Sorry for the title, but my fiancee has me in wedding mode and it seemed somewhat relevant. So the two big free agent names out there spurned the Canes for the Minnesota Wild. It wasn't a big surprised that Carolina wasn't able to land either one, but both ending up on a mediocre Wild team was a little shocking to me. Jim Rutherford made his offer to these two very good players and I applaud him for that, but now it's time to move on and try to fill those holes that are still present in the Canes lineup. There are still a couple of free agents out there that could help and of course there is always the trade market. The Canes currently have around $49.5 million tied up in 20 players, so they need to spend $4.7 million more to reach the cap floor and can add up to 3 additional players. So who should they look to acquire?
The popular choice on Canes Country seems to be Rick Nash. But the Canes don't have a lot of assets they can give up and if you thought Columbus' asking price was high 2 days ago, just wait! With the teams that missed out on Parise and even Suter going the fray, look for the price of Nash's services to go even higher. Trading for Nash would weaken the team's depth even more than it already is. The same thing could be said about the possibly available Bobby Ryan and the Canes don't necessarily appear to have what Anaheim is looking for in return. Alex Semin is still available and could be targeted by JR, but Semin comes with as many questions as he does answers. Shane Doan would look very nice in a Hurricanes sweater, but this would probably not be one of his top 10 options. Add to that his style of play & age and those things would probably suggest that he is in the twilight of his career. There are other options available, but again, do the Canes have the assets to acquire these top-tier players?
I honestly think it's time for Jim Rutherford to start looking at some of the 2nd-tier players out there that might be available. He made a gallant effort, but there are many factors that will matter when top-tier free agents are looking for a new home. Location is one, money is a big one, but winning is what will make Carolina more attractive to players around the league. So I'm going to give my take on some potential 2nd-tier players that could be brought in (without having to sell the farm) to fill some holes, compliment the existing existing players, and get the Canes over the cap floor. There are obviously others out there, but these are some players that I think could be had. Let me know what you think and what players you would like to see the Canes pursue.
Ales Hemsky - RW
I will start off with a player I have been preaching for a while now. Hemsky is a huge risk because of his injury history, but is potentially a huge reward because of the game he can play. Over the past 3 seasons, Hemksy has only played in 138 games due to a variety of injuries. In those years, he averaged 46 games played, 10 goals and 23 assists for 0.72ppg. The 4 seasons prior to that, he averaged 73 games played, 19 goals and 48 assists for 0.92ppg. These stats show that this guy has skill and could add a piece that the Canes have been missing, playmaking. He's not a big guy, doesn't play a physical game, but the guy is good at getting the puck to where it needs to be to score. Edmonton recently drafted Nail Yakupov and already has Jordan Eberle, so their top 6 RW positions are full and putting Hemsky on the 3rd line doesn't benefit them and doesn't use his skills appropriately. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send Jamie McBain & Anthony Stewart to Edmonton for Ales Hemsky. This would give Edmonton another young, right-handed offensive defenseman in McBain that could grow with their young nucleus. McBain could help get the puck to the offensive forwards and possibly replace Ryan Whitney's production if he gets injured again or leaves via free agency after next season. Stewart would give them some size and goal scoring on their 4th line and allow Ryan Jones to move up to the 3rd line, where he would be better utilized. This trade also saves $2.3 million in cap space for Edmonton in the 13/14 season. This is nice because both Taylor Hall & Jordan Eberle will be due some raises after this upcoming season. Carolina would get Hemsky to play RW on a more appropriate line, the 1st line with Eric Staal. This would give EStaal & Tlusty a playmaker to get them the puck and if Hemsky stays healthy, then the Canes should have a more potent scoring line and Hemsky should put up 60+ points. If Hemsky does get injured, because the Canes didn't decimate their roster getting him, Jussi Jokinen or a prospect could fill in for Hemsky. As C-Leaguer pointed out, Hemsky has a 2 year contract, but I really don't see that being a huge problem. If he doesn't work out, the Canes could trade him for something and gain some extra cap space.
Jakub Voracek - RW
As of right now, Philadelphia has not resigned the RFA Voracek, so he might still be available. And looking at the Flyers the past couple of years, they like to make a splash in the offseason, so they might try to acquire one of the big names that are available this summer. If they do, then they might not be able to resign Voracek to the contract he wants because of cap space. Voracek is a big forward that protects the puck well, is more of a passer than scorer, and plays a pretty responsible two-way game. He's not a big time point producer, but will put up around 40 to 50 points a season and usually does a good job of contributing on the PP. He is a solid player that could play in the Canes top 6. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send Zac Dalpe & a conditional 2nd round Pick in 2013 (depending on if Voracek resigns for more than 1 season) to Philadelphia for Jakub Voracek. What this would do for Philly is leave them with about $10 million in cap space, so they could either go after Nash & a defenseman or Ryan & a defenseman. Voracek is probably looking for at least $3 million and that could possibly hamper what Philly could do in acquiring other players. The would receive Dalpe, who is still considered a good prospect and has top 6 potential. He should be able to contribute within the next 2 seasons. If Voracek resigns with the Canes for at least 2 years, then Philly would also receive Carolina's 2nd round Pick. The Flyers have a pretty weak prospect pool, so 2 upper-end prospects would be nice or they could use them as part of some trade package. Carolina would receiving a right winger that could play on either top 6 line. Voracek could play next to EStaal & Tlusty, providing some puck distribution and size or he could play beside JStaal & Skinner, providing the same thing. Voracek is not going be a big-time scorer, but he is a solid player that should put up around 50 points and would be an upgrade over Chad LaRose. His acquisition would also allow Jussi to center the 3rd line for a while, filling another hole in the Canes lineup.
Toni Lydman - D
This is probably a surprise to the list, but Lydman is a player that the Canes could use, especially after losing Bryan Allen in free agency. Lydman isn't a big hitter, but he actually has more hits than Allen each of the past 3 seasons and their block shot totals are pretty close. He is not as good of skater as he use to be, but he is still good. Lydman is a good positional defenseman that hasn't been a minus player since 2003. He is a solid overall defenseman that takes care of his own end first and foremost. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send Jamie McBain to Anaheim for Toni Lydman. Anaheim would be losing a veteran presence on their blueline, but would be gaining a young offensive replacement. And if you look at Anaheim's current defensive roster, their top 6 defenders are all left-handed, so replacing a lefty with a righty could help balance things out some and give them another option for their PP. McBain also has a 2 year deal plus will be a RFA when that contract ends, so Anaheim gets some flexibility. Carolina would get an experienced defenseman that should help the Canes reduce the shots on Cam Ward and be better in their own zone. Lydman would be an excellent partner for the young Justin Faulk, teaching him how to be a complete defender. Those two would be a solid two-way defensive pairing. Lydman's contract is only for 1 more season, so the Canes have some flexibility themselves and the departure of McBain may allow for Murphy to get more opportunities.
Niklas Hjalmarsson - D & Michael Frolik - RW/LW
If Chicago was able to sign Suter, then Hjalmarsson would definitely be on the move. But since they didn't, I think the only way they get rid of him is if Frolik is going also. I think Chicago would love to get out from Frolik's contract and packaging him is possibly the best way. Hjalmarsson is a young, shutdown defenseman that blocks a good number of shots and can play big minutes. He doesn't provide much offense, but he is decent at moving the puck. Frolik is a skilled winger that can be a 0.50ppg player, but he has consistency issues. He is somewhat of an enigma, but he could play in the bottom 6, traded, or bought out. He has 2 years left of his contract, but his actually salary is less than his cap hit. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send Tim Brent, Zach Boychuk, & a 2nd round Pick to Chicago for Niklas Hjalmarsson & Michael Frolik. If you take Jonathan Toews out of the equation, Chicago was pretty bad in the faceoff circle. They also are limited at the center position in the bottom 6. Brent would give them a decent to pretty good faceoff man on their bottom lines, he can also play a decent checking line role, and can produce some secondary scoring. He had 24 points in just over 10 minutes per game and could score more if given more time. They would also get prospect Boychuk because he has skill, just hasn't figured it out yet. And if the Canes are taking their enigma, then Chicago would get the Canes enigma. Also included would be a 2nd round pick because the Canes would be getting the best player in the deal. Chicago would also get an additional $5 million in cap space, bring their total cap space to $13 million. They could then go after a upper-end forward, defenseman, and goalie. They would have a lot of flexibility. The Canes would get something they need, a shutdown defenseman. Hjalmarsson could potentially pair with Faulk creating a very effective defensive pairing. With Frolik, they could put him in the bottom 6 and he could live up to his abilities and be a surprise. Or the Canes could buy him out. Or the Canes could trade him to a team needing to get over the cap floor for a prospect or two.
Paul Stastny - C
Stastny is a solid two-way center that is a very good puck distributor and plays a little gritty. He is overpaid for what he really brings, but is a good team player that can do it all. The issue Colorado has is that they really have 2 other centers that are as good or better than Stastny, so that $6.6 million could be used differently. Matt Duchene & Ryan O'Reilly could really be the Avs top 2 centers, but then you have a very expensive 3rd line center. Stastny's numbers have been dropping the last 2 seasons, so maybe he is struggling living up to expectations and maybe would benefit from a change of scenery. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send Jussi Jokinen to Colorado for Paul Stastny. Surprisingly Jussi & Stastny are closer in point production over the past 3 seasons than you might expect. With this trade, Colorado would get the more versatile player and for less than half the cost. They both have the same contract term left. Jussi could play anywhere in the Avs top 9 and allow for their young players to play the roles they should. The extra money could be used to resign some players or maybe even acquire an upgrade to the defense. If Carolina is going to play JStaal with EStaal, then getting Stastny to center Skinner & Ruutu would be an ideal fit. Stastny could get the puck to Skinner along with scoring some goals himself and he would play a responsible two-way game which would help make up for Skinner's defensive abilities. Stastny definitely has more potential than Jussi, the Canes would just hope that he can get back to the level of 3 or 4 years ago.
Lars Eller - C/LW
Eller is a young two-way player that has all the skills needed to be a very good player. His ceiling is probably a 2nd line forward, but he is already a competent 3rd line player. He needs to work on his faceoffs and needs to continue working on all aspects of his game, but he can play in the NHL right now. He has good size and actually throw a decent number of hits, once he fills out more he could become a more physical player. He is a RFA this offseason that hasn't been resigned as of yet. The reason he might be available is because Montreal has added some players this offseason and if Alex Galchenyuk plays in the NHL this season, then Eller probably get pushed back to the 4th line and that is not a role to maximize his abilities. Montreal has plenty of cap space, but they also have plenty of forwards already, so resigning Eller just adds to the logjam. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send a 2nd round Pick to Montreal for Lars Eller. Montreal would get a 2nd round Pick for someone that honestly looks to be pushed out of their top 9, so that wouldn't be a bad return. The 2nd could be used to draft another prospect or packaged as part of a trade to upgrade a position. Carolina would get a young player that could possibly take over the 3rd line center position. Eller is a big, skilled guy that still needs to to refine his game, but he is ready for that role. If things were to go well, he & Jeremy Welsh could play on the 3rd line, giving up some size there for the first time in as long as I remember. And since Eller is just coming off his entry-level deal, the Canes would have his rights, at a decent salary, for the next 4 seasons.
Mason Raymond - LW/RW
Raymond is speedy winger with offensive abilities and is a good two-way player. His big concern is about his injury history and whether he will be able to fully recover. He generally has played on a line with Ryan Kesler, but has lost his place since he fractured his vertebrae in 2011. He was really good speed and is capable of scoring & distributing the puck. He is solid defensively, but he is smaller and doesn't play a physical game. He had a rough season last year, but if he regains form and get ice time, he should be a 40 to 50 point player. He also can play on both special team units. Raymond is a RFA this offseason and Vancouver might look to get rid of him because he has basically been pushed down to their 4th line. My Trade Proposal would be for Carolina to send a 3rd round Pick to Vancouver for Mason Raymond. Vancouver would receive a mid round pick for a player that may or may not fully recover from his injury. They also would not have to pay him for next season. The Canes get a "project". Raymond would probably have to be resigned for about $2.75 million, but that could help us get over the cap floor. Depending on how the Canes set up their lines, he could be tried in multiple places. He could play with EStaal & Tlusty on the right side, providing some two-way play. Or he could play the same position if EStaal & JStaal are put together on a line. If he can't rediscover his scoring touch, he could always be put on the 3rd line. He is pretty decent defensively and he can contribute on the PK. He is a risk/reward type of player, but one that could be used to get us over the cap floor for next season alone.
Some other options Jim Rutherford might be tough. But Washington, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, and Phoenix have a good number of defensemen and he might be able to figure out a trade for a defensive defenseman. I know trading within the division or with Buffalo would be very difficult, but those teams do have an abundance of defenseman. There are also the option of an offer sheet to a couple of players, but I really don't see JR going that route. And lastly, there are still a few free agents out there. Most of them are your 3rd-tier or below, but if the team has to get above the cap, they might have to overpay one of those guys. I know it's hard to settle for 2nd-tier players, but it really seems like the best way for the Canes to go at this point. The forward group should already be improved, but it a piece or two is added, then it could be even better. The defense is still a concern. The Allen lose hurts a little because he wasn't replaced. But if JR actually realizes that the defense needs balance, their could be some trade partners available. Teams will not give up a 1st line winger for one of the Canes offensive defenseman, but a bottom 4 defensive defenseman could possibly be had.
Either way you look at it, some more moves will need to be made. What do you think about these options I listed? Would any of them work for you? What players would you like to see in a Canes sweater next season and what would you give up to get them? Let me know and hope you enjoyed the read.