It’s NHL Draft week, and with all the trade rumors swirling, this weekend is bound to be a big one. The Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in an interesting situation.
The Canes have been busy over the past couple of weeks. General manager Ron Francis has managed to sign a pair of entry-level deals and pulled off a big trade to bring in two forwards from the Chicago Blackhawks, but he isn’t done.
In an interview with Adam and Joe on 99.9 The Fan (Raleigh’s ESPN Radio affiliate) late last week, Francis was asked if would be trying to pull off any more trades between now and the end of the draft.
“I was in the office early this morning, so I’m not taking any time off,” Francis said. “So, I’m still hoping to do some more things.”
Later on, the GM was asked about the need for a top-line center.
[quote_left author=””]I think our focus is still to try to find another guy in that top-six, whether it’s a centerman or a winger. I think we have some flexibility in the guys we acquired,” Francis said. “Teravainen can play center, he can play left and right wing. Aho has shown he can play center, he can play left and right wing. Lindholm was drafted as a center, but we have him on the right wing. We do have some flexibility to move guys around. So, we’ll see what’s out there and if we can get the right fit, then great, and if we can’t, then we’ll turn around and try to fix it internally.[/quote_left]
From the interview, we can gather a couple of things. The young forward core will get a lot of looks in a lot of different spots this season, and Francis still wants to add pieces to the current roster.
Fortunately for the Hurricanes, they will have a lot of options this weekend. With a lengthy list of teams looking to shed cap and Carolina’s excess of cap room, trades are bound to happen.
As we sit in the calm before the storm, let’s look at potential trades that the Hurricanes could make at the draft, both for draft picks and for NHL ready players.
The Carolina Hurricanes currently hold the 13th and 21st overall picks in the first round of the draft.
As it appears now, the Canes could easily miss out on a good amount of young forward talent. The top three ranked players seem to be locks to kick off the draft with Auston Matthews, Patric Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, but once you get out of the top three, there are still some good talents up front.
Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois are ranked fourth and fifth on a majority of draft rankings, which means the Edmonton Oilers (fourth) and Vancouver Canucks (fifth) would be in line to pick them if they were to choose to do so.
The Oilers seem like the most realistic trade partner if Carolina was to move up. Edmonton has been very open about their willingness to move the pick, and the Hurricanes have the pieces to get it done.
On top of the 13th overall pick, the Canes have a long list of other draft picks both this year and next year that could be thrown into the mix. Carolina also has a surplus of young defensemen, which just so happens to be Edmonton’s biggest need.
It seems incredibly unlikely that any current NHL defensemen would be on the market. Francis said he had searched the market for goalies prior to re-signing Ward but wasn’t willing to give up a defenseman, so all of Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce could be considered untradeable.
That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to move a defenseman. Ryan Murphy is currently a restricted free agent, so signing and trading him or trading his rights will be an option. He seems to be the odd man out on the Hurricanes blue line, so a change of scenery would likely be very good for him.
There’s also 2014 seventh overall pick Haydn Fleury, who is coming off a very good final year in the WHL. He was Canada’s number one defenseman in World Juniors earlier this year, and members of that coaching staff noted how far he had come over the past couple of years. Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters has also said that he is very impressed with his development, but where he fits down the road is uncertain. Four of Carolina’s six defensemen this upcoming season are 24-years-old or younger.
The Hurricanes can trade up outside of the top-five as well. If the Canes don’t think their man will drop to 13, they can look to trade up anywhere from seven to 12. Arizona, who sits at seventh, has been rumored to be willing to trade down, and when you get closer to the 10th overall pick, it gets easier to move up a couple of slots. So, if Tyson Jost or Logan Brown is Carolina’s dream pick, it seems as if it is possible for them to make it happen, especially considering the club’s huge stockpile of draft picks.
The likelihood of the Hurricanes trading down in the draft is unlikely, but there are benefits from doing it.
If the Canes aren’t happy with who is available in the draft once pick 13 rolls around, moving down several slots and accumulating more draft picks would add more assets that the team could use in a trade later on.
A trade that moves Carolina down three to six picks would still give them the opportunity to draft a good forward both there and with the 21st pick.
German Rubtsov, Julien Gauthier, Luke Kunin and Kieffer Bellows could all still be hanging around in the mid-to-late teens or even when the 21st pick comes around.
Trading for a Top-Six Forward
This is where things get interesting. With two first round picks and six selections in the first 75 overall picks in the draft, Carolina has more than enough pieces necessary to bring in a talented top-six forward.
The Teuvo Teravainen acquisition also makes this deal more likely. If Carolina has no choice but to trade one of their first rounders, they’ll find comfort in the fact that they just brought in a 21-year-old former first round pick. That will make the pill easier to swallow if you’re the Hurricanes.
If it’s a top-six center they are looking for, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Duchene and Derek Stepan are all players who have been rumored to be available over the past few months.
Edmonton’s Nugent-Hopkins seems very plausible for the aforementioned reasons. Edmonton needs defense and Carolina has a lot of it, along with draft picks to throw in as well. RNH is a former first overall pick with loads of offensive upside, which can create a deadly one-two punch with shutdown center Jordan Staal.
Duchene falls in the same category as Nugent-Hopkins, lots of offensive upside. However, the asking price on a player with the talent of Duchene might be too much for Carolina unless they are willing to part ways with one of their young NHL-ready blue liners, which seems unfavorable.
Stepan carries the biggest cap hit of these three centermen at $6.5 million spanning over the next five seasons. His name has just started to pop up more in trade rumors as New York is looking to free up cap space. Carolina is still over $5.5 million under the cap floor, so the contract likely wouldn’t scare them away. Stepan has posted north of 50 points in four of his last five seasons but has never eclipsed the 60-point threshold. His offense hasn’t been as potent as Duchene’s and it doesn’t have the upside of Nugent-Hopkins, but he would likely come at a much more reasonable cost. Stepan is also more reliable as a two-way forward.
As for wingers, there are a lot more options. All of Rick Nash, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and, if you want to go really out there, Taylor Hall have been out and about in trade rumors over the past few months.
Nyquist and Tatar, both in Detroit, are far more likely options and would both fill top-six winger spots, but neither of them scream first-line talent.
Nash and Hall are both more outlandish and would require a huge return, but they’d both be able to jump in a first line role and play very well with their goal scoring abilities.
The top-six winger positions could also be filled in free agency if Carolina wants to go after the likes of Andrew Ladd or Kyle Okposo. If you’re going to trade for a top-six player at the draft, it makes more sense for that player to be a top-line center. There will be a lot of good free agent options for Ron Francis in the world of top-six wingers.
Carolina Hurricanes Set for Big Weekend
The first round of the 2016 NHL Draft is Friday night, followed by rounds two through seven on Saturday.
The Carolina Hurricanes are bound to be very active with many roster spots to fill and a prospect pool that can still stand to be improved.
Covering News and the Carolina Hurricanes for The Hockey Writers. Senior writer for SB Nations’s CanesCountry.com. Former editor of CardiacCane.com (2013-2016).
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, @brettfinger (Twitter)