The 32-23-6 Carolina Hurricanes seemingly have turned their luck around this season. However, the Metropolitan Division isn’t exactly a cake walk either.
The wild card spots are going to be a bloodbath as well. That being said, they need more than what they currently have to stay in the playoff picture, making them ideal buyers at the deadline.
Where do they need help?
Hurricanes players have combined for 446 total points, with their Nino Niederreiter –Sebastian Aho– Justin Williams line attributing to 28% of the teams total points. Niederreiter has only been here 15 games (he has 15 points). Now, if he had played all 61 games in Carolina and stayed at exactly a point per game pace, he would have 61 points, and that line would then attribute for 38% of all points scored. To me, that shows they need more depth. After several years of missing the postseason and getting solid prospects, they most definitely have the assets.
Another glaring hole on the Hurricanes roster is goaltending. Petr Mrazek has been the carrying the load as starter as Curtis McElhinney backs him up, but neither goalie has been that great. Mrazek currently holds a 0.902 save percentage and a 2.65 goals against average through 29 starts. He has a record of 14-12-3. McElhinney, although not terrible, isn’t starter material. He’s done an okay job of backing up Mrazek with a 15-7-1 record, carrying a 0.920 sv% and a 2.35 GAA. There is a goaltender on the market as well, and he is a head-turner for teams like Carolina looking for a bonafide starter.
Who is on the market?
There have been many intriguing names that have been tossed around in trade talks this season, and it seems as though there are a surplus of options for Carolina. Mark Stone, Artemi Panarin and Ryan Dzingel are just a few forwards who can garner some interest from GM Don Waddell. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is a hot commodity in the goaltending department, which the Hurricanes are certainly looking into.
What is the salary cap situation in Carolina?
Carolina currently has the most cap space in the league. They have roughly $16.4 million of free space to use. With the salary cap rising and 8 free agents at the end of the year, they have more than enough for someone who can stick around for the long haul.
What are some assets?
As touched on by fellow Puck77 contributor, Olli Huotari, in his article on the Hurricanes, they could be reluctant on dishing out their 2019 first round selection in this years draft. The fact of the matter is that this draft is very deep, and there’s no way of knowing if Carolina makes it back to the playoffs next season, and it could hurt the future in a big way. However, they could bite if it becomes a conditional part of the trade (i.e. if this player extends his contract with us, you get the first round pick). Prospects include Martin Necas, Julien Gauthier, Janne Kuokkanen, and Cliff Pu for forwards. Jake Bean, and Haydn Fleury for defenders, and Alex Nedeljkovic for goaltending. They have all their picks within the first three rounds over the next three seasons, as well as the Buffalo Sabres 2019 2nd and 2020 3rd round picks.
For me, the best fit in Carolina would be Ryan Dzingel. He’s still young at 26 years old, and has really found himself this season with the Senators, posting 44 points through 57 games. Although his possession metrics are not very good (CF% of 44.6 and FF% of 44.9), you can blame the team around him. The Senators are the lowest of the low, and even the better players in the league would see themselves struggle there. Yet, Dzingel has been a bright spot for the club, and he has a very inexpensive cap hit of 1.8 million USD, with his contract ending at the end of this season. Plus, he won’t garner a whole lot of assets from Carolina.
CAR Receives: Ryan Dzingel, F
OTT Receives: Haydn Fleury, D
“The deal is one for one”, as Haydn Fleury remains a solid prospect. He has not fit well within the Hurricanes system, being sent down multiple times over the last few seasons. He currently has 4 points through 20 AHL games with the Charlotte Checkers and 1 point through 12 NHL games with Carolina this season. There’s a lot of ice time to be had in Ottawa’s d-core, something that they need to address, while Carolina moves on from a struggling defensive prospect and addresses their depth on the offensive side of things.
Now for the big trade that Carolina may look at: a deal for Bobrovsky. They need to address their goaltending situation, or it will cost them mightily. That being said, here goes my best effort to make it work.
CAR Receives: Sergei Bobrovsky, G
CBJ Receives: Petr Mrazek, G, Jake Bean, D, Cliff Pu, F, *Conditional 2019 1st round pick,
*Pick becomes 2019 2nd Round if Bobrovsky leaves via Free Agency
Carolina solves the goaltending situation by acquiring an elite goalie in Bobrovsky. They also don’t guarantee trading away a first round pick in 2019. It wouldn’t be worth it to get Bobrovsky for only half a season and put your future in jeopardy. Columbus takes on Petr Mrazek who can help groom Joonas Korpisalo into their starter. He’s only signed through the remainder of this season, and they are not obligated in re-signing him. Jake Bean is a high end defensive prospect, something that Columbus does not have in their pool. Sure, their d-core is young, but they don’t have much in their pipeline on the back-end. If they lose Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, they’ll have to look towards the future more, and an extra first rounder would be huge, if they were to build up through the draft. Same goes with the second rounder. Finally, Cliff Pu is insurance, as he is a solid forward prospect. This sweetens the deal a bit more on the Blue Jackets end, if Bobrovsky were to not extend with Carolina and they lose that 1st rounder.
Moral of the story is this: Carolina has a lot of areas of improvement. From depth scoring, to potentially adding an elite goal scorer for the top 6, all the way to getting a new goaltender in net, whether it’s Sergei Bobrovsky or Jimmy Howard. They are going to make a move. They have the assets, the cap and the leverage. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see more post-game celebrations, right Don Cherry?
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All stats via hockey-reference.com and hockeydb.com
All salary cap info via capfriendly.com