The Deadline Approacheth

Bruce Bennett

What course of action will Jim Rutherford and the Carolina Hurricanes take at the Trade Deadline?

April 3rd, 3:00pm EST, the trade deadline is now less than a week away! So what does this mean for the Carolina Hurricanes? They are currently sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with games in hand on everyone except Boston. But they are also going in the wrong direction, losers of six straight and going on a three-game road trip in Canada, all against current Playoff teams. The team is down what many would consider their best defenseman (Justin Faulk) and they are also relying on two goalies that didn't even start the season in the NHL (Justin Peters and John Muse). The team has also hit the wall offensively, getting only 1 goal in each of the past five games, while scoring 2 goals for the opposition. And with all the injuries in Charlotte, help from the minor league team doesn't look promising.

So what is Jim Rutherford to do? Is he going to be a buyer and try to find someone that will stop the bleeding? Is he going to be a seller and move some assets that don't have a future in Carolina? Is he going to do a little of both? Or has he assembled a team he thinks can fight through adversity, so he is going to stand pat and let things fall where they may? Many questions and I'm not even sure Jim Rutherford knows the answers yet.

But whatever the case may be, to speculate what the Canes are going to do at the deadline, we first have to speculate on a number of other things. Like which players, prospects and picks are the Canes willing to move? Which teams are the buyers and sellers right now? And what players or type of players are the Canes targeting at this time? So let's take a look at these items first.

Hurricanes Players

To know who the Canes might move requires us to try and classify them. I've broken the players, prospects and pick into three categories. First is the "Core" players, these are players that are very unlikely to move. It would probably take a significant return for Jim Rutherford to trade them and then it still might not happen. The second group is "Safe" players, these are players that probably won't get moved due to their value to the team. These players could be traded, but moving them would create a significant hole on the team. The last group I'm labeling as "Asset" players. These are players that the organization would be willing to move because they believe they can get another asset to fill that position. Most of these players have little to no trade value, but you never know, they might hold some value to other teams.

"Core" Players - Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Cam Ward, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tim Gleason, Justin Faulk

"Safe" Players - Tuomo Ruutu, Jiri Tlusty, Riley Nash, Patrick Dwyer, Joni Pitkanen, Jay Harrison, 2013 1st Round Pick

"Asset" Players - Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose, Tim Brent, Kevin Westgarth, Adam Hall, Drayson Bowman, Joe Corvo, Jamie McBain, Bobby Sanguinetti, Brett Bellemore, Dan Ellis, Justin Peters, John Muse, anybody in Charlotte or prospects in the system.

Sellers

This is obviously up for debate, but there does seem to be a few teams willing to unload some players. And for the right deal, I'm sure others will move some players also. Here is who I think are sellers right now or will be before the deadline and why.

Florida Panthers - Last place in the league and they have numerous injuries. They are most likely willing to move anybody that is over 25 years old. The problem; does anybody want these veterans since for the most part, they are not performing that well.

Tampa Bay Lightning - Their season started out well, but hasn't been good since (except against the Canes). They fired their coach and appear to be heading in a new direction under a new one. Certain guys are off-limits, but I'm sure others could be had for the right price.

Buffalo Sabres - Another team that fired their coach in-season. Buffalo has a number of defensemen and a couple will most likely be moved. They also have some forwards that could be shipped out and rumor has it that Ryan Miller could be traded, but I'm not so sure.

Philadelphia Flyers - I'm reluctant to put Philly on the sellers list, but I think they would sell some forwards for the right defenseman. This team also seems to have money to spend, so I would expect more of a blockbuster trade than a depth move.

Calgary Flames - This team has needed a rebuild for a couple of season and it finally looks like they will be starting. Their captain has been moved, so the fire sale could begin. They have a number of players that could be interesting, but no one that really seems to blow your socks off (after Jarome Iginla of course).

Colorado Avalanche - This young team might not be big sellers, but they might be willing to move some of the veteran players. Things are going as expect in Denver and I would be surprised to see a management change in the near future.

Edmonton Oilers - Another young team, but one that isn't too far away. They have a few pieces that most likely will be moved, but the players most would want are not going anywhere. There are some intriguing pieces, both roster players and maybe some prospects. They are very close to the 50 contracts allowed, so moving somebody might become a necessity.

Dallas Stars - The Stars have already started with the trade of their captain and I would be surprised to see some of the other older players moved for young ones. They have a good group of younger guys, but also a number of players that won't be there in a couple of years. So do they keep that balance or move toward a rebuild? I think they will be sellers.

Phoenix Coyotes - A team that has been good the past couple of seasons, but they have also lost a bunch of players over the years. They are stocked pretty well on the blueline with some younger players and prospects, but they are also limited in offensive firepower.

Who Might Be Available

It would appear that the Canes most pressing need would be a shutdown defenseman (preferably right-handed), but we all know that JR loves puck-moving defenseman. And with the injuries the organization has, goaltending could be another option. The Canes also might be in the market for some size and physicality among the forward ranks. A fourth line grinder provides some of that, but they play so limited minutes, it isn't that useful. With Tuomo Ruutu probably reinserting himself back in the top 6, a 3rd line big body that has a little scoring ability would look very nice. Here are a couple of players that I think might have a chance of being moved before the deadline and what I think it might take from the Canes to acquire these players. This is all speculation on my part and I don't mean to upset anybody, just trying to weigh each players value. I'm also not suggesting the Canes make any of these moves, again, just trying to explore the players values.

Brian Boyle (New York Rangers) - Boyle is struggling a lot this season and it appears that he is in John Tortorella doghouse. But this guy has some skill and is a huge body that delivers some hits. He also has one year left on his contract at a $1.7 million cap hit. That is more than fair for a 3rd line player that can play center or wing. He would add some physicality to the Canes and if he breaks out of his slump, he could also add a little offense. It is rumored that New York is looking for a right-shot defenseman. Maybe the Hurricanes could offer Jamie McBain in exchange for Brian Boyle & Steve Eminger.

Ladislav Smid (Edmonton Oilers) - The Canes want a defensive defenseman, Smid is that type of player. He's big and uses his body in his own zone. The problem is that he has virtually no offense and isn't great at moving the puck. He will be a UFA this offseason, so he is most likely a rental only. But if the Canes are making a Playoff push, then a physical defenseman is high on the list of needs. I read that Edmonton might have interest in Victor Rask, so maybe exchange Rask for Smid. I don't really love this deal, but I'm not sure what else would be similar value.

Ben Bishop (Ottawa Senators) - This would be an acquisition out of need right now, but could also help in the future. The Canes current goaltending duo is questionable to say the least. Bishop is a big guy that has some potential and is playing pretty well with the Senators. He would be a RFA after the season, so the Canes could resign him to back up Cam Ward for the next couple of seasons. Possibly giving up Carolina's 2nd Round Pick for Bishop would work.

Ryan Clowe (San Jose Sharks) - Here's another player that has been struggling this season. 0 goals and only 10 assists from a player normally around 20 goals and 50 points. He's also a mean winger that will play physical. Clowe is in the last year of his contract, so he is probably just a rental. But if he could snap out of his funk, he would be perfect for the Canes 3rd line, providing a little beef to play the more nasty teams in the East. I know Jussi wasn't picked up off waivers, but if he could show something quickly, he might still have a little value. Maybe trade two struggling players, Jussi & eat $750K or $1M of next years salary for Clowe. I know this is a little bit of a stretch, but could you imagine Brian Boyle & Ryan Clowe on the Canes 3rd line? Our toughness and physical play would jump significantly, especially if they could rediscover their scoring touch.

Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche) - I'm going out-of-the-box on this one, but here me out. Even though Johnson resigned for 4 years this offseason with Colorado, he has struggled and it sounds as if people in Denver aren't very enamored with him. But he a big guy that hits a little, blocks a little and generally plays an all-around game. He's only 25 and JR has talked about it taking defenseman a little longer to develop, so maybe he on the cusp of playing like the 1st overall pick. This speculation would actually be two-parts. What if the Canes traded Joni Pitkanen for Erik Johnson and maybe traded McBain to Edmonton for Smid & a 3rd? Salary is about a wash and when Justin Faulk comes back, the Canes could field of defense of Gleason/Faulk, Smid/Johnson and Harrison/Corvo as the 3rd pairing. The size of the defense would increase significantly and it should be pretty balanced. Now there would be the risk that Johnson doesn't progress, but sometimes you have to take that risk.

Loui Eriksson (Dallas Stars) - I mentioned this in another thread, but thought I would mention it again. I'm not saying it should happen, just something to think about. I think it is an interesting idea. But if Dallas is looking to rebuild, why not give Jamie Benn a dynamic young winger to play with in Jeff Skinner. Skinner is a great talent, but to me it sort of seems like he doesn't fit exactly right in Kirk Muller's system. He also seems to have trouble meshing with everybody except the Finns. Eriksson could have the same trouble, but he is a very solid two-way player and seems to be a hard worker that battles along the boards and in front of the net. I really like him as a player and think him and JStaal could make a formidable duo on the 2nd line. Eriksson is generally a 25+ goal scorer and 70 point man and is near his prime. If the Canes are looking to capitalize on players like EStaal, Ward, Semin, etc; then maybe its a decent idea. Skinner has a much higher ceiling and I believe he will eventually get there, but will it be in a year or when the current other cores members are gone? This would be a bigger blockbuster than Iginla, but maybe offer Skinner for Eriksson and a good defensive prospect.

These are just a couple of things that crossed my mind and by no means are they the only players available. Again, I'm saying the Canes should do any of these trades, I am only attempting to show the value needed to acquire such players. But what players do you think the Canes should pursue? What direction do you feel the organization should move toward?

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