensive defenseman with size and grit or first-line scoring right wing.
Pricing Tier 3
Mid-first round or earlier draft pick, NHL-ready defensive prospect projected as second pairing defensive defenseman with size and grit or first or second line scoring right wing
Pricing Tier 4
1st-round draft pick in 15-30 range, established second pairing defensive defenseman, NHL-ready prospect projected as second-pairing defensive defenseman or true power right wing (even if not a big scorer)
Pricing Tier 5
Early 2nd round draft pick, NHL-ready prospect projected as second pairing defensive defenseman or true power right wing for 2nd or 3rd line (even if not much of a scorer)
Pricing Tier 6
Late 2nd round draft pick; defensive prospect projected as 2nd or 3rd pairing defenseman with size and grit
Pricing Tier 7
Third round draft pick
A surprise for me in this exercise was learning that I attach a greater value to certain knowledge about what some current Canes players can do for the Canes than to speculation about what some theoretically more talented players are likely to do if the Canes trade for them. For example, I think LaRose is probably worth a 3rd round pick in league economics, given his talents and salary, but for the Canes, he's an excellent penalty killer who can fill a variety of roles, always with high intensity. So I wouldn't part with him for just any old trade offer. Also, though it doesn't make sense, I think Dwyer is the better player now, but LaRose has greater value to the Canes. Go figure.