It’s alternate reality week at SB Nation. What if this game changed? What if this trade never happened? How would certain events changing have altered a franchise’s long-term fate? Canes Country actually did a “revisionist history” two offseasons ago, but there are plenty of events we didn’t cover, or can offer fresh perspective on. Today, Zeke re-examines the current biggest trade of Don Waddell’s tenure.
Going into the 2018 offseason the Carolina Hurricanes were holding steady around ninth in the Eastern Conference. For multiple seasons under Bill Peters, the team stayed as a dark horse playoff contender but could never get over the hump.
The Canes were still a young team looking to add some veteran help and some players that could help them in the stretch run of the season when the Canes would always seem to find a way to string together losses and miss the playoffs. The Canes started the offseason by not re-signing head coach Bill Peters.
The big move was trading defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox, but what if they didn’t?
One of the problems with Bill Peters was his questionable play utilization and it would have been interesting to see what they could have done with the Hurricanes and with a different coach. Even staying with Peters in Calgary, Lindholm got top line billing with Johnny Goudreau and Sean Monahan which has led to his two best seasons of his career.
Last season Lindholm had his best season with 78 points, 34 points higher than he ever had in a season with the Canes. Even in the 2019-2020 abbreviated season, he has his highest goal total of his career with 29. Adding him into this Hurricanes team would be bringing a 50+ point scoring winger to the team.
In the current team he could be on the first line with Andrei Svenchikov and Sebastian Aho or could be on the second line with Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas replacing Warren Foegele, bringing an upgrade to the second line either way. Last season he would have replaced Micheal Ferland in the top six. While he wouldn’t have been as physical, the team would have had a more consistent winger that could have played in the playoffs and stayed a Hurricane.
The biggest difference in this trade is the swap of Noah Hanifin for Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton has emerged as a Norris caliber defenseman with the Canes which was a huge upgrade over Hanifin at the time. Hanifin is a young offensive defenseman which was seen as a redundancy with Justin Faulk in the lineup. Without Hamilton the Canes would struggle defensively as they had done for years.
Hamilton was able to really make up for Faulk’s defensive mistakes like no one else was able to do. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce would continue to be partners leaving Hanifin still in the third pairing with Trevor van Reimsdyk. The Canes would not have made the playoffs without the defensive and offensive presence that Hamilton brings.
The downstream effects would mean that the Hurricanes likely don’t sign Jake Gardiner in the offseason. The Canes would also be much more likely to trade Justin Faulk sooner with Hanifin able to fill a more offensive role with the team. The funny part is Joel Edmundson would still be a good fit with the Canes as they would need a more defensive thinking player.
This would also lead to the fact that the Canes wouldn’t need to acquire another defenseman during the current season which saw them trade a bunch of futures for a season that will likely be cancelled leaving them high and dry just two weeks after the trade deadline.
Overall the Canes would have a stronger forward corps but at the expense of the defense. The Canes only kept one long term asset out of the deal with Hamilton for two young pieces under team control. However, anytime that you have the ability to acquire a top-pairing defenseman you have to do it, and overall it led to the Canes making the playoffs last season and poised to make it two seasons in a row.