Carolina Hurricanes: Trade Deadline Buyers or Sellers?

Clinging on to a wildcard spot, will the Carolina Hurricanes be buyers or sellers come the NHL Trade Deadline?

The NHL’s trade deadline is quickly approaching (Monday, February 24th) and the Carolina Hurricanes once again have some difficult decisions ahead of them. With 56 points in the standings, they find themselves fighting to hang onto an Eastern Conference Wildcard playoff spot.

Unfortunately for them, the Eastern Conference is so tight this year and the margin for error is extremely small. If they were in the Western Conference, their 56 points would put them just a tad behind the Arizona Coyotes for the division lead with a handful of games at hand.

With that in mind, will the Hurricanes look to be buyers or sellers? A bit of both? Or will they stand pat once again, just as they did last year?

On the surface, this question seems like a relatively simple one. They’re in a tight playoff race looking to build upon a season where they exceeded expectations with their run to the Eastern Conference Final, but when you look a little bit deeper, it’s more complex than you’d think.

When you look around the league at some of the names rumored to be on the move in the coming weeks, there really isn’t any one guy that jumps off the page like in years past. While guys like Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Tyler Toffoli, and Chris Kreider are all decent players, the fit may not be there for Carolina the way the team is currently constructed.

Should General Manager Don Waddell go out and give up assets for one of these forwards? Something will have to give from the current NHL roster and move on as a part of the transaction or a separate corresponding one. With the recent return of Justin Williams, Rod Brind’Amour and Co. already find themselves with an extra healthy forward for the first time all year, and with that the difficult decision of who to scratch on any given night.

On paper, there’s about 9-10 guys you know are going to be playing, barring injury, every night. Knowing that they’ll be in the lineup just leaves a few “depth guys” left to sit out. Among them are Jordan Martinook, Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn and Lucas Wallmark.

Based on his performance and usage alone, Wallmark has easily done more than enough to stay in the line up and be considered an every day NHLer. It also goes without saying that Martinook provides the team with energy each and every shift, and being one of the leaders, it also makes little to no sense holding him out of the line up as well. That Leaves Foegele and McGinn.

Being one of the more streaky, up and down players on the team, Foegele is a bit hard to get a solid read on. At times he has his moments in which he looks to be taking that next step and establishing himself as an important piece to the puzzle in Raleigh. At the same time, there are times when his finger prints are all over the game for the wrong reasons and he’s leaves a lot to be desired.

His work ethic and effort however, have been enough to earn himself a spot on Rod’s good list, making any decision to scratch him a difficult one. The same can be said about McGinn. For whatever reason, Brind’Amour seems to always give Brock shifts in the top six when he’s looking  for a shakeup. And while he’s one of the team’s best penalty killing forwards, when he’s not providing the team with physicality, he really isn’t doing much else to help them win.

With those things in mind, it’ll be a difficult decision for the coaching staff nightly once Justin gets back up to speed. The likely outcome is that we’ll see a constant rotation in the bottom six, keeping everyone fresh and on their toes for the stretch run. Because of this, giving up valuable assets for any forward who isn’t a sure fire Top-6 game breaker makes little to no senses.

Now, this could all change if an elite forward with term is dangled for cheap like the Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask deal just over a year ago. These types of moves tend to happen more so in the offseason, with pending UFAs and RFAs getting the most attention around the deadline.

On the other hand, the blueline, which has been the bright spot in Carolina the past couple of seasons, could see some changes by deadline day. With guys like Trevor van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson months away from being unrestricted free agents, and Haydn Fleury an upcoming restricted free agent, a long rumored move could finally materialize.

While contending teams typically hold on to their pending UFA’s as their “own rental”, the fact that teams like Vegas and Toronto are actively looking for defensemen means Waddell could be presented with a deal too good to pass up. With the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoff hunt, they could then take any assets they’d receive and flip them to another team for another player they see as an upgrade.

Ever since Tom Dundon has taken over ownership, the Carolina Hurricanes’ brass hasn’t been afraid to make a big move and shake things up. While it hasn’t always worked out in their favor, they seem to prefer to get a return for a player they have no intention of extending rather than loose them for nothing; see Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk.

In retrospective, holding onto Micheal Ferland wasn’t the best idea given that teams were rumored to be offering up decent prospects in addition to first round picks. Mostly injured or invisible down the stretch and in the playoffs, a return of that caliber would have continued to set the Canes up for future success while giving them more assets to play with in the present. At the time, they felt it was best not to disrupt any team chemistry, but given how everything played out, it could potentially impact their decision-making this time around.

Speaking of team chemistry, should the scouting staff do their homework on a player it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Last year, some fans were a bit concerned that bringing in Nino would disrupt what they were building towards. Given the amount of digging the front office did on the player, Nino not only made an instant impact on the ice, but in the locker room as well, becoming a fan favorite in the process.

In addition to team chemistry and fit, another determining factor in their decision to be buyers or sellers is cap space. Shortly after the signing of Williams, Waddell stated that they would be able to add a player with a cap hit of $5M-6M or so at the deadline, barring any call ups. Opposing teams could certainly retain a bit of salary on a player or two to make the financials work if need be, but that tends to impact the cost a bit.

Looking at the prospects in Charlotte and Junior ranks, the Hurricanes have a lot of intriguing pieces for rebuilding or retooling teams. Their deep prospect pool and collection of upcoming high draft picks has to be attractive in any potentially deadline deal.

At the end of the day, given their history and current state of the team, we should expect a few minor tweaks that’ll impact both the NHL and AHL rosters come February 24th. Last year, we saw short lived prospect Cliff Pu shipped off to Florida for Tomas Jurco, a deal that helped the Checkers win the Calder Cup, as the only trade made by the Canes.

This time around, should the Canes continue to struggle to gain any ground in the standings, we could see more attention paid to the NHL roster. There’s been suggestions about adding a goaltender like Robin Lehner or Alexandar Georgiev to the team by fans, and rumors galore that Waddell is looking for a shutdown defenseman to help solidify the back end. It remains to be seen what exactly they’ll decide to do, but either way it should be an exciting time around the league leading up to deadline day once again.

Question for CC readers: With where the Carolina Hurricanes currently are in the standings, do you see them being buyers, sellers or both come this trade deadline? What would you like to see them add?