Carolina Hurricanes may deal first round pick

The Carolina Hurricanes currently own the eighth overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, but it’s being speculated that they may be willing to part with that selection in return for NHL-ready talent. John Forslund, the team’s television play-by-play announcer, spoke on the subject Wednesday afternoon on The David Glenn Show:

Eric Staal
Eric Staal (James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE)

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford has stated that finding someone to skate with Eric Staal is the franchise’s top priority this summer, and that would almost certainly be the motivation behind a trade of this nature. Acquiring an established offensive threat would go a long ways toward returning the Hurricanes to playoff contention, as their current depth up front isn’t exactly ideal. 

The Hurricanes have been in need of a skilled forward since Erik Cole departed for Montreal last offseason, where he signed a four-year, $18 million contract with the Canadiens. Without Cole by his side, Staal struggled mightily in the first half of the 2011-12 campaign, as Carolina tanked to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Jiri Tlusty proved to be an adequate replacement for Cole down the stretch, but the Canes firmly believe that Staal deserves better.

While there have been whispers that Rutherford may target high profile free agents to round out his top-six, acquiring the player Carolina needs via the open market may not be the best course of action. With the continuing increase of the salary cap, free agents will be commanding more expensive contracts than ever this summer, and it is likely that the Canes would be out-bidded for the top prizes by more financially affluent organizations.

“In free agency, you don’t have control over where a player decides to go,” Rutherford told the News & Observer. “If you trade for a player and he’s under contract, you know he’s coming to the Hurricanes.”

And while Staal is currently listed at center and has played at the pivot position for the majority of his career, the Canes aren’t opposed to sliding him over to wing, which would open the door for more trade possibilities.

“What we’re working on now is whatever it takes to get a top player, whether it’s a center or a wing,” Rutherford added. “Eric can play the wing. He has played the wing before and played there in the (2010) Olympics (for Team Canada). He has played very well on the wing.”

If the Canes do in fact pull the trigger on a deal that would send the eighth overall pick elsewhere, expect them to receive a young forward in return who would become a long-term solution on their first or second line. As a team that finished with a 33-33-16 record last season and just 82 points in the standings, the Canes aren’t in search of any quick fixes; rather, they are attempting to building a core that can remain intact well into the future.

Of course, a high draft pick would fit right into that core Rutherford is assembling, but the prospects available at eighth overall would likely take several years to develop. Following a successful end to the 2011-12 season under newly-hired head coach Kirk Muller, Carolina appears on the cusp of prominence once more, and adding that extra piece that can jump in right away could be the difference in whether or not the Hurricanes make the playoffs next spring.

Andrew Hirsh is a credentialed NHL writer based in North Carolina.
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