There have been a number of rumors swirling around the Hurricanes. It's no secret that Jim Rutherford is interested in signing Zach Parise should he become a free agent. There have been more subtle hints that the Canes would at least kick the tires on Shea Weber or Ryan Suter should either become available from Nashville. The latest rumor has Jordan Staal coming to Carolina to play with his brother.
But is there a better way? Is there an option that makes sense that hasn't been discussed?
What about Scott Gomez?
Yes, that Scott Gomez. The one who went a year without scoring a goal.
No, I'm not crazy. Let me walk you through my thinking.
First let's look at what a deal to acquire Scott Gomez might look like. In my mind the deal looks like this:
Canes trade Anthony Stewart and #8 for Scott Gomez and the #3 pick.
Why does this work? The Habs rid themselves of Gomez's contract which has two years left and a cap hit of over $7.357m. The Habs also get the option of packaging Subban, who is reportedly on the market, and that #8 pick and moving back up in the draft. The Canes move out the last year of Stewart's contract and move up 5 spaces in this years draft. The Canes get a player with a salary below their cap hit which helps the team reach the salary cap floor while keeping payroll low. The Canes also get a player who can fill the second line center role for a short period of time.
Let's start by comparing this to the signing of either Parise or Suter. To put it bluntly, trading for Gomez as opposed to signing either of those players would be a terrible idea. That said, there is no guarantee that the Canes will be able to sign either player. Both players are currently in the second round of the playoffs and have said winning a cup is important to them in choosing where to play. Will either player realistically leave where they are for a team that has missed the playoffs five of the last six seasons? I would put that at doubtful, and this is before we examine what the Detroits of the world will have to say about where Parise and Suter play next year.
In my opinion I don't see the Canes coming out ahead here. There are too many other suitors with similar money to spend and who have a better recent playoff history. If I had to place a bet right now I'd say that Parise and Suter end up in either Nashville, Detroit, LA, and maybe Florida or New Jersey.
The second option is a trade for either Weber or Jordan Staal. Let me start by saying that I do not believe at Shea Weber will be available. Either he and Suter will both stay or, if Suter leaves, the Predators will certainly retain Weber by giving him a very lucrative contract.
This leaves only Jordan Staal, but why trade for Jordan now? He will be a UFA after the 2012-13 season. Any deal for Jordan will no doubt include the #8 overall pick in the upcoming draft as well as a player like McBain. Why trade one or both of those chips for one year of Jordan Staal? Wouldn't the Canes be better served in the long run by moving the #8 pick and McBain for another piece, or retaining both, and signing Jordan Staal in 2013?
If you need a corollary, look to the New York Knicks. In 2011 the Knicks traded four players and a 2014 first round pick for the pleasure of acquiring Carmelo Anthony a few months before they could have signed him as a free agent. As a result the Knicks got an all-star front court player to go along side Amare Stoudemire but they lost all of the depth they needed to be truly competitive. The Canes won't give up four players nor will they lose all of their depth, but they will lose some and they will lose ability to move pieces traded for Jordan Staal for a different piece.
A final option would be for the Canes to target one of the other free agents this July. The problem with this strategy is that there are limited options this year none of which are that great. What's worse is that given the lack of talent and the number of buyers teams will have to overspend and over commit to players that are not deserving of those commitments.
Lastly comes the issue of how the Canes would handle the 2013-14 season when Gomez has one year left on his contract and the Canes look to sign Jordan Staal and extend Jeff Skinner. Their are two options, one more firm, one less. The first would be a buy out of Gomez. While Gomez's cap hit is above $7m he is owed only $5.5m in salary next year and $4.5m the last year of his deal. A buyout of the last year of Gomez's contract would cost the Canes $3m split over two years. The second option would be to push for and use an amnesty buyout in the next CBA. Even if the Canes cannot use some sort of buyout in the next CBA, a regular buyout is well within their means and better than overspending on a second tier player in this years free agent group, and it reduces the commitment to no more than three years if Gomez is bought out after next season.
The downside to Gomez is that the team won't be as competitive next year as if they sign Parise, assuming both players play to recent levels. However, I think this puts the Canes on a more solid footing. By trading current assets for pieces that cannot simply be signed in the 2013 off-season the Canes have the potential to be on a very strong footing for not just a couple of seasons but for many seasons to come.