Ok, so I spent more time than I should have thinking about the Canes instead of taking care of chores this weekend. I wanted to try to lay out a plan to make a Canes team that I think would be built around a consistent philosophy and create a team that would at least be hard to play against and hopefully compete for a top 3 place in the Metro division.
I know this plan will tick off some folks. Sorry in advance. Also sorry I can't figure out how to get every name to be a link.
My philosophy: The team should be built around solid forward play in all three zones. Keeping and fighting for possession is paramount. Forwards would focus on: a) aggressive fore and back checking, b) tight 1 zone and outlet passing, c) tactics built around speed and misdirection to get through the neutral zone, d) tying up play along the boards wherever possible in an attempt to take possession of the puck, and e) score some goals. Defense should be built around solid 2 way play with a strong positional focus and fundamentals in the defensive zone, combined with strong skating and puck control ability and somewhat conservative play in the neutral and offensive zones.
In other words, I would model the team after this season's Bruins and LA Kings teams.
Jordan Staal's recent play is the model of what I'd look for in a forward so keeping him is the top requirement. Keeping him means keeping Eric. Semin and Lindholm would also remain given their strong 2 way play and ability to fit in on multiple lines (...accepting that Semin is what I would call a contrarian player, in that he does a lot of little things that go contrary to taught or common practice tendencies, which very often gives him all kinds of space to operate, pass, or get a shot off).
Immediately following the end of the 2013-2014 season and thru the offseason:
Trade RW Pat Dwyer ($900k thru 14/15), RFA rights to Drayson Bowman ($600k), and RD Keegan Lowe ($738 thru 15/16) to the Florida Panthers for RD Alex Petrovick ($795k thru 14/15) and a mid-late round draft pick. Florida has a great deal of organizational depth at defense but will need more depth for bottom 6 forwards for next season. Hate to trade Lowe, but a slot has to be opened and Lowe would fit in with the Panthers philosophy. Petrovick (currently on IR) has played in 7 games this season and is touted as a near NHL ready defensive RD with a decent stick. (frees $600 to 1.3M cap space)
Trade RFA rights to LW Tlusty (~ $2M), RD Ryan Murphy ($863K thru 15/16), rights to LW Phillip De Guiseppe and if necessary a draft pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for LD Brandon Gormley ($840k 2W thru 14/15), LW Lucas Lessio ($830k 2W thru 15/16) and C/W Jordan Martinook ($658k 2W thru 14/15). All 3 are currently in the AHL though Gormley has been doing well and has seen games in the NHL. This is really Tlusty/Murphy plus depth for Gormley plus depth. Phoenix has a lot of solid-in-all-3 zones forward depth that the Canes will need in Charlotte and Martinook and Lessio would provide that. Their top 9 is getting on in years and Tlusty will give them someone that can score and play on any line, while the Canes get a puck moving yet 2-way d-man in Gormley who can be the tried at 3rd pairing LD this season and help on the second line power play unit. (frees $400k to $1.9M cap space)
Trade LW Jeff Skinner ($5.7M thru 18/19), RFA rights to RD Brett Bellemore ($800-900k), LD Jay Harrison ($1.5M thru 15/16) and maybe a 2015 mid round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings for RD Slava Voynov ($4.3M thru 18/19), the RFA rights to LW Dwight King (~$2.2M) and C Nick Shore (925k thru 14/15). The Kings need more goals and the Canes need a strong, experienced top 4 RD, plain and simple. I don't see the Kings giving up a RD without getting one in return so I think the Canes would have to give up Bellemore (made easier by obtaining Petrovick). Also included would be Harrison who could slide in as a 3rd pairing LD or as the 7th man. The Canes would pick up LW Dwight King and AHL'er C Nick Shore to balance out the trade. King can play LW on any line at the NHL level, and Shore is a promising energy/two way center prospect with size. (~ even cap space)
Trade G Cam Ward ($6.3M thru 15/16) to the Winnipeg Jets for LW Andrew Ladd ($4.4M thru 15/16). Would be a big change for both teams, but there seems to be a lot of fan support for something like this (based on TSN.CA comments, anyway!). I thought about targeting Evander Kane, but also see a need to better balance the spending between top 6 and bottom 6 compared to recent seasons. (Canes would see $1.9M in cap space freed up)
At the draft, I would have the Canes draft a winger in the first round, either Nick Ritchie, Brendan Perlini, or Jake Virtanen given our current position in the standings. All are players with size, physical play and a good scoring touch so far in their careers. The rest of this plan is made with the assumption that they would not make the NHL in the first year, so this is basically a future move.
Canes would resign UFA Ron Hainsey for $2.3 million.
I hate to do it, but I would use a compliance buyout on John Michael Liles' contract to clear $3.875M in cap space. With Voynov, Sekera Gormley and maybe Faulk and Nikitin, that contract for a PP defenseman comes in too steep.
The above moves leave a lot of openings in the lineup, but also leave about 21-23 million in cap room to fill them. I would budget 13-14 million for NHL level free agents.
Free Agency Targets in order of priority:
Sign LD Nikita Nikitin for $3M for the 2nd pairing.
If not resigned by the Caps, sign LW Dustin Penner for $2.4M (or try Shore or Lessio as 3rd line LW and move King up).
Sign G Jonas Gustavsson for $1.8M.
Sign C Brian Boyle for $2M.
Sign RW Dave Moss for $2M.
Sign either RW Chris Thorburn or RW Steve Bernier for $950k, for the 4th line.
The Canes will also be carrying $950k of Ruutu's contract per capgeek.
End Result for 2014/2015 (assuming a $71 million 2014/2015 cap):
$61,215,750 cap payroll
$9,884,250 cap space
Forwards (should be good for at least 181 goals):
LW-Ladd / C-Jordan Staal / Rw-Semin (line good for at least 75 goals, ~$17M)
LW-Penner (or King or FA) / C-Eric Staal / RW-Lindholm (line good for at least 54 goals, ~$12M)
LW-King (or Shore) / C-Boyle / RW-Moss (line good for 24 goals and pot. a lot more, ~$6M)
LW-Gerbe or Lessio / C-Nash or Loktionov / RW-Thorburn-Bernier (line good for 28 goals, ~$3M)
Gerbe/Lessio and Loktionov/Nash would rotate (ifLessio is ready, otherwise its Gerbe's spot).
Defense (should be good for 30-35 goals)
LD-Sekera / RD-Voynov (~$7M)
LD-Nikitin / RD-Faulk (~$6M)
LD-Gormley / RD-Petrovick sharing with with Hainsey (~$4M for the 3)
Hainsey, Gormley and Petrivick would rotate thru pairings.
Goalies (~$5M for the 2):
This line up would provide several options on special teams.
Top callups would be Michal Jordan and Dan Biega on defense; Nick Shore, Victor Rask, Chris Terry, Justin Shugg and Brody Sutter would be potential top callups on offense. Would need to pick up a near NHL ready goalie for Charlotte to come up, if Peters can't be resigned.
This could/would yield a team with:
an average player size of 6'1", 200 lbs or more (6'5", 210 on the 3rd line),
a good combination of speed, skill and grit,
solid 2 way play from all lines/pairings with several players known for their reach,
a stronger bottom 6 and a more consistent but slightly less talented top 6,
speed and some scoring ability on all 4 forward lines,
Seven players that have scored 20 or more goals in a season at least once in their careers and a few more who potentially could (Lindholm, King, Gerbe, Lessio, Bernier),
bottom lines/pairings that can take on more minutes or move up if needed,
stronger or more balanced defensive pairings with good defensive zone play and puck moving skill for all listed players.
Ghormley and Petrovick are thought of as potential 2nd pairing D in the future.
Shore, Lessio and Martinook all play a physical game.
OH, and if this were to all fall apart, there would be several players at decent contracts who could be moved at the deadline.
The above plan is made on the assumption that Rask, Martinook, McGinn, etc would not be NHL ready for at least one more season. I'd look to hold Rask in the AHL until he is top 6 ready and put him on the 2nd line the following season. Shore and Martinook are future bottom 6 center/wing targets unless they prove better as top 6 candidates.
I will concede that there is probably a just as possible plan that could be made around something like Skinner/Lindholm/Kane as the top line with the Staals being traded.I just went with the above philosophy as I think it would be easier to pull off.
SO: thoughts? Anything you would do differently? Complete garbage?