Hurricanes and Leafs Talking?

There have been a few rumors floating around involving the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes. The latest I read today was they give the ‘Canes Nazem Kadri, Dion Phaneuf, or Jake Gardiner and their 24th overall pick and in return get Alexander Semin (and his contract), along with the Hurricanes’ fifth overall pick in this year’s draft.

Mike Augello of Hockey Buzz wrote a couple of days ago that this is a rumor from what he considers a legitimate source, Sportsnet FAN 590’s Dean Blundell. Augello lends Blundell a measure of credibility in that he correctly predicted in April it would take $6 million to get Mike Babcock. Whether or not this rumor is true, the scenario or others like it deserve examination.

Canes rebuild

From the standpoint of where the Carolina Hurricanes are right now, I’d be inclined to say “no thanks’ to giving up their fifth overall pick. General Manager Ron Francis can shape this team far removed from the shadow of former GM Jim Rutherford. Their long-term future is in their youth – the “young guns” as I have glossed Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm and crew. At first glance I would be inclined to say keep the pick and try to draft Noah Hanifin or Mitch Marner. Let Francis build from the ground up and see what kind of product he can deliver.

On the other hand, getting rid of Alexander Semin’s large contract is very tempting. The remaining three years and $21 million is gargantuan when placed beside his recent six-goal season. Hurricanes fans would likely nod in agreement that moving Semin and his contract would be a smart move for Francis. After all, Semin said at the end of season interviews,  “I don’t know what’s happened with me this year. (long pause) I have nothing to say”

(Read Part Two of my three-part series “Inside Hurricanes Locker Room” here)

I honestly think the fan reaction would be a toss-up in Carolina if the ‘Canes went ahead with a trade like Semin and their fifth pick to Toronto for a player and the Leafs’ 24th pick. A case can be made either way.

Kadri is only 24 and so is Gardiner. Either player would fit into the trend towards youth that I think is crucial to the Hurricanes’ rebuilding efforts. Of course, a few weeks ago it was all over the place that the Leafs were looking to trade Phil Kessel to Carolina for Semin.

One thing is certain; Toronto is the topic of a lot of trade speculation:

It’s that time of year.

Trade talk and draft moves are the stuff offseason hopes are built upon. It may very well materialize that Francis relinquishes the fifth overall pick. But, I’d prefer that if he is going to dump salary, and a player like Semin  – who has failed to live up to expectations, that he not have to give the pick away, too. Francis doesn’t need to become the target of these kinds of recent Tweets regarding Rutherford in a year or so:

Francis is not stupid. He presents himself as thoughtful and pragmatic. The only thing that may prevent him from really building this Hurricanes team in the way he envisions is the lack of financial support from owner Peter Karmanos.

Without that support, Francis may find himself having to get more “creative” with his moves. With it, he can take the kind of approach that empowers him to deal with confidence with other general managers.

So the Hurricanes may be in talks with the Leafs or maybe the rumors are without merit. Either way, ‘Canes fans are watching, hoping that Francis will make the moves that will have them talking about the playoffs next year, instead of the possibility of trading away another early draft pick.