Two things that NHL General Managers look for at the trade deadline are defensive depth and toughness. Both attributes are essential to making a long run in the playoffs.
The Carolina Hurricanes are no stranger to these needs as the trade deadline approaches.
Sure, the flashy acquisitions are what fans and media report most about, but no team has won a Stanley Cup in March. It will be no different this year.
Luckily, the Canes are in a position where they have a deep squad and do not necessarily need someone to step right into the starting lineup. Another plus is that a role player will cost significantly less than a top-of-the-line player.
The characteristics needed at the deadline are ones that can be provided by a single player or spread through many players. Ideally, it would be nice to find everything missing in one player but that is not always so easy.
So many NHL players are one-trick ponies and may not be able to fit into the Rod Brind’Amour system for the long term. The trust level between a new player and the coaching staff will not always be earned quickly.
Dylan Coghlan was brought to Raleigh to provide defensive depth. He has filled in when needed but has proven to be a defensive liability at times. His offensive upside has been a welcome skill but not enough to earn a top-six spot.
For that reason, it would behoove Don Waddell to keep an eye open for defensive help in the coming weeks. A bona fide top 5 or even 6 defensemen is not warranted but a player that knows his role and will step in when called upon.
This player could be found in Philadelphia Flyers defenseman, Justin Braun. At age 36, the Minneapolis native is not expected to play big minutes nor start every game.
Braun can play 15 minutes a game and provide steady play from the blue line while blocking shots and helping on the penalty kill.
The Flyers defenseman provides some grit in front of the net and something else needed by the Canes, toughness. Braun provides the physical play and averages over 100 hits per 82 games.
Another strong asset of Braun is his experience. He has played in 119 playoff games in his career and most recently played for the New York Rangers in their playoff run last season.
One player that would fit nicely on the fourth line is Arizona Coyotes forward, Nick Ritchie. A player that can rotate with the likes of Derek Stepan, Ritchie provides a much different style from Stepan.
Ritchie currently has 152 hits on the season and is chipping in offensively with 9 goals. The leader in hits for the Canes is Andrei Svechnikov with 119.
It is not ideal to have one of your top scorings’ forwards leading the way physically, but Ritchie can make up for that in a big way.
The former 10th overall draft choice in the 2014 NHL Draft has played almost 500 games and more importantly has played in 38 post-season games. The most recent trip to the playoffs was with the Boston Bruins in 2021.
Ritchie is a big body at 6’3 236 lbs. and could provide a net presence on the second power-play unit.
This would be a bonus to an acquisition of this caliber.
Ritchie would come at the cost of draft choices and would be a rental as he becomes a free agent after the season. Currently having a cap hit of $2.5 million, Ritchie would not prevent any corresponding moves needed at the deadline.