The Carolina Hurricanes made three moves at the trade deadline including trading for Sami Vatanen. Was the trade worth it?
The Carolina Hurricanes do love their Finns. So much so that when they felt the need to send Erik Haula to Florida along with Lucas Wallmark, they quickly found a replacement Finn in Sami Vatanen in order to maintain healthy levels of Finland on the roster.
Vatanen, however, has yet to play a single game for the team coming from New Jersey injured and looking to get healthy again. In return, the Carolina Hurricanes sent prospects Fredrik Claesson and Janne Kuokkanen along with a conditional fourth-round pick.
While the conditions on the pick requires Vatanen to play five regular-season games, which doesn’t look like it may happen, the pick automatically upgrades to a 2020 3rd round pick if Vatanen plays in 12 regular-season games, or if Carolina makes the playoffs and he plays in 70% of their playoff games.
Now if the season is over and the playoffs do not happen then Vatanen was traded at 50% retained for just the two prospects. While that may seem like a high cost for a player that never played for the team, consider this; Claesson will also be a UFA at the end of the season. That means it would basically be giving up Kuokkanen to New Jersey for free.
As far as risks go, that’s not much of a collateral. Kuokkanen is a good prospect playing really well in the AHL with the Checkers, but in his short time playing at the NHL level, he seemed to be out of his element and has been kept off the scoreboard completely. He was invisible at the NHL level in the 11 games played with the Hurricanes. He also played a game with the Devils, also invisible.
Would it have been better for the Carolina Hurricanes to hold on to Kuokkanen in case his development improves or they could have gotten a better return for him? Sure, but as far as it stands, the risk was worth the squeeze without the hindsight of the Coronavirus pandemic.
But what if the season isn’t over and the Hurricanes go to the playoffs or at least finish off the season?
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Sami Vatanen at this point is healthy and ready to play again. But so is Dougie Hamilton. Having both defenders healthy has created a problem for the Hurricanes when it comes to Cap Space. But it also means that chances are not only will the Devils get the draft pick, but it will be upgraded depending on how the playoffs will be structured and if the Hurricanes get in.
With Hamilton fully healthy there are now seven healthy defenders and it may look like Vatanen could be the extra unnecessary element. Without the trade for him, the Hurricanes could be looking at an easier choice of adjusting their cap space for Hamilton, not to mention that playing Vatanen means losing a draft pick.
In the long run, the trade for Vatanen is going to be looked back on as a risky move that served more as a backup than an actual trade for a player that was meant to provide value to the roster. Let’s be fair, Vatanen was the first actual rental the team has traded for in over a decade.
Question for CC Readers: How would you evaluate the Vatanen Trade?