Now that I’ve moved past the main Carolina Hurricanes players that have had their names floating around the trade rumor mill over the past couple of months, I thought I’d explore some of the guys that don’t normally find their names involved with major trade rumors or aren’t normally connected to any kind of major value (like that of an Eric Staal, per say). Today, I will focus on the possibilities of trading John-Michael Liles.
The 34-year old lefty defenseman has found himself playing for 3 teams over his 13-year professional career, the Colorado Avalanche (2002-2011), the Toronto Maple Leafs (2011-2014), and the Carolina Hurricanes (2014-present). He has amassed 330 points (80 G, 250 A) in 690 games played. He currently plays on an off-and-on basis, often being a healthy scratch as of late.
Liles has offered more value to the Hurricanes organization than expected, but his career is winding down and it may be beneficial to both sides if a potential trade partner could be found. The main point of interest of any deal involving J-M Liles would be his current cap hit, $3.875 million. His contract runs until the end of the 2015-2016 season.
With that said, here are a few mock trade scenarios.
Trading Liles will be difficult as it stands given his contract, but, like many other scenarios, a contending team with slight issues on the defensive zone could come calling. The likes of Andrej Sekera could be too costly for these teams, so they could fall back to someone like J-M Liles (or Tim Gleason really). The Hurricanes would likely receive a pick or two, or maybe a prospect in return (best case). But I decided to take more interesting routes in my mock trades.
The first has Liles going to Nashville. The Preds are contending for a solid playoff spot thanks to their new coach, Peter Laviolette, and due to the return and excellent play of goaltender Pekka Rinne. Like most teams, the Predators could benefit from an increase in offensive production from their defensive ranks. In steps John-Michael Liles. Liles has always carried an offensive mindset with his play. In return for Liles, and a pick to even the scales, I have the Canes receiving Magnus Hellberg, a large Swedish goalie who seems to be stuck in the system. His height draws comparisons to his NHL counterpart Pekka Rinne. At this point, he hasn’t proven himself capable of manning a starting position in the NHL, but he could possibly join the ranks with more development. The Canes would be very willing to take on more goalie depth, as I feel that we have one of the weaker sets of goalie prospects. Pontus Aberg may be pushing our luck a bit. The former second round pick finds himself in the AHL, unsure of when he’ll be able to crack a NHL roster. This is just another way for the Canes to restock their prospect system. We may or may not have to eat some of Liles’ contract, but again, a trade like this isn’t likely.
The second mock trade has Liles moving to Boston for draft picks. This is more likely than the first proposition, as the picks span two years and don’t hurt Boston too much for the future. Liles would provide defensive assistance to a team on the brink of not making the playoffs. The Canes could use the picks to help with a rebuild. It is possible that one of the picks coming back from Boston could be conditional; the pick could turn into a more valuable selection if the team makes the playoffs (or vice versa). I would take a deal like this just to move Liles’ contract.
The final deal is interesting as well. I was originally thinking that this would be a perfect stage to bring back former Hurricane Erik Cole, but once I looked at the Stars’ stats, I realized that a trade like that would not happen. Cole produces too much for that to occur this year. The contracts are similar, but the Stars would be clear losers there. So, I plugged in Anders Lindback. The Stars’ backup goalie has played in 15 games and sports a 3.79 GAA with only 2 wins. He is losing playing time to longtime starter Kari Lehtonen based on play. The Stars could take on Liles to help them on their Cup run, while the Hurricanes add Lindback as insurance for the future. I see potential in Lindback. He has size and has performed relatively well in the NHL. He could be a backup to Cam Ward or Anton Khudobin if one of them ends up being moved prior to or at the trade deadline on March 2.
I considered a trade with Vancouver for one of their young goalies, but a recent trade with the Chicago Blackhawks netted the Canucks young, NHL-ready defenseman Adam Clendening. I would assume the Canucks would remove their name from contention for another NHL-ready defenseman at this point.
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Personally, I would like to see the Canes move Liles just to get rid of his cap hit. It would be beneficial if we received a goalie prospect as compensation (or a pick or two), no matter who it comes from. If we are to be successful in a full or partial rebuild, we have to constantly be financially sound. We need cap space. We need draft picks. I know GM Ron Francis sees this as clearly as I do, but I’m just not sure when, or if, he will make moves.