Here is the continuation FanPost of My Offseason Plan for the Hurricanes. Again, sorry for the length, but I hope you enjoy.
Step # 4 – Trades & Free Agent Signings (on or after July 1, 2013)
- Changing the Guard Trade – trade D Tim Gleason ($4.0M) and F Victor Rask ($894K) to Chicago for D Niklas Hjalmarsson ($3.5M), F Rostislav Olesz ($3.125M) and F Jimmy Hayes ($875K).
- Chicago – While the Blackhawks have been one of the league’s top teams, they have finished two years in a row with the least number of hits in the league. They have also finished in the bottom 3rd in the NHL in blocked shots. Acquiring Gleason should allow them to improve those numbers and allow Gleason to get back to playing his style of hockey. Gleason would probably be a 2nd pairing defenseman for the Hawks and the physical force that Hjalmarsson is not. Hjalmarsson is a solid defenseman, but Chicago already has two of those guys in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Gleason allows for some additional toughness on the blue line. Another key to this deal would be Rask. Chicago has been trying to find a 2nd line center to play between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp for a while. Rask might not be an immediate help, but it doesn’t appear he is too far away. Rask could prove to be the piece that line needs to be even better. And the last big benefit of this trade for Chicago would be ridding them of Olesz. He is currently eating up over $3 million of cap space. They could always use an amnesty buyout on him, but this would allow them to avoid that. This could save the Blackhawks $2.625 million in cap space for the 13/14 season.
- Carolina – With this deal, the Canes acquire a 25 year old defensive defenseman that isn’t a bad puck-mover either. He isn’t an offensive force and doesn’t hit a ton, but he is solid defensively, blocks shots and can play a shutdown role. I think his abilities would match well with Justin Faulk, creating a pairing that plays a lot and can play in both zones. Hjalmarsson only has one year left on his contract and that can be considered good or bad. Either he works out and the Canes must resign him (probably to a raise) or he doesn’t work out and the Canes have some flexibility. (One additional thought I had was another trade where Carolina sends Hjalmarsson goes to the Rangers in exchange for Marc Staal at the trade deadline. That might be something New York would consider.) Another acquisition in this trade would be Hayes. Hayes is a big boy that has a little bit of skill. At 6’6", 220 lbs, he is an intimidating creature, but still needs to round his game out more. Since he is on a two-way contract, he can be moved between the NHL & AHL. The final piece of this trade is acquiring Olesz, not a player the Canes need. This would be the difficult part, but this probably would have to happen to get the deal done. I would use one of my amnesty buyouts on him, using it as a resource. It’s a lot of money, but he will be in the last year of his contract, so at least it isn’t multiple years.
- The Tough Decision Trade – trade F Jeff Skinner ($5.75M) to Dallas for F Loui Eriksson ($4.25M) and D Patrik Nemeth ($870K).
- Dallas – The Stars have somewhat started a rebuilding phase, trading away some veteran players and acquiring some younger defensemen. Their starting LW is 40 years old and will be entering the last year of his contract. Skinner is a young, dynamic forward that could be part of the core for Dallas for years to come. Imagine a line of Skinner/Benn/Chiasson for the Stars, that should be entertaining and productive. Skinner isn’t great defensively and does need some protection and these two line mates should help him out with those things. Skinner is also a fan favorite, so he should help put butts in seats.
- Carolina – It’s tough trading away a young player with Skinner’s talent, but because of the cap situation, it really appears that Skinner or Ruutu will have to be moved to fill other holes and give the Canes the ability to sign some other key personnel. But with the trade, the Canes at least get good value in return for Skinner and save a little money in doing so. Eriksson is probably one of the more underrated players in the league. The guy has put up 70 points in three straight seasons, but his pace has dropped off some this season (only projected to be at 51 points on an 82 game schedule). But he has decent size, goes to the traffic areas, has good hands and can really do it all. I think he would be a really good line mate for Jordan Staal and has been effective on the PP. The Canes would also get a big, young defenseman in Nemeth who compares to Nicklas Grossman. Nemeth is 6’3", 212 lbs and is a decent skater and decent puck-mover. He’s not the Stars top defensive prospect, but should become a solid NHL blue liner in the near future. He was a +11 in his first AHL season and will probably play another year in the AHL, but he could be a call up next season or a full-timer in 14/15.
- Extra Pieces Trade – trade D Jamie McBain ($1.8M) and Marc-Andre Gragnani ($840K) to New York for F Brian Boyle ($1.7M) and F Michael St. Croix ($900K).
- New York – The Rangers are a pretty deep team, so much it might present a small problem. They have 10 forwards under one-way contracts next season plus they have three pretty important forwards that are RFA this offseason (Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello) plus they have three or four forwards on entry-level deals that could be ready or close-to-ready for NHL duty. The only one-way deal that can be sent to the minors without a salary cap hit is Stu Bickel, so it seems the Rangers could afford to move someone. One area that the Rangers system isn’t exactly deep in is offensive defenseman. While adding McBain isn’t a guarantee, he has shown some offensive ability at the NHL level and maybe a change of scenery would do him some good. The New York defense focuses a little more in their own zone, so they should be able to cover up some of McBain’s shortcomings a little better than Carolina can. Gragnani would be included because he too has some offensive ability, but can start the season in the AHL. Losing Boyle shouldn’t be a huge hurdle for the Rangers. They have three better than average centers and multiple other players that can fill in if necessary. The cap hit exchange is pretty even as Boyle’s cap number is $1.7 million and McBain’s is $1.8 million, McBain will also be a RFA after the 13/14 season.
- Carolina – In Boyle, Carolina would get a big checking line center that delivers a lot of hits and has more offense than he has shown this season. Boyle is also a really good faceoff man at over 56% this season, but he can play multiple positions. His contract expires at the end of the season and I would use him as a bridge to Barkov. But because of his versatility and size, he could be resigned for a bottom 6 role. Trading McBain signals an end to what was supposed to be a very good player for Carolina. But the Canes need to move toward more responsibility in their own zone and McBain didn’t fit in the system. Gragnani was an interesting add, but only saw limited action with Carolina. St. Croix is a young, smaller center that will make the transition to the AHL next season. With Charlotte not exactly deep in talented forwards, St. Croix could be an asset. He might or might not every make it to the NHL, but you could say that about many prospects.
- Depth Swap Trade – trade F Andreas Nodl ($888K) and D Michal Jordan ($665K) to St. Louis for D Ian Cole (RFA).
- St. Louis – St. Louis is in a somewhat difficult situation. They have four important RFA’s that need to be signed this summer and all should be getting a nice bump in salary (Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk). They also have two additional RFA defensemen that would not be waiver-exempt in Kris Russell and Ian Cole. Add to that, three veteran defensemen on one-way contracts, a veteran UFA that could be resigned and a couple of prospects that could be close-to-ready. The Blues have plenty of cap space to get all of these guys under contract, but they have generally been a budget team and might not be willing to carry eight defensemen all season, so I believe Cole could be had. St. Louis is pretty deep, but could probably use some NHL ready call up players. Nodl is a guy with experience that can contribute on the 4th line and PK. Plus he could be waived back to the minors without any cap penalty. Jordan is still a developing defenseman that would probably be in the AHL, but he did get some NHL experience in Carolina this season and could be called up if needed. Both players are more defensive than offensive and both are hard-working guys. These are traits that fit Coach Ken Hitchcock’s style.
- Carolina – The Canes gain a young defensive defenseman that hasn’t quite put it all together yet. Cole is somewhat a project, but has the ability to be a solid shutdown defenseman. I would pick him up to use as a 6th or 7th defenseman and see if he can develop into more. Giving up Nodl doesn’t hurt a lot because the Canes have a number of players/prospects that can handle his role. Jordan is probably a little tougher to move because he has been within the organization (both Plymouth & Charlotte) for six years. But the Canes have a number of new, talented defensemen needing time in the AHL and Cole projects as a much more able NHL defenseman. If St. Louis hasn’t already qualified Cole, I would at $919K.
- Sign UFA D Toni Lydman to a 1 year, $2.25 million 35+ contract ($2.25M cap hit) – Lydman would be signed to be a veteran presence and he is still pretty good at what he does. With the Canes defense getting much younger, Lydman would provide some leadership and experience. He isn’t going to provide much offensively, but he is good in his own zone, skates well and is decent at moving the puck. He would basically be signed to transition to one of the younger defensemen in the 14/15 season.
- Sign RFA D Justin Faulk to a 3 year, $11 million one-way contract ($3.67M cap hit) – Faulk is who I would build this defense around. But with him being a RFA, I would see if I could maintain a reasonable cap number for the next three years until some big contracts come off the books. I would escalate the amount from $3M the 1st year to $3.5M the 2nd year to $4.5M the 3rd year. This would also give the Canes one more year of RFA status after the contract expires. And since I have traded Gleason, I would give an ‘A’ to Faulk because comments I have heard from him make me think he is a leader in the room despite his young age.
So I realize these are some very bold moves and ones you might not agree with, but these are things I would attempt to do. The defense has been completely reorganized with the focus on getting bigger and more defensive. This would also reduce the average age of the top 7 defensemen by almost two years. This would also reduce the cap number of the defense by $700K. While looking at the number averages over the past season and a half, the goal totals from the defense would take a step back with this new group. The assist totals would be pretty close with the new group being slightly lower. The number of hits and blocks would take a nice jump up. But some of these players are relatively young and still developing, so the offensive numbers could improve slightly.
The forward ranks would only have two brand new faces in Eriksson and Boyle, but two Canes prospects (Dalpe & Welsh) would assume roles in the NHL. The cap number as compared to this season would increase, but would be about $500K less than the project cap number for next season. The average size of the forwards would increase in both height and weight. The number averages over the past year and a half would indicate a slight increase in goal scoring and a bit more of an increase in assist totals. The hit and block totals would also see an increase. A lot of next season would depend on the kids developing as expected and increasing the production of the bottom 6.
There would definitely be some difficult and unpopular moves, but I think this would improve the overall team and should have them competing for a Playoff spot. If the younger players develop quickly, then the team could be even better. But this plan not only is for next season, but gives the Canes a little more flexibility going forward. As long as players develop and the salary cap increases by some over the next few seasons, existing players could be resigned or replaced with other players/prospects. Here is what I think this plan’s line combinations would look like with the player’s salary cap numbers for the 13/14 season.
Loui Eriksson ($4.25M) / Jordan Staal ($6M) / Tuomo Ruutu ($4.75M)
Kevin Westgarth ($725K)
Niklas Hjalmarrson ($3.5M) / Justin Faulk ($900K)
Toni Lydman ($2.25M) / Erik Johnson ($3.75M)
Shane O’Brien ($2M) / Brett Bellemore ($550K)
Ian Cole ($919K)
Salary Cap Total – 22 Players at $60,174,000 ($4.126 million in cap space)
This leaves one open roster spot and enough cap space to allow Ryan Murphy to be called up without having to send anybody through waivers. And the size and defensive focus of the blue line should help shelter Murphy more if he is called up. The Olesz amnesty buyout is a tough pill to swallow, but gives the team the ability to make some moves. It something that goes against the organization’s status quo, but as we all know, the organization’s status quo is not getting this team where it needs to be.
And if injuries do occur, which is something that will happen; there are some prospects in Charlotte that can be called up. The scoring forward that could fill in the top 6 is somewhat lacking, but the other positions should have ample options for the Canes.
I know this was lengthy, but I was trying to be detailed. I hope it was at least an interesting read. Be sure to share your thoughts and ideas, I would love to hear them (even if you think I’m crazy).