With the quarter-season mark quickly approaching, the Carolina Hurricanes are still working to establish their identity. Could one of their defensemen prove to be expendable as the team searches for a spark?
When a team wins in an absolute rout, it becomes hard to nitpick issues with their play. Okay, maybe not hard as much as pointless because Monday’s lopsided victory over the Ottawa Senators represents the biggest issue that the Carolina Hurricanes face: inconsistency.
The Senators, with the endless drama of a toxic owner and a rebuild struggling to take hold, should have been easy pickings but they imposed their will on the Hurricanes just two days prior, coming away with a 4-1 win.
The home-and-home series showed that Carolina’s game is either there or it’s not, often with drastic swings. Let us not forget that the Hurricanes bested the Red Wings 7-3 before losing four straight, being outscored 17-7 in the process.
The easy thing would be to point out that there are still 64 games remaining, plenty of time to work out the kinks. You can point out that the Hurricanes currently have the 6th best offense in the league, averaging 3.39 goals per game. While that’s true, it’s also pertinent to point out that a couple of prolonged losing streaks can cement a team’s place outside of the playoff picture.
It’s also worth noting that 21 of those goals came in just three games, leaving just 40 goals spread over 15 games for an average of 2.67. There have been bright spots; Dougie Hamilton leads the team with 19 points. Andrei Svechnikov is right behind him with 18 points. Teuvo Teravainen has been consistent through the early season and Sebastian Aho looks to be rounding into form.
The problem comes into play when you look deeper into the bottom six. Erik Haula got off to a great start but has missed the last four games with a knee concern. Ryan Dzingel has played well and as a result, has slid up the depth chart. Nino Niederreiter has struggled mightily. Jordan Staal, Brock McGinn, and Warren Foegele have also failed to spark much offense.
Should Don Waddell decide to add another forward to the mix, the logical option is for him to deal from an area of strength. While the Hurricanes’ defense has had its fair share of ups and downs, the blueline represents the best depth to draw from in a trade.
We already know that Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and Dougie Hamilton aren’t going anywhere. Jake Gardiner, with his recent four-year contract, is also unlikely to move. That leaves us with three choices from the current lineup: Joel Edmundson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Haydn Fleury.
Personally, I would like to see Edmundson (who is currently in the final year of his contract) extended if the price is right. Now we’re left with van Riemsdyk and Fleury, both of whom are also in contract years.
At 28, van Riemsdyk is unlikely to show much more at the NHL level that he already has. The good news is that he has proven himself to be a reliable defenseman. Not overly physical or a big offensive threat, the New Jersey native is the type of defender that often goes under the radar, but that doesn’t diminish his impact.
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Any team looking to bolster their defense would benefit by having him on the roster, making him an interesting possibility as part of a package.
Fleury, 23, is at a point in his career where he’s earned consistent NHL minutes. A strong skater with good size, Fleury still has room to grow, though it’s debatable that he becomes the type of player you would expect from being drafted seventh overall. He could be quite an attractive trade chip for a team that is either rebuilding or retooling, as he could be a quality defenseman for the foreseeable future.
I am firmly in the camp of keeping Fleury, though I would be okay if the return was adequate for the Hurricanes’ needs. Top-9 forwards with skill and speed don’t come cheap, after all.
Are you okay with moving either van Riemsdyk or Fleury for forward help? Who would you rather keep, and who would you want to see coming back?