The Carolina Hurricanes are currently riding a three game losing streak and are still sitting in last place in the East. The club's recent performances have only helped to confirm what most fans already believed, that the Canes will probably be playing golf early this April.
The good news is that the likely early elimination of the club actually puts Jim Rutherford in a position of strength. The Hurricanes have several desirable players who will be sought after by various Stanley Cup hopefuls out there. Who might go and how much could the Canes get in return? Let's take a quick look.
It's reasonable to assume that any player on the roster who is an unrestricted free agent next year, will be on the top of the "to trade" list. Rutherford can probably re-sign anyone he wants to bring back here in the offseason, so there is no reason to keep anyone on this list with trade value in Carolina until the very end of a fruitless year.
The players who meet this criteria are: Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Joe Corvo, Aaron Ward, Scott Walker, Stephane Yelle, and Niclas Wallin.
Nic Wallin has a no trade clause and has used it before to nix a trade. It's unlikely he will be dealt.
Stephane Yelle has little to no value on the open market. He is a low wage player who was not picked up for free on waivers earlier in the year. He could be put on waivers again though.
Scott Walker has been battling injuries much of the season. He is recovering from shoulder surgery now and it is fairly unlikely that he will be looked upon as a commodity before the trade deadline. But stranger things have happened. If he is healthy, some team might take a flyer on him for a middle to late round draft pick.
2009: Daniel Carcillo from Phoenix to Philadelphia for Scottie Upshall and second round pick.
2008: Chris Simon from New York Islanders to Minnesota for sixth round pick.
While Aaron Ward has had a tough year, he has vast playoff experience, is the type of player who can thrive in the "anything goes" setting of the playoffs, and has three championship rings to his credit. A change of scenery could help to turn his game around, but he might be tough to move because of his salary. (2.5 million)
Look for a creative deal regarding the defenseman, similar to the acquisition of Jussi Jokinen last year. Instead of picking up Jokinen for free on the waiver wire and absorbing all of his salary, the Canes sent some salary back to Tampa to soften the blow, (Josef Melichar and Wade Brookbank), and threw in a draft pick to boot. Ward could end up bringing in a draft pick or developing prospect, if the Canes bring back some salary on their end as well.
2008: Hal Gill from Toronto to Pittsburgh for second rounder and fifth rounder.
Joe Corvo is another player recovering from surgery, although he has been skating and should be ready to go before the trade deadline. But will teams deduct from his value because of his injury? He's solid on defense, will help out any powerplay, and can play a ton of minutes if needed. Several teams should be interested if he proves he can play before the deadline and the return should be the equivalent of a second or third rounder.
2008: Brad Stuart from Los Angeles to Detroit for second rounder and fourth rounder.
2008: Marc-Andre Bergeron from New York Islanders to Anaheim for third rounder.
2009: Steve Eminger from Tampa Bay to Anaheim for Noah Welch and third rounder.
Teams have already been inquiring about Matt Cullen and he would be a great addition for any roster. He brings a lot of successful playoff experience with him as well as a championship. The center is a good team guy and plays an all around game. Cullen should bring back a second rounder and maybe a decent prospect on top of that.
2009: Nik Antropov from Toronto to New York Rangers for second round pick and conditional pick.
2009: Dominic Moore from Toronto to Buffalo for second round pick.
2009: Ales Kotalik from Buffalo to Edmonton for second round pick.
Ray Whitney could be the prize of all of this year's trade deadline acquisitions. He is Carolina's leading scorer and most consistent performer. Also a Stanley Cup Champion, he can be a leader on the ice and in the dressing room. Several teams will be chomping at the bit to add "The Wizard" to their lineup, but will he waive his no-trade clause? One would have to think that if the deal was right, he would. Why?
He is on the open market next year. Will he be worth more money after a successful playoff run, or after languishing for the rest of the year on a last place team? Also, if he plans to sign with the Canes next year, he would be doing the organization a huge solid and would only be away from home for a couple of months. Rutherford might make it worth his while later on to "take one for the team" now.
Whitney could very well bring back the return of a first rounder and possibly even more if teams start a bidding war for his services at the last minute.
2009: Bill Guerin from New York Islanders to Pittsburgh for conditional pick.
2007: Keith Tkachuk from St. Louis to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit, a first rounder, second rounder, and third rounder.
2009: Olli Jokinen and third round pick from Phoenix
Florida to Calgary for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust, and first round pick.
Keep in mind the Canes could also trade players who have longer term contracts, but those are more difficult trades to make. More about those possibilities later.