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Carolina Hurricanes select Elias Lindholm: Solid, safe, but an opportunity missed

By selecting Elias Lindholm with the fifth pick at Sunday's NHL draft, the Canes went for a solid two-way center, but the team's defense remains a question mark.

Bruce Bennett

Hindsight being 20/20, it's probably not a shock that the Carolina Hurricanes went for safe über alles when their turn came around to make their first-round pick at Sunday's NHL Entry Draft.

But the selection of Sweden's Elias Lindholm, while about as safe a pick as you could get beyond the top three players on the board, does nothing to fix the problems the Canes have on their blue line going into next season.

It's probably fair to say that no defenseman in the draft could do so, although when Seth Jones fell to the Nashville Predators at the fourth pick, one ahead of Carolina, GM Jim Rutherford admitted that everyone's ears perked up at the Canes' table. But the fifth pick in a deep draft was thought to have great value, and surely the Canes would be able to pick up an NHL-ready defenseman by dangling that pick. Right?

According to Rutherford, not quite. "We had a couple of good offers involving [Carolina] forwards to move down further than we wanted to move, but when you consider [Lindholm] and where he's at, we felt it was better to keep our pick."

Lindholm's selection came while the higher-ceiling Valeri Nichushkin was still on the board, and he tumbled down to the tenth pick before the Dallas Stars picked him up. But with the first four picks going about the same way the scuttlebutt had them going - while they were in a different order than projected, the first four players picked were likely to all be gone when Carolina's turn came up - Rutherford's hand was forced.

Rutherford, though, acknowledged that he isn't done trying to improve his team. "We're open to anything at this point," he said. "We need to add another defenseman. If something comes along today involving a later pick, we'll consider it. If not, we'll look at trades involving our organizational depth, or we'll look at free agency."

And it's fair to say that Lindholm goes a long way to fill the void left when the Canes traded Brandon Sutter to Pittsburgh a year ago. Lindholm himself said that he plays a well-rounded game, and Rutherford noted that Lindholm can play either center or right wing, a bit of flexibility that will give Kirk Muller even more options.

But with that fifth-overall trading chip gone, Rutherford has fewer options for the rest of the day. He indicated that there were no roster players that he believes will return a draft pick of value, so his ability will be limited to dump a contract or two.

The safe pick, in the end, was probably the correct one given the circumstances. But one can't help but think that an opportunity was missed. Now, the work really begins for Rutherford and company.

Click here to hear Rutherford's comments to the media on a conference call earlier this afternoon.