Carolina blueline might be priority number one, but the Canes could definitely use some help among the forward ranks as well. The team was 27th in the NHL in goals per game and 27th in the league in 5 on 5 scoring for & against. Only 1 player eclipse the 20 goal mark, only 1 player eclipse the 50 point barrier and only 3 players averaged over 0.50 points per game. The team has some talented forwards, but the vast majority really underperformed this past season. Does that mean they will rebound next year or is this just not the right mix of players? The issue is the organization's depth isn't exactly brimming with future NHL forwards, so without changes, you're hoping that everybody gets back to their capabilities or its going to be another long year.
If you talk to the fans, it would seem they are in different camps. Some believe the team needs more goal scoring ability. Some believe the team needs bigger and more physical forwards. Even Ron Francis pointed out when he took over that he preferred bigger players. The truth is, the team is missing both and they are going to need to acquire those qualities via the draft, trades and free agency. Based on the free agent class this year, getting either goal scoring or size that contributes immediately will almost certainly have to come via trades. So I have put together a list of potential forward options that are currently under contract or RFA's. Similar to the Defensive Trade Targets article, I've tried to summarize each player and why I think they may be available in trade. I also have proposed a hypothetical trade with what I believe would be fair value. Have a read, vote on your favorite and as always, feel free to share your thoughts and ideas.
Bryan Bickell - LW (2 years remaining, $4.0 million cap hit)
The 6'4", 225 lb left winger brings both size and physical play, while sprinkling in a little skill. Over the past 3 seasons (187 games), Bickell has averaged 2.24 hits per game while contributing 34 goals and 32 assists. The point production isn't a lot, but Bickell only averaged just over 12 minutes a game with 30 seconds on the PP in the regular season. That is cause for concern, but then when the playoffs role around a different Bickell comes out. In the 12/13 & 13/14 playoffs, his TOI/G increased to just below 16 minutes and he tallied 16 goals & 27 points in 42 games. I believe if he is given a more prominent role, he should be able to increase his production over the past couple NHL regular seasons. I think he could potentially play on multiple lines, maybe shifting between an Eric/Elias line & a Jordan Staal line, providing a physical presence to whatever line he is on. The reason he might be available is because Chicago is going to be in a huge cap crunch due to the raises to Jonathan Toews & Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks currently have 13 players signed (8 forwards, 3 defenseman & 2 goalies) at $63.3 million. They have some pretty important RFA's to resign, some important positions to fill and less than $6 million in space (based on a $69 million salary cap) in get it done. Bickell, Patrick Sharp & Brent Seabrook are the most likely trade options and Chicago may be forced to move 2 of those guys or try to fill out there roster with league minimum contracts while losing a player like Brandon Saad. It's not a pretty picture, but one that may be beneficial to a team like the Hurricanes.
Hypothetical Trade: Carolina trades Riley Nash, Michal Jordan & a 2015 4th to Chicago for Bryan Bickell & a 2015 6th (Los Angeles'). Carolina gets a big forward that plays physical and has some skill plus a mid 6th, Chicago clears a nice portion of cap space, get a cheap bottom 6 center, a cheap 6th/extra defenseman and a high 4th. This removes 1 roster player from Chicago, likely adds 2 and saves them around $2.7 million to be used elsewhere.
Dwight King - LW (2 years remaining, $1.95 million cap hit)
The Kings are in a pretty bad cap situation with a couple of big question marks. If the NHL allows some relief for Slava Voynov and LA buys out Mike Richards, a lot of their problems can be alleviated. But the Voynov situation is completely up in the air and a Richards buyout would cost them $14.7 million ($1.47 million cap hit for 10 years). Until those decisions are made, Los Angeles is going to have to plan to move some players and replace them with much cheaper players. King is a physically imposing left winger that forechecks, will go to the front of the net and contributes on the PK. He averages around 1.5 hits per game, has a little bit of offense and plays up & down the Kings lineup. But while he has some time on the King's top line, I think King is really probably a lower-end 2nd liner. For his defensive abilities and what he can provide, at times he could probably play up & down the Canes lineups depending on how he is going. He would be a decent power forward for Eric/Elias or a defensively responsible linemate for Jordan/Alex. Because of their skating abilities, I don't think he would be ideal with Rask, but might work on with Nash if the Canes keep him. I don't believe he has the offensive upside a player like Bickell does, but he does half half the cap hit Bickell does. King definitely helps Francis address his desire to get bigger, but I'm not sure he improves the team's overall skill level. And if the cost to acquire him isn't too high, it still might not be a bad idea for the Canes to get him.
Hypothetical Trade: Carolina trades Chris Terry & a 2015 4th to Los Angeles for Dwight King. Carolina get a middle of the lineup, physical left winger, LA gets an affordable winger with scoring ability and a high 4th. The Kings also free up about $1.3 million in cap space and get a guy that should help with their horrible shootout record.
P.A. Parenteau - RW (1 year remaining, $4.0 million cap hit)
You're going to see Parenteau and think what is he talking about, but hear me out on this, there is a reason for my madness. Parenteau is a winger that can provide some offense and is a good distributor of the puck. He's not physical and isn't the best skater, but in the last 5 seasons he has averaged 0.68 points per game and accounted for 59 PP points. His production and TOI/G were both down this year with Montreal and he might be one of those guys that needs a change of scenery. In Carolina, he would probably fit with either Jordan or Rask. I could really see him working well with Gerbe/Rask with Gerbe giving that line it's speed, Rask some secondary goal scoring and Parenteau the playmaker. His contract only runs through the end of the season and I don't think he would cost a lot to obtain. The Habs are going to be somewhat tight to the salary cap with only around $11 million to resign/sign 7 players. Of those 7, they have RFA Alex Galchenyuk, RFA Nathan Beaulieu and UFA Jeff Petry. And from what I've read, they would like to add a goal scorer and this is where Carolina might be able to help if Francis gets a little creative.
Hypothetical Trade: Carolina trades Alexander Semin (30% retained - $2.45 million), Ryan Murphy & a conditional 2016 3rd (pick goes away if Semin played over 60 games in 15/16) to Montreal for P.A. Parenteau, Tom Gilbert & Morgan Ellis. Carolina somewhat gets out from under Semin's contract, picks up a replacement for a season, adds a veteran defenseman and adds a defensive prospect. Montreal gets a talented winger, a close-to-ready defensive prospect, a 3rd if Semin doesn't work out and saves $1.38 million in cap space.
Carl Hagelin - LW (RFA) or J.T. Miller - F (RFA)
Hagelin is a beyond fast, two-way winger that plays on PK and has a knack for coming up big in big situations. He's a little streaky and isn't big, but he uses his body effectively. He's more of a middle lineup guy because he's streaky, but can play higher at times. He would probably be an excellent linemate for Jordan if the coaching staff decided to have his line play a more defenisve role. Miller also is a player with speed and offensive abilities. He's a little bigger than Hagelin, a few years younger and can play all 3 forward positions. Miller definitely plays with more grit and is more physical, but isn't quite as proven as his fellow RFA. He could really fit anywhere in Carolina's lineup, but I think he has the potential to be a low-end top line winger. The Rangers are another team in cap hell next season. If the salary cap stays at $69 million, the Rangers will have less than $10 million to sign 7 players, including their top 2 TOI/G forwards (Derek Stepan & Martin St. Louis). Miller is RFA coming off his ELC and only about a $1 million cap hit, Hagelin's also a RFA coming off a 2 year contract that had a cap hit of $2.25 million. With New York's cap problems, I would imagine them keeping the cheaper Miller (unless contract demands become crazy) and look to get what they can for Hagelin. They could end up resigning both players, but if they do, something else will have to happen, because the numbers simply don't add up at present.
Hypothetical Trade: Carolina trades Riley Nash & a 2016 3rd (Winnipeg's) to New York for Carl Hagelin. Carolina get a speedy, two-way forward, New York get about $2 million in addition cap space, a 3rd line center (moving Hayes to LW) and a 3rd in 2016. Carolina trades Brock McGinn & a 2015 3rd to New York for J.T. Miller & a 2015 4th. Carolina gets a young forward with high upside and a late 4th, New York gets a gritty winger prospect and a high 3rd.
Alex Chiasson - RW (RFA)
Chiasson came to Ottawa as sort of the centerpiece return for Jason Spezza. You would probably have to classify his first season with the Senators as a disappointment. Almost every single one of his stats dropped except his +/- and hits. Chiasson is a big power forward that has scoring potential and is still relatively young at 24 years old. He needs to do better in his own zone, continue to improve his skating and could always use his big body more effectively. His major issue in Ottawa is that he has been bypassed by a number of good young players like Mark Stone & Curtis Lazar. Chiasson is not really a 4th line player and through most of the second half of the season, that's where he found himself. This is the reason I think he might be available to be acquired. If Carolina were to take a gamble on him, I could see him playing a lot on Rask's right side, maybe playing with Jordan at time if he can improve his defensive game. The Senators have a good young team and solid depth, but their owner has some financial concerns, so picks and prospects might be what their looking for in return. Acquiring Chiasson would be a move that has it's risk, but if you can pick him up while his value is low, it might be worth it.
Hypothetical Trade: Carolina trades Keegan Lowe & a 2015 4th to Ottawa for Alex Chiasson. Carolina get a big right winger that has potential, Ottawa gets a defensive prospect with snarl and a high 4th. Ottawa helps replenish their minor league and organizational depth since they've had so many young players step up into the NHL.
Matt Read - RW/LW (3 years remaining, $3.65 million cap hit)
Read had a pretty sad season in Philadelphia this year, a lot due to a foot/ankle injury. He scored a career low 8 goals, shot a career low 5.6% and had a career low of 0.38 points per game. In the 3 other NHL seasons, Read had scored 57 goals, shot 15.1% and averaged 0.57 points per game. When I watch Read play, I see a better version of Gerbe or Dwyer. He skates well, plays a two-way game, contributes on special teams and can provide a decent amount of offense. I believe he would be the definition of the type of player that Peters wants in his system. If the plan is to make Jordan center a shutdown line that can provide some offense, Read would be the perfect compliment. Able to go up against top competition, able to score 20 goals a season and versatile enough to play any forward position. The negative about him are his lack of size (even though he'll play physical), his salary and the questions about his struggles this season. These are reasons why I think he could be had this summer, along with the fact that the Flyers are somewhat rebuilding. While they aren't up against the cap this year, they could always use more to spend in free agency. This is a case where a bad season has driven the value of a good player down and the Canes could take advantage.
Hypothetical Trade: Carolina trades Nathan Gerbe & a 2015 1st to Phildelphia for Matt Read, a 2015 1st & a 2015 3rd (Tampa Bay's). Carolina get a versatile two-way forward with scoring ability, the 7th overall pick and a late 3rd, Philadelphia gets a heart & soul LW, the 5th overall pick and some additional cap space. From what I've read, Philadelphia is really interested in Mitch Marner and Noah Hanifin, this would give them a shot a one of them while opening up $1.875 million more in cap room, Carolina would likely get to choose one of Lawson Crouse, Mikko Rantanen or Ivan Provorov.
Here are some other players I think might be available in trade this summer: Mason Raymond - LW/RW, Jeremy Morin - RW, Colin Wilson - LW, Nick Spaling - LW/C, Jannik Hansen - RW.