The Carolina Hurricanes have traded a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to the New York Rangers in exchange for defender Brad Skjei.
It was a busy day for the Hurricanes who pulled out all the stops and acquired not only Skjei from the Rangers but also defender Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils and center Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers.
With the Hurricanes coming within one series of playing for the Stanley Cup a year ago, it’s clear the team believes their current core is good enough to make a deep run. Earning this vote of confidence from ownership, the Hurricanes are now primed to make a push for better position in the Metropolitan Division.
While the Hurricanes made a bevy of moves at the Deadline, they were far from the only team in their division to make moves to bolster their lineups.
With injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce taking their toll, the Hurricanes managed to shore up their defense with not one, but two different trades as mentioned. While Vatanen made sense for the value he provided in the absence of Hamilton and Pesce, adding Skjei has a different level of significance.
Skjei Was a Top-Pairing Defender With Rangers
During his time with the Rangers, Skjei was playing in a top-pairing role. Moving to an already stacked team on defense that features Jaccobn Slavin and Jake Gardiner on the left side in the top-four makes for a scary scenario for the other teams in the Metropolitan.
It’s unclear exactly where Skjei will slot in and how the Hurricanes defense will look in the long-run when fully healthy, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best units in the entire NHL that only got better Monday.
In 60 games this season, the 25-year-old Skjei has scored eight goals and 23 points. With one more goal he’ll set a new career-high.
Under contract through the 2023-24 season on a deal that carries a $5.25 million cap hit annually, Skjei isn’t a rental but a long-term building block for the Hurricanes.
Due to salary cap troubles, there was a sense of uncertainty around whether or not the Hurricanes could actually facilitate a move to acquire Skjei. With the use of the long-term injured reserve, however, they were able to open up enough cap space to make their preferred moves prior to the Deadline.
Similarly to Skjei, it’s also unclear exactly where Vatanen will slot in for the Hurricanes.
The 28-year-old defender has scored five goals and 23 points in 47 games this season and his style of play on defense should gel well with how the Hurricanes play hockey. Good in transition with the ability to move the puck with both his stick and skates, Vatanen should be a nice complementary piece to an already good and established group.