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Carolina Hurricanes Trade Tiers Part Two: The Most Likely Trade Pieces

Who stays? Who goes? Let’s look at the Hurricanes’ most tradable players heading into the offseason.

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to part two of Carolina Hurricanes trade tiers, wherein we look at every player on the Canes’ roster and rank their tradability moving into the offseason.

We went over the less-likely guys to get traded yesterday in part one. Today, we’re getting to the real discussions surrounding players who may very well get dealt.

The Trading Block

Ryan Dzingel

When the Hurricanes signed Dzingel to a two-year deal last offseason, the expectation was for him to be a legitimate secondary scoring option in the middle six. Early on, he delivered on those expectations.

Alongside Erik Haula and Martin Necas, Dzingel helped make up Carolina’s potent third line. Through 20 games, the first-year Hurricane had scored four goals and compiled 14 points. Things quickly fell apart from there, though.

From Nov. 19 to March 7, Dzingel had just 15 points in 44 games and saw his average ice time drop by almost two whole minutes from his first 20 games. In his final 11 games played of the shortened regular season, he went without a point and saw just 12:07 of average ice time while frequently going in and out of the lineup.

For whatever reason, things just didn’t work for him as the season went on. Part of that could be because of the quickly fading presence of Haula in the lineup before he was ultimately dealt to Florida, but overall he just wasn’t noticeable in any sense. It was a disappearing act.

It didn’t help that his shooting percentage was cut in half, going from 16.4% in 2018-19 to 8.2% in 2019-20. That’s huge regression from a guy that Carolina was banking on scoring 15 goals. The questions now is whether his high shooting percentage prior to this season was just a fluke or if his low shooting percentage was the fluke.

I favor on the side of his low shooting percentage being the fluke, as even before the 2018-19 season, he had a career mark of 15%. I don’t think anyone should expect him to register in at that number next season, regardless of where he plays, but he should be much closer to, if not in, the double-digits.

Quite frankly, the Dzingel signing was a bit surprising at the time because of his possession metrics. He just didn’t seem like a player that an analytics-driven front office would go for, but they did bring him in. Now we’ll see how much they really like him, because he would seem to be a prime candidate to get moved this offseason.

With one year left on a deal that holds a $3.375 million cap hit, he’s a very easy player to take a flyer on given his goal-scoring track record at this level. If the Hurricanes want to make a change up front, this is the easiest guy to move, assuming the Canes aren’t sold on what he brings.

Nino Niederreiter

Niederreiter played a significant role in Carolina’s 2019 push to the postseason. I’d even say that, had they not gotten him from Minnesota, they wouldn’t have broken their drought. The 2019-20 season was a concerning step down for him, though.

After producing 14 goals and 29 points in 30 games with the Canes after getting traded, Niederreiter had just 11 goals and 29 points in 67 games this season, performing well under the $5.25 million price tag that he holds.

Unlike Dzingel, Nino has both big money and multiple years left on his deal, which will make him tough to trade.

I actually quite liked Niederreiter’s game for much of the season, even if he was snake-bit in the goal-scoring category. He’s a physical player and he drove strong possession numbers throughout the year. The biggest concern I have with him, outside of his production, is his tendency to take bad penalties. If you’re not scoring, you can’t take 42 minutes worth of minor penalties with so many of them being offensive zone infractions and poorly-timed penalties throughout the course of the game.

His goal-scoring woes weren’t out of a lack of effort; he just couldn’t finish at the clip he did a season ago, which is fair, because no one was expecting him to be a 40-goal scorer. That being said, he has to reach 20 goals consistently for him to be truly worth his deal.

I could see a team being willing to bring him back with hopes that he sparks an offense like he did with the Hurricanes, but he’s not easy to trade given the flat salary cap. For that reason, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him back with the team next season, wherein he could bounce back.

Brock McGinn

I found myself going back and forth with McGinn on this list. He wasn’t as impactful as he was in 2018-19, but he is still clearly a favorite of Rod Brind’Amour and he plays a real role on the penalty kill and his physicality is valuable in that depth role.

His $2.1 million cap hit isn’t atrocious or unworkable, but if the Hurricanes do go looking for a bigger name up front, I could see him being a guy that moves on. He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent upon the completion of the 2020-21 season and while his role on the penalty kill was important, his ice time did drop by more than a minute from 2018-19.

McGinn is a bit of a wildcard.

Jake Gardiner

Ah yes, Mr. Gardiner.

I won’t harp on any of the controversial conversations surrounding Gardiner’s on-ice play. His first half was terrible, but his game improved late in the season and into the postseason. The fact of the matter is that he very clearly fell out of favor with the Canes’ coaching staff and nothing could earn that trust back, regardless of how much he improved.

With all the money that Carolina has infused into their blue line, Gardiner seems like the top bet among defensemen to get moved and the acquisition of Brady Skjei, who is on a long-term contract, seemed like a nail in Gardiner’s Canes casket.

Gardiner has three years left on his deal with a $4.05 million cap hit and a seven-team modified no-trade clause. He isn’t easy to move due to his longer-term deal and his NTC, but I think there will be teams that will look at what he brings and the very limited role he had in Carolina and talk themselves into bringing him in with the hope of him flourishing with more of an opportunity.

Trading him right now would likely look like a cap-dump trade, and you run a risk of bringing him back for another year and burying him on the depth chart again, because then his value drops even more. Or maybe you can move Gardiner for a struggling forward who also has a bigger contract, similar to the Rask-for-Niederreiter deal. If the Canes identify a struggling forward in need of a change of scenery, maybe a deal makes sense.

Regardless, it’s also worth noting that Jake Bean is fresh off of being named the best defenseman in the AHL. Bean is a left-shot offensive defenseman who would fill Gardiner’s role at a much lower price tag and much more in the way of youth.

I’m a believer in Gardiner’s skill set, and I have been for years, but if the Canes aren’t going to give him minutes, they are better off severing ties with the player and giving Bean a shot.

The Goalies

James Reimer

I’m putting the goalies in a category of their own, because I think there’s a lot of interesting facets to this.

Reimer was excellent in his first year in Carolina. The deal that Don Waddell pulled off to get rid of Scott Darling’s contract in a one-for-one trade was nothing short of brilliant (or perhaps unbelievably dumb for Florida). In 25 appearances, Reimer logged 14 wins and a .914 save percentage. He stole game three against the Rangers in the play-in round before coming apart against the Bruins, but the Reimer experiment was a rousing success.

He essentially played the Curtis McElhinney role, and he revived his career in impressive fashion.

He has one year left on his current contract, which pays him $3.4 million against the salary cap this upcoming season. I think he’s a great back-up goalie, which makes him a guy that I want to see stick around. That said, this wholly depends on what the Canes’ front office wants to do in net, which we’ll get to right now.

Petr Mrazek

Mrazek is who he is. He is an exciting goalie who makes incredible saves, often times because he puts himself out of position and makes up for it with his incredible athleticism. With that in mind, is he really the answer here? Will the Canes role the dice with this same tandem again next season?

He has a $3.1 million cap hit next season before he’s scheduled to hit the UFA market. The Hurricanes have already been tossed into the Fredrik Andersen rumor mill, and there will be some interesting names on the market this offseason.

If the Canes make a trade for a goalie who they believe to be a real starter, then I think Mrazek is the guy who makes the most sense to part ways with, just because I think Reimer is the better option as a true back-up.

That being said, the goalie market is so unpredictable. Michael F’ing Hutchinson has revived the Colorado Avalanche’s playoff dreams.

Michael Hutchinson.

Giving big-money contracts to goalies seems to be a thing of the past, which makes me wonder if the best option isn’t just to run it back with Mrazek and Reimer. Who am I to say that Mrazek won’t be great next year? I don’t think anyone has a real answer for that.

With all that’s going on, I could easily see the Canes giving the Mrazek/Reimer tandem one more year. They are both UFAs after next season, and you can revisit it then. I’m not sure how much of an upgrade the Hurricanes could realistically get elsewhere.

If it’s going to be another 1A/1B situation (though, in reality, this is more along the lines of a 2A/2B situation), they might as well stand pat with the guys they know. If they get a shot at a legitimate number one goalie, the conversation changes, but I can’t really envision that happening right now.

Alex Nedeljkovic

This is a big offseason with regards to Nedeljkovic’s future with the organization.

Ned will be on a one-way deal this upcoming season, meaning that he will make his full $737,500 regardless of whether he plays in the NHL or the AHL. This could be another Anton Forsberg situation where the Canes pay that salary for him just to be in the AHL and have him for emergency situations at the NHL level, but at what point do the Hurricanes finally make their decision with him?

He is coming off of down year compared to his Calder Cup-winning campaign with the Checkers in 2019, so where does he stand in the eyes of this front office. He is under contract, which means he’s an easy to guy to hold on to, but we’re getting close to decision time. Is he capable of playing in the NHL? If not, do you give him a chance somewhere else? If he is, how does this situation play out with Mrazek and Reimer in the fold? It all depends on how much belief they have in his future, but right now I don’t think there’s much that says that he is a slam-dunk NHLer.