The Carolina Hurricanes kept relatively silent during this offseason, making one signing in former New York Ranger Jesper Fast to bolster their forward depth. Heading into 2020-21, the Hurricanes have a good, young team, but there is always a chance for improvement.
If a potential trade opportunity arose that could push them over the edge as a team, who would be going the other way from Carolina?
James Reimer and Petr Mrazek
After months and months of speculation, the Hurricanes decided to run it back with the same goaltending duo they used last season in James Reimer and Petr Mrazek. If an elite goaltender became available, the Hurricanes almost certainly would be looking to send back one of Reimer and Mrazek. Both serve as a reliable replacement option for the rest of the season.
Reimer and Mrazek are both attractive options for other teams because the pair become unrestricted free agents next offseason. If an elite goaltender like Marc-Andre Fleury hit the trade market and the Canes wanted to make a move for him, they would be able to send back a serviceable goaltender who would be off the Vegas Golden Knights’ books by next offseason. That’s something a lot of teams in similar situations to the Hurricanes can’t offer.
Which of Mrazek or Reimer would get dealt is a different question. The two played very similar seasons in 2019-20 — Mrazek played the most games at 40, posting a .905 save percentage (SV%), and Reimer played 25 games with a .914 SV%. The pair are also on very comparable salaries; Reimer is set to make $3.40 million this season, and Mrazek is set to make $3.125 million. Regardless of which goaltender Carolina would theoretically trade, they both make the Hurricanes competitive in a potential trade.
One of Carolina’s most valuable pieces in a potential trade for elite talent is the young Canadian defender, Jake Bean. He was the first pick for the Hurricanes in their 2016 Draft, selected 13th overall, and despite being drafted almost five years ago, he only has two NHL games under his belt.
Bean’s lack of NHL experience is through no fault of his own. He has been excellent at every level he’s played at in his minor league career. In four seasons in the Western Hockey League, Bean scored nearly a point per game, scoring 196 points in 219 games. In 2018, he was promoted to the AHL to play for the Charlotte Checkers, and he didn’t miss a beat, putting up 92 points in 129 games.
Entering 2020-21, Bean should have a chance to compete with guys like Jake Gardiner, Haydn Fleury and Brady Skjei for a spot in the defensive rotation, but with the depth the Hurricanes have, it won’t be an easy task. It’s more than reasonable for the team to use Bean to bring in another asset since he is still on the outside looking in at the defensive rotation. Any team looking toward the future would see Bean as a fantastic young piece to bring into their organization.
If Carolina decides they value Bean too much to move him, that could leave Brett Pesce as the odd man out. He has been with the Hurricanes since the 2015-16 season and has proved to be a solid defensive defenseman and maybe the best penalty-killer on the roster.
The problem with Pesce is two-fold. One, Carolina’s great depth on defense, and two, the questions surrounding his health. While Pesce was out for the playoffs, Fleury proved himself to be a more than worthy replacement, making Pesce expendable if an elite player surfaces in the trade market. He will also be entering the 2020-21 season coming off right shoulder surgery that saw him miss the entirety of the playoffs. It remains unclear what his status is heading into the start of the new season.
At 26 years old, Pesce could prove to be a valuable asset in a potential trade for Carolina. He played the third-most minutes per game on the Hurricanes last season, and if healthy, could be a first-pairing defenseman for a lot of NHL teams. However, the Hurricanes have plenty of options on the blue line, and with the emergence of those behind Pesce on the depth chart, it’s not unreasonable to think he could be part of a package for an elite asset.
Ok, admittedly, this is less of a “trade chip” and more of a “contract Carolina desperately wants to dispatch of.” Jordan Staal’s best days of hockey are long gone, but he is still getting paid like one of the NHL’s best. Staal is locked into $6 million a year for the next three seasons, and at 32 years old he isn’t getting any younger.
Staal is coming off a pretty dismal season on the ice for the Hurricanes. In 68 games last year, he scored eight goals and 19 assists for a total of 27 points, his lowest total since his 40-game 2014-15 season. While Staal has long provided much-needed leadership in a young Carolina locker room, he’s far too expensive.
The Hurricanes won’t be able to dispatch Staal without attaching something of value, especially since all NHL teams are trying to cut back on cap spending due to the pandemic. That being said, a team not competing in the next few years may be willing to take on Staal’s cap hit for a haul of draft picks and young talent.
At the moment, nothing is pointing to Carolina making any significant moves in the future, but things change quickly in the NHL. If the Hurricanes want to add elite talent to make a Stanley Cup run this season, one or more of these guys could be great options to create a competitive trade package.