The Carolina Hurricanes face an intriguing offseason ahead with multiple question marks surrounding their defense. Re-acquiring Trevor van Riemsdyk could address at least one need on the back end.
For the first time in what feels like eons, the Carolina Hurricanes are entering the offseason with uncertainty plaguing their highly-touted blue line. Of their starting six, three are up for new contracts. That doesn’t even take the looming expansion draft into account, in which the Hurricanes could very well lose one of their defenders.
There has been quite a bit of turnover in the past three years. Justin Faulk was traded to St. Louis, Calvin de Haan was shipped off to Chicago, and Haydn Fleury was recently sent to Anaheim. Add in the fact that Jake Gardiner hasn’t seen consistent ice time and has been dealing with lingering injuries, and suddenly, the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t the same defensive juggernaut.
I fully expect the team to attempt to bolster those ranks in the upcoming NHL entry draft by taking some swings at defenders in the middle to later rounds.
But, how else could they assuage some of the uncertainty they face right now and not years down the road?
Re-acquire Trevor van Riemsdyk. Here’s why.
It’s clear that the Carolina Hurricanes value having a steady, defense-first presence on their third pair. They tried bringing in Jani Hakanpää at the trade deadline this year on an expiring $750K UFA deal to fill that role. At that price, that’s a totally reasonable chance to take. But, not every risk pays off.
The Hurricanes’ management said they saw Hakanpää as a longer term solution, but I’m not sold on that based on what we’ve seen. He posted 2 goals, 1 assist, and 47 hits in 15 games with Carolina, and while there’s nothing wrong with averaging 3 hits per game, I didn’t feel like he moved the needle much aside from a handful of decent open-ice hits.
To be clear, he’s not expected to put up points. But his foot speed, puck handling, and decision making were all spotty at times. He got caught pinching on occasion, and his game just generally lacked pace it seemed. These are all qualities that the team can and should expect more of from their 3rd pair.
Which brings us back to Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Originally, the Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t afford to bring van Riemsdyk back because the blue line was crowded with all of the aforementioned players. There wasn’t a guaranteed spot for him. That, and van Riemsdyk was coming off of a $2.3 million contract, which arguably can be a bit steep for a third-pair guy.
Now, van Riemsdyk is still just 29 years old and he’s on a much more favorable contract of $950k for the next two seasons. If I’m Don Waddell, I’m calling Washington about that yesterday; we already know he can fit the Hurricanes’ defensive system. I also can’t imagine van Riemsdyk was content playing in only 20 of 56 regular season games this past year unless he was promised more ice time going forward. He’s better than that, deserves more consistency, and the Carolina Hurricanes could give him that now.
van Riemsdyk also improves in each area that Hakanpää lacked. He’s a touch quicker, he always makes the safe play, and at the offensive blue line, his first step is always backwards in moments of uncertainty. He’s a safe player, and he epitomizes the saying of “if you didn’t notice him, he did his job spectacularly” which is often applied to third-pair defenders. He’s stable and he’s got know-how.
On another parallel, I like the idea of a van Riemsdyk – Jake Bean third pair, and I think that Bean could finish developing well alongside him. Of course, this assumes that Bean isn’t plucked from the Carolina Hurricanes in the expansion draft and that his RFA contract is renewed at some currently unknown value. But, let’s still explore this briefly and hope this portion of the article isn’t obsolete in a few weeks.
I don’t think you do Bean any favors by continuing to play him next to Hakanpää, a guy with 62 career NHL games whose calling card is “he’s big.” Playing him next to van Riemsdyk though could be a boon to sharpening his decision-making. That, and learning to leverage his body positioning.
van Riemsdyk is effective at battling along the wall and closing gaps at the blue line. Both are things that Bean is fine at, but could use some refining. Those are tangible skills that differ from what he could learn from Hakanpää, which realistically is limited to running people over. But that’s not Bean. Conceptually, it just feels like van Riemsdyk would be a better mentor, stabilizer, and partner.
So, if I were the Carolina Hurricanes, what would I give up to get van Riemsdyk back? I would send Washington our third round pick in this draft, for a few reasons. First, the Carolina Hurricanes are at a point where they don’t need to hold on to every ounce of draft capital. Second, I think this might be enticing to Washington since they don’t own their 1st or 3rd round picks this year. They’ve only got five total, and one of them is Arizona’s third. They’re also pretty heavy on right defense and have a slew of left defenders developing in their pipeline.
Two years of van Riemsdyk for a middle round pick is solid value. Another way to valuate it is it’s usually where you find your Morgan Geekie, Stelio Mattheos, and Warren Foegele type guys. Carolina will still have seven total picks if they send their third, and in my opinion you’re just as likely to find a hidden gem in rounds 4-7 as you are in the third. Especially in a draft year like this.
van Riemsdyk’s contract is reasonably priced and good for the next two seasons. He’s an instant upgrade to the stability and utility of the third pair. I would do it even if Bean becomes Carolina’s expansion draft casualty. van Riemsdyk is a model third-pair guy who can play with anyone, and any potential growth for Bean, if he’s still here, would just be added benefit.
Off the ice, we know van Riemsdyk was a great role model in the Canes community. He could be that again, and you can never have too many good character guys around.