Carolina Hurricanes: The case for trading Brett Pesce

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 15: Edmonton Oilers Left Wing Milan Lucic (27) and Carolina Hurricanes Defenceman Brett Pesce (22) battle for a loose puck during a game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC on February 15, 2019. (Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 15: Edmonton Oilers Left Wing Milan Lucic (27) and Carolina Hurricanes Defenceman Brett Pesce (22) battle for a loose puck during a game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC on February 15, 2019. (Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes are looking to be active this summer in both free agency as well as the trade market. Here is the case for trading away Brett Pesce for some quality offense.

If we’ve learned anything about Tradin’ Don Waddell in the year-plus since he took over as the Carolina Hurricanes General Manager, it’s that he likes to make a deal. He loves to wheel and deal and he’s pretty good at it.

From an under-the-radar move last spring that brought Jordan Martinook to Carolina to last summer’s blockbuster that landed Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton and the rights to Adam Fox to the midseason deal for Nino Niederreiter, Waddell has been on a roll. Even the gamble for Fox paid off when he shipped his rights to the New York Rangers for a second-round pick this year and the Rangers’ third or second-round pick in 2020.

Carolina has been popping up on a lot of trade rumor columns this summer due to the team’s depth on the blue line. The Hurricanes have stars in Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, solid two-way players in Justin Faulk and Dougie Hamilton, and established veterans Calvin de Haan and Trevor Van Riemsdyk. In addition, top prospects Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean will eventually call Raleigh home.

With the pending loss to free agency of Ferland, and the looming possibility that Justin Williams will retire, the Hurricanes need offensive help. Given the club’s 28th slot in the upcoming NHL draft, it’s unlikely they’ll find someone who can step in and play at the NHL level that late in the first round.

That leaves two options to pursue an upgrade—free agency or a trade.

Carolina does have cap space and could be a player in free agency. They have plenty of room to sign Sebastian Aho to a long-term deal and re-sign Petr Mrazek or someone else to be our No. 1 goalie and still pursue a high profile free agent forward.

Or, they could look to deal one of their blueliners for offensive help. If Waddell were to go the trade route, which of the team’s defenders would bring the most in a trade?

Slavin would probably fetch the highest price, given that he’s signed for six more years at a reasonable rate. He is a high-end defender who elevated his profile with a stellar postseason. It would be difficult to imagine trading him.

De Haan is signed for three more years, but he’s at his best on the second or third line and is not an offensive threat (one goal and 13 assists this season). He’s a solid player, but would not fetch a lot in return.

Van Riemsdyk has only one more year left on his contract. He is unlikely to be ready for the season after a shoulder injury during the playoffs, which kills his trade value. Like De Haan, he is a capable third liner but not an offensive threat.

Faulk is an interesting case. After a subpar season in 2017-18, he bounced back last year, ranking seventh on the team with 35 points, including 11 goals. He finished the season at +9 and had six power play goals. He presumably could fetch some value on the trade market, but he has only one season left on his contract, and he has a no-trade clause. If the team not extend him, his trade value will be at its highest next February around the 2020 trade deadline.

Hamilton was the team’s top offensive defender last year, with 18 goals and 39 points. His production was even more impressive when you consider he had only six goals and eight assists in the first 41 games. His production improved to 12 goals and 13 assists in the final 41 games, and he chipped in another three goals and four assists in the playoffs. He is signed for two more seasons at $6 million per year.

The misunderstood Hamilton has been traded twice already. If the Canes were to try to move him, it might be difficult to get what his true value should be in return. Teams would understandably be wary if he were on the block again, especially after he seemed to find a home in Carolina this year. Plus the Canes need offense, and shipping away their top-scoring defender would exacerbate the situation, not improve it.

Fleury was decent but unspectacular for Carolina in limited action during the regular season. After injuries to de Haan and Van Riemsdyk, he provided solid minutes in the playoffs, and then returned to Charlotte and was spectacular in leading the Checkers to the Calder Cup.

Carolina’s first-round pick in 2014, Fleury will likely start next season on an NHL roster, but will it be for Carolina? He is young and seems to be coming into his own. He could be an attractive piece to add in a package deal, or he could be a mainstay in Carolina for the next few seasons if Waddell moves a defender in front of him on the depth chart.

Bean is another exciting defensive prospect, but it would seem unlikely the team would consider trading him.

Which brings us to Pesce. Coming off a career season with personal bests in goals (seven), assists (22) and plus/minus (+35, which ranked third in the league), his trade value may never be higher. Throw in that he stood out in the postseason and he’s signed for the next five years at a bargain of $4 million per year, and opposing GMs would move Waddell’s speed dial number to 1 if they believed Pesce could be had.

Trading Pesce would be bold, but the team has the defensive depth to afford it and the price he could bring in return should be astronomical. Toronto is in a financial bind and needs to do something with either Mitch Marner or Kasperi Kapanen, both restricted free agents.

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Making a hostile move for Marner would be expensive (the team’s next four first-round picks, plus they would have to outbid Toronto). Trading Pesce for Kapanen, 22, would help Toronto’s financial problem by giving them an affordably priced defensive star and cap room to sign Marner. The Hurricanes would get a young goal-scorer who could play in the top six for years to come.

Minnesota’s Jason Zucker, 27, is another offensive target. He’s signed for the next four seasons at an average of $5.5 million and has averaged 51 points a season the last three years.

The best option would be to keep Pesce, of course. But the defensive depth can be used to improve the offense. Given Waddell’s recent history, it’s hard to imagine him not trading one of his blue liners this summer.