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The Hurricanes’ true deadline gamble: The one piece that could change it all

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The Carolina Hurricanes were not too active at the trade deadline, much to the dismay of many that feel they are just one more high-end player away from really competing for the Stanley Cup. But the Canes believe that they have all the pieces they need, they are just gambling on one in particular’s health.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes pretty much stood pat at the trade deadline, opting only for a minor defensive depth swap, sending Haydn Fleury to the Anaheim Ducks for the right-handed Jani Hakanpaa.

Many were expecting Carolina to be in the running for some of the bigger-name forwards being shopped around, thinking that the team is only a single more high-end forward talent away from being a true Stanley Cup competitor, but the truth of the matter is that they already have the perfect high-end fit for their forward group and they’re willing to take the gamble on his health.

The million dollar question then is if and when Teuvo Teravainen will return.

The top-line winger has played only a single game since Jan. 19, the game he suffered a concussion after absorbing a big hit from Chicago defenseman Nikita Zadorov. He has since been sidelined with post-concussion symptoms.

There is no timetable for his return and the hard truth is that there is a chance he doesn’t even return at all this season. Brain injuries are scary like that. There is no telling how severe they may be or how long one takes to fully heal. All we know is that it takes time and every situation is different.

And that’s the stage where the team is at with Teravainen: unsure of when he will return, but constantly hoping he does.

The latest update came from general manager Don Waddell who said that Teravainen had a much better week at the deadline and that he was showing improvements every day. Waddell also sounded optimistic that Teravainen had been skating and the team was hopeful that his return could be soon.

The Canes are a much better team with him on the ice and that’s saying a lot for a team that currently sits in first place in the NHL in points percentage.

Most Hurricanes fans know what Teravainen brings to the table, but today we are going to take a look at just how large his impact is.

JFresh Hockey

Overall Offensive Impacts

WaveIntel.org

Similar to the way that Vincent Trocheck brought considerable balance to the lineup as the 2C, Teravainen brings a similar balance. As a primarily support player and one of the league’s best primary passers, Teravainen is an offensive catalyst for his linemates.

A player that comes to mind is Andrei Svechnikov. Everyone knows just how potent the SAT line of Svechnikov, Aho and Teravainen was last year, and he just might be a key to finding Svechnikov’s mojo again.

No longer also would the Hurricanes need to utilize their bottom-six players in top role assignments and Teravainen would bring an obvious boost to the team’s goal share.

Evolving-Hockey.com

A few additional stats that also highlight Teravainen’s importance can be seen from Corey Sznajder’s microstat data. Last season, Teravainen was second on the team in forecheck pressures and was third in total offensive zone entries with the lowest fail rate among the most active transitional players on the team.

Another interesting one to look at was that last season, Teravainen was fourth in dump-in recoveries behind Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Svechnikov.

Teravainen isn’t usually a player one thinks of when it comes to banging away along the boards and winning those pucks back, but the data shows just how impactful he is in keeping and recovering pucks, a key part of Carolina’s offensive gameplan.

And if anyone has forgotten, Tervainen can both pass , stick handle and shoot at an elite level.

If you want to see some more of Tervainen’s wizardry, you can check out this video.

Power Play Impact

It’s hard to imagine that the Canes have the number one power play in the league without Teravainen.

JFresh Hockey

In each of the past three seasons, Teravainen has led the team in power-play points and accounted for over 15% of the team’s total power play points in each of those seasons. He had long been the primary play setter on the right circle, capable of ripping shots on net (when he feels like it) but more usually than not, setting up the perfect shot or tip.

He also excels at zone entries — last season being second only to Aho in PP entries and carries, but was first in entry setups — and zone holds, being only second last season in exit denials, allowing the top units to keep up the pressure.

On his spot on PP1, Aho has become one of the primary triggermen and the only real one-time option.

If he returns, it wouldn’t make sense to bring him back into the fold in his original spot — the right circle on the first unit — but he can be a huge booster to the second unit.

On PP2, Teravainen can take back up residence in that right circle. Martin Necas can then convert to the primary one-time option on the left circle with his absolute cannon of a shot and keep Jesper Fast and Nino Niederreiter as the slot and low-slot options.

Teravainen would provide a huge balance to the second unit and allow him, Necas and either Bean or Gardiner to cycle the puck and move defenders for the open lanes and looks.

Overall Defensive Impacts

Teravainen is a Selke-level player. In terms of his overall impact and two-way play, there is no way around that being a fact.

Evolving-Hockey.com

Wingers typically never get the attention that they deserves, epecially in a smaller market like Carolina, but he is hands down one of the best defensive forwards in the game.

Even one of the best defensive two-way players in the game’s history agrees.

“He’s one of the more higher skilled players in the league and he doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive abilities,” said Rod Brind’Amour recently when asked what the team was missing most with Teravainen’s absence

It’s definitely an underrated part of his game, but his quiet ability to knock down passes, strip pucks and facilitate clears makes one wonder if he could slot in on the blueline if he wanted to.

Looking back at Corey Sznajder’s microstat data from last season, Teravainen was fourth on the team in zone exits, essentially getting the puck out of Carolina’s own end. And among the forwards ahead of him last season, Teravainen had a significantly lower fail rate.

Mostly from a combination of assists out of the defensive zone and carrying it out himself, Teravainen brings patient transitional play and not just errant attempts. It would be a welcome presence to a facet Carolina has struggled with in this season.

Micah Blake McCurdy | HockeyViz.com

These same stats also transition to his impact on the PK. The Canes generate many more chances the other way when Teravainen is on the ice, largely thanks to his transitional abilities and calm awareness to not just dump it down the ice.

The same concept can be applied when facing a 6v5 with an opposing netminder pulled. Teravainen last season had seven points from an empty-net and it’s thanks to his ability to leave the zone with control or in a way to retain possession for the team.

Corey Sznajder

Just like any other trade deadline acquisition, taking a gamble on Teravainen’s health is a risk. The main difference here though is that the Hurricanes didn’t have to give up any resources to bet on him.

“We need him back,” Brind’Amour said just a week ago when asked for an update on Teravainen. “We need him to turn the corner and say he’s ready to go. We’re banking on it, obviously, but having him back would really make things feel a lot better, that’s for sure.”

With the way the Hurricanes have managed to play without him, Teravainen may just be the key they need to push this team over the final threshold.

The Canes have the high-end difference maker that they need, it’s just a matter of whether or not he can make it back.

Data for this piece comes from:
Corey Sznajder (Twitter - @ShutdownLine)
Micah Blake McCurdy (HockeyViz.com)
Evolving-Hockey.com
JFresh Hockey (Twitter - @JFreshHockey)
WaveIntel.org