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Trading Justin Faulk would be the right move

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Reports surfaced Friday that the Canes are shopping Justin Faulk after extension talks didn’t start well. And, for a number of reasons, none of which has to do with lazy narratives about “lowballing”, that makes a lot of sense.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but a Carolina Hurricanes defenseman may be on the move. At exit interviews, Don Waddell said the team would like to sign Justin Faulk, who has one year left on his contract, to an extension. However, Friday afternoon, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic/TSN reported that the Canes are shopping the blueliner after initial extension talks did not go well.

As soon as the report came, so did the takes. The Canes aren’t making the right moves to build a contender. Tom Dundon is lowballing everyone from Sebastain Aho to Tripp Tracy. The Canes will never be willing to pay what players are comfortable with (ask Teuvo Teravainen and Calvin de Haan how they feel about that one). On and on it goes.

But what if, and hear me out here, there’s a perfectly logical reason to trade Faulk, and giving him a big extension doesn’t make much sense for this team? As it turns out, that’s exactly the case.

The news that the Hurricanes wanted to extend Faulk was always surprising to me. It’s been rumored since approximately the beginning of time that the Hurricanes were willing to trade one of their three top-four caliber, right-shot defenseman for a forward.

Faulk always made the most sense as a trade candidate. Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton have more trade value, but also have more value to the Hurricanes. Pesce is one of the best shutdown dmen in the league, and Hamilton might be the best offensive blueliner this team has ever had.

That’s not to say Faulk is a slouch. He brings a heavy shot from the point, is a good skater and had a bounce-back season defensively. Save for a couple bad moments, he was very good in his first career playoff run.

But, as I said earlier today, when you’re as deep at a position as the Canes are on defense, particularly on the right side, sometimes there has to be an odd man out. The Canes were so deep on the right side that, when Trevor van Riemsdyk was healthy, the team shifted Pesce to the left. Trading Faulk would still leave a very formidable defense group of Slavin, Pesce, Hamilton, de Haan, TVR and Haydn Fleury.

While Faulk wouldn’t fetch as much as Pesce or Hamilton, a top-four defenseman of his abilities should be in demand, even with just a year left on his contract.

If the Canes can package Faulk with one of their three second-round picks to land a player like Kasperi Kapanen or Nikolaj Ehlers, that’s a very easy trade to make to bolster the team’s forwards.

Trading Faulk makes a lot of sense from a monetary/salary structure standpoint as well. And no, it has nothing to do with any of the above, misguided takes.

The Hurricanes already have four top-four defensemen locked in for at least two more years in Hamilton, Slavin, Pesce and de Haan, each making at least $4 million per season. While Slavin ($5.75 million) and Pesce’s ($4.025 million) deals are monumental steals, there’s no question they’re better players than Faulk.

And yet, given Faulk’s own abilities, he’s perfectly justified asking for at minimum $6 million on a new deal. Can the team really justify giving him more than Slavin, Pesce and Hamilton make? It is just not feasible in today’s NHL to pay five defensemen that much money.

For the Canes, it definitely doesn’t make much sense to spend that much on the defense. The reason the team was able to do it this year was partly because it spent so little on its goalies. That will eventually change.

Aho is about to be a very, very rich man. In two years, Andrei Svechnikov will figure to be in line for a big raise. The Canes will also be facing a decision with Dougie Hamilton in that time. A big-ticket extension for Faulk just doesn’t fit in with all that.

While it’s understandably disappointing for fans to hear an eight-year player who was part of the Canes’ first playoff run in a decade may be on his way out, it’s a *checks notes* business.

A long-term extension for Faulk simply doesn’t make sense given the other commitments the Hurricanes need to make, and dealing him from a position of strength can improve the team in other areas.

It may not be that Faulk is making unreasonable demands, or that the Canes are lowballing him. It’s probably just that this team can’t justify paying him what he’s worth given its depth on defense and upcoming commitments elsewhere.

There’s plenty of teams that can, and should, pay Justin Faulk north of $6 million per season on a long-term contract. The Carolina Hurricanes are not one of them.