4 Forwards the Hurricanes Could Target as Trade Deadline Nears

With the NHL’s Trade Deadline fast approaching, it’s about that time of year that fans and media alike start speculating on just who their team may target or sell off. The Carolina Hurricanes, being firmly entrenched in the playoff mix and labeled as a legitimate contender, seem like a candidate to be buyers once again — should they see fit.

Personally, I think the Hurricanes’ window is just opening, so I’m not of the mindset that they have to make a move. If anything, I think they’d be wise to maybe make a “hockey trade” that would help them beyond this season as well, as opposed to just adding a rental player. If you’re going to part with future assets to improve now, I personally vouch for the approach that you’re better off to off-load a little more, and in turn receive a little bit more.

Viktor Arvidsson

I’ll start things off with my favorite (hypothetical) trade target for the Hurricanes; Nashville Predators winger Viktor Arvidsson. I just think he makes sense for the team on multiple levels, and at age 27, could easily fit in with the group’s core and be a key component to the squad moving forward.

Nashville Predators Viktor Arvidsson Vegas Golden Knights Nick Holden
Nashville Predators left wing Viktor Arvidsson vies for the puck with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden (AP Photo/John Locher)

Arvidsson, who after this season still has three years remaining on his contract at a super reasonable $4.25 million cap charge, is a coveted right-shot sniper who would fit in fantastically with the Hurricanes’ top-six forward group. He’s a true finisher and has an abundance of speed, skill, and great hands that make him a serious scoring threat.

Between 2017 and 2019, Arvidsson put together a run of three consecutive seasons at a 30-goal pace and was a top NHL scorer in the 2018-19 season with his 34 goals in 58 games, equaling a 48-goal pace had he not gotten injured. Last season, he dealt with some injuries as well, but still scored at a 25-goal pace. 

He’s gone a bit off track this season with just three goals and 12 points in 26 games, but the Predators roster is unbearably bad right now and their entire offense (aside from Filip Forsberg) is underperforming. I don’t expect Arvidsson to come cheap, but he’s certainly a guy whose value isn’t at its highest right now and could potentially be acquired for far less than he could’ve just a year ago.

According to Elliotte Friedman, Arvidsson is not currently among the Preds’ untouchables, so there’s reason to believe he could be moved if a potential deal entices them enough. He mentioned that the price will be high — and rightfully so — but with a trench-deep prospect group and collection of draft picks, the Hurricanes have the assets to make a deal of this magnitude a real possibility. Arvidsson would be another player for the Canes to protect in the upcoming expansion draft, but with the 7-3-1 model, they would have no issue doing so. 

Viktor Arvidsson Predators
Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators Oct. 19, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s a player who seems desperate for a change of scenery, and I truly believe that he could recapture his electric goal-scoring form in this system. Flanking one of Sebastian Aho or Vincent Trocheck in the Hurricanes’ top-six would be a dream situation for him, as his size and speed combination is a seamless fit alongside either of those two players. It’s a similar situation to Trocheck, who was also in need of a change of scenery from Florida, and he’s now revived his career and flourished in Raleigh. 

He won’t come cheap, but as mentioned I think Carolina could easily part ways with some assets to facilitate this deal. I’d suggest a package of a young roster player like Warren Foegele, a 2021 first-round pick (which figures to be a late first), along with a mid-tier prospect or mid-round pick could entice Nashville to bite and add some future pieces to start their rebuild. Regardless, I really hope Arvidsson is a route the Hurricanes will explore, as he could seriously improve their group both now and in the future, and give them another dynamic option.

Mikael Granlund

Another option from the Predators is pending unrestricted free agent forward Mikael Granlund, who has kind of underachieved a little during his couple of seasons with the team. He’s one year away from his 30th birthday, and that makes it quite likely that he won’t be re-signed with that team entering a rebuilding phase.

He’s only posted five goals and 10 points in 24 games thus far in 2020-21, but as I mentioned above with Arvidsson, their entire team is underperforming. For Granlund, it’s been a bit of a struggle for him ever since his trade to Nashville. He has just 45 points across 102 games for them, after scoring at a 60-69 point pace over three consecutive seasons in Minnesota prior to that.

Mikael Granlund Nashville Predators
Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Personally, I’m not overly high on Granlund — I think the Hurricanes would benefit from another sniper rather than another playmaker — but I wanted an opinion from someone closer to the situation than I am. Therefore I asked the great Andrew Schnittker (@aschnitt53), a fellow Hurricanes writer, for his opinion. He offered Granlund as his ideal fit:

“[The] forward I’m going to go with is a pending [unrestricted free agent] who can play up and down the lineup, has the versatility to play center or wing, and that the Canes probably have some familiarity with… Mikael Granlund,” Andrew said. “It was rumored that the Hurricanes had an interest in him during the offseason before he returned to Nashville on a one-year deal. With the Predators pretty much out of the running for a playoff spot, they should be looking to sell off pending UFAs like Granlund.”

The Hurricanes were definitely linked with Granlund at various points of the offseason, but he ended up re-signing in Nashville at a cap-hit that likely priced him out of Carolina’s range. I asked Andrew why he saw Granlund as a good fit:

“…he makes all the sense in the world for the Hurricanes, just as he did as a potential free-agent pickup. With Teuvo Teravainen’s status uncertain [out with a concussion], adding another forward with skill makes sense… Granlund’s a player who, can play center or wing, and can move around the lineup,” Andrew explained. “If Rod wants to keep “spreading the wealth” and using Andrei Svechnikov with Jordan Staal when Teravainen comes back, you could play Granlund on the wing with Aho and Teravainen, where I think he’d likely be a good fit. He could also give you some insurance if a center gets injured and has to miss some games, and you can plug him into the middle.”

“If the Canes are shopping for a forward, Granlund seems like a very, very good fit.”

– Andrew Schnittker, Canes Country.

I do agree with Andrew that Granlund would fit in well with the Hurricanes’ core group, as he’s a skilled player who can really skate. He could also contribute to the second power-play unit with his stellar puck-moving ability.

However, my one gripe with Granlund is that he’s not a physical player, and he’s had the most success in his career as a center when he was in Minnesota. He’d obviously have to play on the wing in Carolina — where he plays in Nashville — but the results there haven’t been nearly as good, which makes me a bit wary. Maybe playing alongside a skilled center like Aho or Trocheck can jump-start him, but that remains to be seen.

As far as what he would cost to acquire, he’s purely a rental, so a draft pick or a quality prospect would probably get it done. Nashville would probably expect a second-rounder for him, but that might be unrealistic considering his modest production thus far. If the Hurricanes could get him for anything less than that, he would be a worthy addition and would give the team another reliable player that can slot anywhere in their lineup.

Jake DeBrusk

After recently being a healthy scratch for the Bruins, Jake DeBrusk’s name has started to pop up in trade rumors. It’s all just speculation at this point, but TSN now has him in the top-10 on their Trade Bait board, and if he’s available he should definitely be an option that the Hurricanes inquire about.

DeBrusk is a 24-year-old winger who’s signed through the 2021-22 season with restricted free agent status on expiry. So, he’s a player that wouldn’t strictly be a rental, which complicates things a little. Boston doesn’t have to move him, so unless they get an offer that they feel is worthy of parting with the player for, he likely won’t be traded.

Jake Debrusk Boston Bruins
Jake Debrusk, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

So, what’s his value? I’m not entirely sure. He scored 27 goals in just 68 games in the 2018-19 season as a 22-year-old and looked to be an emerging young stud. But he’s scored just 21 goals in 83 games since then and, despite once being lauded for his relentless motor, his effort level is now being questioned by his coach.

Because of that, from the surface, it’s tough to view DeBrusk as a good fit with the Hurricanes’ group. But this is a player who’s still young, and could potentially benefit from a change of scenery. It’s hard to imagine a better place for him to do that than in Carolina, where his ability to forecheck and finish when driving the net would be a very welcoming presence amongst the forward group.

I’m not sure this is a trade that would happen in-season, and I’m not sure Boston is in any rush to move him. Therefore, I’m not going to get into specifics on what it would potentially cost to acquire him, because it’s hard to gauge his overall value right now. And truthfully, it’s even harder to envision the Bruins being enticed enough to trade him, especially right now considering their lofty expectations for this season. That said, if there’s an opportunity to pounce here, I think the Hurricanes should be all over it.

Eric Staal

I never thought in a million years that I would be writing about Eric Staal as a legitimate trade target for the Hurricanes, but here we are. Man, do I love this possibility. Staal, now 36 years old, makes sense for the team on multiple levels.

trade deadline
Former Hurricanes captain Eric Staal (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For starters, with his contract set to expire this offseason, they’d have a choice of whether to bring him back (if it makes sense to do so) or just move on again. He’s not getting any younger and his best days are obviously behind him, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that he can help a young contending team.

First, you have to factor in his potential role. He won’t play at center, so he would slot in on the wing somewhere. Off the bat, it almost makes too much sense to put him beside his brother Jordan, who’s taken over Eric’s old leadership role with this team. Have the two 6-foot-4, 200-plus pound Staal brothers on a third line together would be a matchup nightmare for opposing third lines.

Staal has had some good playoff success in the past as well, with 51 points in 62 career postseason games. He probably won’t get too many more chances at a Cup run, so it’s not a surprise that he’d welcome a trade to a contender. While the Hurricanes have had a bit of playoff success in the past couple of seasons, they’re still a bit inexperienced as a group and could benefit from another veteran presence.

Eric Staal Buffalo Sabres
Eric Staal, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The only real hurdle to clear is that Staal has a 10-team no-trade clause, but I personally doubt the Hurricanes are on it. Things didn’t really end badly when he was traded in 2016 — I think both sides knew a fresh start was best — and with his brother Jordan still on the team, you have to think they’d love to be reunited. Carolina also has what looks to be a good chance at some postseason success, and I’m sure Staal believes he could help.

For many reasons, a lot of Caniacs are divided on a potential Staal return. I agree that some things should be left in the past, but the past here is so far in the rearview mirror that it’s an entirely new landscape. Staal is a true veteran who knows what it takes to win, wouldn’t make waves, and could really bring life into that locker room. I really believe he could contribute to this team in the right role.

According to Pierre LeBrun, Staal is alone (without his family) in Buffalo and is definitely open to a trade. Rumored interest from the Edmonton Oilers and a couple of other teams could potentially drive his price up, but I can’t see Staal going for much more than a second- or third-round pick at this point of his career. He’s a rental and has 10 points in 25 games, so it’s not like his value would be sky-high. If the Hurricanes could snag him for a third, I think it would be great business and potentially game-changing addition to the team.

Recap

There are definitely more options out there worth exploring, but as far as getting an impactful player without giving up an astronomical amount of assets, these four players fit the bill as potentially dynamic additions that could help the Hurricanes with their Stanley Cup aspirations. While I don’t think they absolute need to make a move and I don’t think they’ll force anything, history suggests that Don Waddell will be actively trying to improve the roster prior to the trade deadline on April 12, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had any of these four players on their radar.


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