In a shocking twist, it wasn’t Andrei Svechnikov’s strength, hands, shot, or passing ability that made him a winner during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Florida.
It was his speed.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ young winger handily won the Fastest Skater competition, and while I’d stop short of saying it was as iconic as Cam Ward beating Tim Thomas in the hilarious goalie lap during the All-Star Weekend in Raleigh years ago, it was another great moment for a great young player.
The All-Star Break seemingly came at an opportune time for the winger, who is currently riding a 15-game goal drought. He's managed to keep up, tallying 10 assists over those 15 games, but his goal-scoring ability is a key component to his overall offensive package, so eyes will be fixed on him when the post-break schedule gets kicked off for the Canes on Saturday.
The Hurricanes At The Trade Deadline
Just eight games separate the Hurricanes from the NHL Trade Deadline, which means speculation season is well underway.
**Keep an eye ️ on**— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) February 9, 2023
In addition to the @NJDevils , @Canes , @NYRangers as “Buyer” teams interested in a Scorer like Meier, @GoldenKnights are a team to watch as well. @SanJoseSharks have some good options. @espn @NHL @NHLNetwork @TSNHockey @DKSportsbook #HockeyTwitter
San Jose’s Timo Meier is one of many bigger-name players that the Hurricanes are reportedly attached to in trade talks following the devastating Max Pacioretty re-injury. Links have also been made between the Canes and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews to fill a second-line center position that has been a spot of inconsistency as of late.
Toews is an interesting idea. The 34-year-old pivot has won three Stanley Cups, one Selke, and one Conn Smythe in his Hall of Fame career. He is also a pending unrestricted free agent, which makes him less of a commitment. That’s a good thing, given his age and his decline in production. That question is if Carolina has enough firepower on the wing to make up for what Toews has lost offensively.
Perhaps a revitalized Toews could make for a perfect second-line center in between Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal. Though his cap hit is substantial at north of $10 million, his base salary is a far more reasonable $2.9 million.
Shifting back to Meier, though, this is a player that seems scientifically engineered to be a Hurricanes trade target. The team lost a big power forward with goal-scoring ability in Nino Niederreiter over the offseason, and his replacement is done for the year. As well as Stefan Noesen has played, acquiring an upgrade would go a long way to prove how serious the team is about taking the next step.
While Toews has had a modest season thus far, tallying an even 14 goals and 14 assists, Meier has been a cut above. In 52 games, the Swiss winger has already netted 30 goals and put 232 shots on the net. That’s the second-most in hockey behind Boston’s David Pastrnak and 63 more shots than Svechnikov’s team-leading 169.
Meier is also just 26 years old. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, which could spark some issues. For the Hurricanes to pull off a trade of this magnitude, they will almost certainly need to have an extension ready to go for the player. The team should have a lot of money coming off the books this off-season, though. Jordan Staal’s $6 million cap hit should come down quite a bit, as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that Martin Necas will be due for an extension after the 2023-24 season, but on paper, those two contracts should be able to coexist, given how the team’s money situation is structured. It’s Sebastian Aho’s contract that will make things interesting, given his UFA status after next season.
Meier and Toews have been among the most-talked-about trade targets for the Hurricanes, which could very easily mean that neither of them ends up in Raleigh and the team instead makes a move that’s completely off the radar. No one saw Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei getting dealt to Carolina at the 2020 deadline, so another surprise could be in order.
The next few weeks will be pivotal for how the 2022-23 season shakes out for Rod Brind’Amour’s group. With consistent injury issues and the like, it certainly feels like the Hurricanes will need to make a splash or two to sure-up what was expected to be a Stanley Cup-contending roster.
All of those questions should be answered by the early afternoon on March 3.