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De Haan trade creates a tightrope of the Canes’ own making

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They have no wiggle room now. The Hurricanes’ path forward is crystal clear, and if they don’t follow it, they’re in deep trouble.

Jamie Kellner

I was out watching Toy Story 4 with my family when the news came down the pipe that the Carolina Hurricanes had traded Calvin de Haan. Fortunately, given where I was, no one could question why I was in tears.

I kid. (Mostly.) But if Monday night’s deal stopped you dead in your tracks, trying vainly to figure out what the hell was going on, at least you can take solace in the fact that you’re not alone.

For all the talk about bringing back the band, for all the talk that the Hurricanes are ready to take the next step, this is a bone-chilling shot to the gut. De Haan was signed less than a year ago, on the Fourth of July last year, to a four-year deal worth $18 million. Yes, he’s likely out until November after shoulder surgery. But what does it say about how the Hurricanes value their players that they’re willing to part with de Haan as a sunk cost after just one year?

They presumably knew what they were doing last year signing him to a four-year deal. Spoiler: the plan last July 4 was not “salary dump him for spare parts after one season.” I get that things change, and that Justin Faulk had a better season than almost anyone expected. But whether it’s fair or not, it gives the impression that the Hurricanes will do business ruthlessly. That’s fine on its face, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence to anyone in the future considering signing here.

Back to Faulk for a second. All things being equal, this probably means as much if not more for the future career of Jake Bean as it does for Faulk; someone, either Bean or Haydn Fleury, will now be odds-on to earn a roster spot at camp. But the Hurricanes had damn well better sign Faulk, either now or before the trade deadline, because they can’t afford to have his contract status floating out in the ether, Sebastian Aho-style, next offseason. They have no fallback. If Faulk doesn’t sign, they’re going to be down both Faulk and de Haan. That’s a tightrope of their own making, and the Hurricanes have no one to blame but themselves if they fall off.

Also, the Hurricanes simply must meet Aho in the middle somewhere. This is no time for taking a stand for fiscal prudence, at least within reason. The flimsy “we needed cap room” excuse is only valid in any way if they use it, and the vast majority of that room needs to be spent on Aho’s new contract. Pay the man.

Oh, and for all the “well, they needed a goalie so they can buy out Scott Darling” takes? Anton Forsberg ain’t signed either. If the Hurricanes are going to buy out Darling before next Monday, they have to do one of three things: (1) sign Forsberg, (2) sign Alex Nedeljkovic, (3) re-sign Petr Mrazek (which at least sounds somewhat promising) or Curtis McElhinney (less so). Forsberg gives them another option, but it doesn’t solve the problem of needing to get a third goalie under contract not named Darling as of July 1 to join Callum Booth and Jeremy Helvig. (I suppose they could make another trade for a goalie under contract for next season, but why?)

Or do they not buy out Darling? I mean, at this point, nothing can be ruled out. This is where we point out that a report earlier today linked the Hurricanes to, God help us, Mike Smith.

I’ll be the first to say that I will eat every one of these words if Don Waddell and company not only re-sign Aho to a new deal but also bring in a marquee free agent. If this trade ends up being the key that unlocks a Matt Duchene deal, then fine. I just don’t see that happening. The longer I’ve done this, the more firm I’ve become in the belief that when everyone says “something else simply must be happening!” there is, in truth, nothing else happening. It goes all the way back to when the Hurricanes reacquired the late Josef Vasicek at the 2007 trade deadline. Everyone was sure that another shoe was going to drop, and it never did.

Waddell and Tom Dundon deserve a bit of a benefit of the doubt, but you are more than forgiven if you are nonplussed by this trade. When a team with a boatload of cap room suddenly pleads poverty and says they need more, it’s understandable to cast a wary eye. It’s too early to write this off as a complete disaster, but there’s not much of a line to draw there.

In the meantime, I guess we can all hope that Gustav Forsling bounces back.