By now, most of the hockey world has heard the news about the trade that saw the Winnipeg Jets trade young forward Evander Kane and sturdy defenseman Zach Bogosian to the Buffalo Sabres for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and a smorgasbord of picks and prospects. Debate rages over which side took advantage over the other, or if either team improved their roster at all.As far as the Carolina Hurricanes are concerned, the trade had very little effect. Neither Winnipeg nor Buffalo are divisional opponents of the Canes, and aside from a lasting dislike of the Sabres stemming from the 2006 playoff series, there’s not much rivalry to be had. However, the trade will definitely set the tone for the upcoming trade deadline, and for the Hurricanes, that may not be a good thing.
Take my Players…Please
Ever since the Hurricanes started the season going 0 for October, it was assumed they would be an active participant at the trade deadline. Ron Francis began his reign as Carolina’s new general manager by stating that everyone in the organization had a clean slate as far as he was concerned. But he also indicated that big changes could happen if the upcoming year wasn’t productive.
As it turns out, it hasn’t been. Much of it can be attributed to the loss of Jordan Staal for most of the season, and unsurprisingly, the Hurricanes have played much better hockey since his return to the lineup. However, it’s come far too late in the season to matter. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Canes’ most prominent UFA has become front and center in various rumors.
Andrej Sekera was acquired in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and since then, he has had his moments in a Carolina uniform. Sekera had a career year last season, scoring 44 points in 74 games. He hasn’t put up nearly the same numbers this year, but he still remains a solid contributor to the Canes’ 1st defensive pairing. Replacing him will certainly be no easy task, but Francis may not have a choice.
He Works Hard for the Money
Francis may not have a choice due to the moves of his predecessor, former general manager Jim Rutherford. Rutherford made a lot of questionable decisions during his time as GM, and one of which was his distribution of cap space. Right now, the Canes have four forwards with a cap hit that exceeds $5 million. They also have Cam Ward with a $6.3 million cap hit. Essentially, they have half of their available cap going to five players, none of which are defensemen.
Ron Francis isn’t a stupid man. He knows what every Canes fan knows: Despite their solid performance this year, Carolina’s defense is essentially composed of Justin Faulk, Andrej Sekera and a bunch of 6/7 defensemen. So removing Sekera from the equation isn’t the ideal plan. One should try to acquire more Top 4 defensemen, not less. Sekera’s salary demands, however, may make a trade inevitable.
Also, I said CAR now has Andrej Sekera on the market. CAR tried to sign him but he was looking for "Marc Staal money," aka $5.5M to $6M AAV.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 11, 2015
Sekera is probably worth “Marc Staal money.” That appears to be the going-rate for Top 4 defensemen at the moment. However, jumping from Sekera’s current $2.75 million cap hit to $6 million would be a difficult move for the Hurricanes, especially with a self-imposed cap that will almost certainly go lower next year. He’s worth it, but the Canes likely can’t afford it without making sacrifices elsewhere.
Evander Kane, Cody Franson, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson
So with signing Sekera off the table, Francis attempted to do the next best thing: Get as much as possible for his upcoming UFA. At the time it became obvious the Canes were quickly out of the playoff race (ie: real early in the season), Francis could have asked the world for Sekera. He was the best available UFA defenseman on a friendly contract, and just about every contender could add another Top 4 defenseman to the mix.
Since then, the price has to have dropped. More and more teams seemingly accepted their inevitable missed playoff berth and put players on the trading block. Unfortunately for Carolina, many of them were defensemen. The Edmonton Oilers threw Jeff Petry’s name out in the rumor mill, the Arizona Coyotes have Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have recently added Cody Franson to the mix. Each new defensemen that’s added gives more and more teams an “out,” should they decide they don’t want to pay what Francis is looking for.
Like TOR with Cody Franson, CAR believed to be looking for 1st round and a prospect for rental D Sekera. High prices right now.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 11, 2015
It’s still too early to tell how the Evander Kane deal will affect Sekera’s value. On the one hand, with Myers going to Winnipeg, that’s one less defenseman on the trading block. But it would be difficult for Francis to ask for a 1st round pick and a prospect for a rental defenseman, even if he’s the best available, when a signed former 30-goal scorer only received slightly more than that.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
With Sekera’s value in flux at the moment, Ron Francis must approach this deadline very cautiously. He’s tried to sign Sekera, and the two sides simply could not agree on a number, so trading the rental defenseman would be the next step. While Francis should try to get as much as possible for Sekera, he shouldn’t be afraid to walk and take another crack as signing the Czech defenseman as well. However, this should only be done if he’s sure a new contract is the result. While trading Sekera for an underpayment would hurt the Canes, nothing would hurt more than letting Sekera walk to free agency for nothing.
Jonathan Gardner currently lives in Raleigh, NC and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.