Ron Francis always had a patient approach to key deadline days on the NHL calendar. He also had a go-to phrase; “More GMs get fired because of trade deadline and day one of free agency than any other days.”
In saying that, he meant that NHL general managers spend too much money and make too many risks. Ironically, he was fired for doing the opposite.
Two weeks separate the Carolina Hurricanes and the other 30 NHL teams from the February 25 trade deadline, and there are a lot of decisions to be made by Don Waddell and company with regards to their defensive log-jam, rumored interest in another top-six forward, and pending unrestricted free agent winger Micheal Ferland.
What will the Canes do? What should they do? What options do they have? Let’s explore those questions.
Here is your 2019 trade deadline primer.
When you look at the current state of the Hurricanes, the biggest hole is in the middle of the ice.
Lines one through four at the center position go like: Sebastian Aho, Lucas Wallmark, Jordan Martinook, Greg McKegg. You’re going to be able to get away with that top-six. Aho is a bonafide first-line center and Wallmark is a capable NHL center who can handle defensive assignments and contribute sporadic 5-on-5 offense, though I think you’d be better off slotting the young Swede in the bottom-six.
Martinook has been a good stopgap on the third line and his game caters well to the center position, but he’s far from a great face off taker and his natural position is the wing. As for McKegg, I think you have to be pretty impressed by what he has been able to do in the role he’s been put in. He’s a veteran player who knows what he has to do in order to stick around. His offensive touch has been on display and he plays a strong north-south game. Analytically, there really aren’t any red flags. There’s no real reason to seek out a better fourth-line center.
Ideally, the Hurricanes get Jordan Staal back from injury sooner rather than later, but while he has experienced some progress as of late, acquiring a top-nine center should be a priority for the front office if they really want to be competitive down the stretch.
Carolina’s organizational depth has been cut down this season through the losses of Phil Di Giuseppe and Valentin Zykov on the waiver wire and the call-ups of McKegg and Saku Maenalanen. In the next two weeks, the Canes need to re-stock the shelves.
This means seeking out guys like a McKegg or a Di Giuseppe - guys who provide depth for the NHL club and can aid the Checkers’ playoff run. Charlotte has really started to slow down as of late, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it happened right as their depth chart got gashed.
A Spot for Fox
Perhaps the most important thing for the Canes to do is create an opening on the blue line for Harvard defenseman Adam Fox. The right-handed blueliner has had a remarkable year and appears to be ready for real NHL minutes right now.
In order for him to sign, though, there has to be a spot for him. Fox has said on multiple occasions that he just wants to play NHL hockey as soon as possible, and the Canes believe that he will sign if there’s a spot for him. That means one of Carolina’s right-handed defensemen has to get shipped out.
The addition of Fox shouldn’t be overlooked. His offense from the back end should add more scoring depth and help the Canes’ horrific power play. As long as he has a spot in the lineup when he signs in March, there shouldn’t be any issues.
Best Trade Assets
The Ferland drama has been a common talking point about the team for months now, and there’s a real possibility that it won’t end any time soon.
For a few weeks now, the potential of a trade has grown less and less likely to the point that, now, I think the odds are against him getting shipped out by the February 25 deadline. The Hurricanes are just one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (who they beat 4-0 in Pittsburgh last week) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The idea of Ferland being a “self-owned rental” has been floated around, and as long as the Canes are right at the doorstep of the playoffs, he won’t get traded.
If the Canes fall out of the race in dramatic fashion over the next week or so, maybe things change. If the team feels like they can secure a valuable asset (like a first-round draft pick), it wouldn’t be difficult to convince themselves to make a move.
Regardless of what happens, Ferland will almost absolutely hit the open market on July 1.
Though he had a rough game in New Jersey on Sunday, Pesce has been playing some extremely good hockey this season and has, in my eyes, moved up near Jaccob Slavin in the “untouchable” category.
If you’re going to trade Pesce, a 24-year-old shutdown right-handed defenseman under an unbelievably team-friendly long-term contract, you have to be getting a bonafide top-six forward in his early 20’s coming the other way. That cuts down Pesce’s market dramatically, which leads me to think that the Canes won’t even come close to trade Pesce in the next two weeks, or maybe ever.
Hamilton’s first-half struggles were well-documented. He was, largely, a defensive liability and his offense wasn’t prevalent enough to make up for those shortcomings. Whatever happened for him around the New Year, it’s totally changed him for the better.
Since January 3, Hamilton has netted seven goals and 12 points in 18 games. He had just three goals and ten points in the 38 games prior. That’s a pretty huge disparity for the former Flame, and on top of that, he has put together some downright dominant defensive performances.
We all knew the real Hamilton would arrive eventually, and while it took a little longer than we hoped, he’s here. And his trade value has shot up because of it. Like Pesce, Hamilton needs to fetch a really good forward if he is to get traded. Given how well he has played as of late, it’s tough to envision him getting moved.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have had a tough time with Faulk for a good number of reasons. What it comes down to is this: this player should not be played the way he is being played. I don’t know why he is still getting preferential treatment over Hamilton. In no world should Faulk be getting several more minutes than Hamilton and Pesce on a nightly basis. That’s outrageous.
On top of having a negative relative corsi share at 5-on-5, he has been the second-least productive power play defenseman in the Eastern Conference this season, yet he is still on the first power play unit despite Hamilton’s huge breakout as of late.
What that doesn’t mean is that he hasn’t been better defensively this year, because he has. He has been a more reliable defender, and good for him. Good for everyone. Right now, though, it looks painfully obvious that the Canes value Faulk more so than some other defensemen on that depth chart, and for that reason, he probably won’t get traded. He also has the least trade value of any of their top-three RHD.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
I think TvR is the most likely defenseman to be moved between now and the deadline. While he holds the lowest value of Carolina’s defensemen, he is probably the easiest guy to move on from and, in doing so, create a spot for Adam Fox.
It’s hard to imagine the Canes getting anything more than a mid-round pick or a depth forward in a return for van Riemsdyk, but that value is boosted even more in the addition of Fox. Expect the Hurricanes to wait as long as they can to move TvR (or whichever d-man they decide to move) so that they don’t have to go without a defenseman for longer than they need to before Fox signs in March.
I think the big top-four defenseman for a top-six forward trade likely won’t happen until the offseason.
The Hurricanes won’t mortgage the future in order to make a playoff run this season, but they could make deals that help them both right now and in the future.
This is where I look at guys like Haydn Fleury or Jake Bean. Could the Canes dangle a young defenseman out there and bring back a similar caliber forward? Perhaps the Canes can look to acquire a guy who is lower on another team’s depth chart that can break out in a big way in a more significant role in Carolina (i.e. Nino Niederreiter).
Best Trade Targets
Kasperi Kapanen - 22 years old, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s impossible to not fawn over the idea of the son of Sami Kapanen donning a Canes jersey. On top of the family connection, Kapanen has blossomed into a really good top-six forward this season with the Leafs.
In 55 games, he has 16 goals and 16 assists. He’s a blazing fast winger with a great shot and a very sound two-way game. He’s reminiscent of Michael Grabner in that way, except Kapanen is younger and has a much higher upside.
It looks very unlikely that Toronto will consider moving him mid-season and will likely wait until the offseason, assuming they ever trade him. He’s a pending RFA and he’s going to get a good pay day. If the Leafs can afford him, they’ll keep him. If not, the Hurricanes should be knocking on their door. It would likely cost them a top-four defenseman, though.
Andreas Johnsson - 24 years old, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs
Johnsson is in a similar situation as Kapanen. He’s a young, diminutive forward who has some intriguing offensive upside. Unlike Kapenen, though, he’s really been forced down the lineup due to the Leafs’ impressive forward depth.
This is a player that would be much easier to acquire than Kapanen. He’s two years older, he has less of a pedigree, and there’s more questions about his upside. If the Hurricanes want to poach a young forward off Toronto’s roster, this one could be a good fit. He has 14 goals and 14 assists in 49 games this season while averaging just 12:52 of ice time per game. That’s really impressive.
Derick Brassard - 31 years old, C, Florida Panthers
This one if a little tricky, but I’ll try to sell it as best I can. Brassard is a known commodity around the NHL. He’s a veteran pivot who has playoff experience and has been able to produce good offensive numbers while playing a strong two-way game.
The Florida Panthers acquired Brassard last week and the expectation is that they will flip the pending UFA near the deadline. He had a rough go in Pittsburgh, but he’s been leaps and bounds better as a member of the Panthers, which could lead to his value going back up and Florida making a smart buy low, sell high business decision on him.
If the Hurricanes really want to make a playoff run, I think they need a center, and while I’d advise against entering the high-end rental market, this is one where, if they can get a reasonable deal, I think I’d take a risk. He’d undoubtedly be cheaper than a guy like Adam Henrique who is under a long-term deal and holds a lot of value for the Ducks.
I’m not even that passionate about Brassard, the Canes just need to see what centers are out there and try to fortify that position heading into the final month of the season.
Charlie Coyle - 26 years old, C/RW, Minnesota Wild
Coyle is an interesting name for a number of reasons. Minnesota has had a rather terrible year so far and the Niederreiter trade has only made it look worse for them. Injuries are a huge issue and their playoff hopes are far from great.
Would they be willing to part with a piece like Coyle? He’s a big, tough forward with offensive touch, versatility, and another year on his deal beyond 2018-19. This is a guy that is a little more than a rental, which could help justify a trade if you’re the Hurricanes. He’s signed to just a $3.2 million cap hit, which is more than reasonable for a 40-50 point player like Coyle in the prime of his career.
Other names to watch: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM), Ryan Dzingel (OTT), Nikolay Goldobin (VAN), Marcus Johansson (NJD), Jakob Silfverberg (ANA), the Edmonton Oilers