Every season, the NHL trade deadline creeps up the calendar like the days leading up to Christmas. The rumors start swirling and personnel movement around the league follows. Even though they possess one of the NHL’s best records, the Carolina Hurricanes have their own wish list before the trade deadline to help them hoist the Stanely Cup.
The Trade Deadline Needs for the Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes currently are sitting pretty comfortably in the lead of the Metropolitan Division with 76 points. The second-place New Jersey Devils currently have 68 points with two games in hand. They are considered a strong Stanley Cup Contender by many. However, Hurricanes still have areas they are looking to improve prior to the trade deadline.
The Top Need: Strength Down the Middle
A second-line center is one of the most glaring needs the Hurricanes have been looking to address. After the departure of Vincent Trocheck in the offseason, the Hurricanes looked to lean on Jesperi Kotkaniemi to fill his spot. This season Kotkaniemi and Paul Stastny have alternated in that role mostly between Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.
With the exception of some flashes of chemistry with Svechnikov and Necas, neither Kotkaniemi nor Stastny have really put up the points needed. Kotkaniemi currently has seven goals and 13 assists. Stastny has five goals and 11 assists. Meanwhile, as a line, Svechnikov, Necas, and Kotkaniemi have a 58% expected goals percentage. But they only have nine goals. Stastny, Necas, and Svechnikov have the tenth-best expected goals percentage in the league with 63.4% for all lines that have played 150 minutes together, but only 11 goals.
Trade Options for Carolina
Now that Bo Horvat is off the market, rumors have linked the Hurricanes to trade targets Dylan Larkin, Ryan O’Reilly, and Jonathan Toews. Any of these would help boost the Hurricanes. Larkin may be “less available”, but he currently leads the Detroit Red Wings with 43 points. He would certainly be able to keep up with the pace that Svechnikov and Necas play.
The Hurricanes are a very analytically driven team and are not likely to drastically overpay for anyone. However, their window to win is now. While they may be more likely to make a push for a more minor deal such as Max Domi of the Chicago Blackhawks (like they did last year). Or Ivan Barbashev of the St. Louis Blues. Don’t be surprised if they make a splash to address this role.
The Bolster from the Back: Depth on Defense
Another position the Hurricanes could bolster is their depth of defense. Their top four defencemen of Jaccob Slavin, Brent Burns, Brett Pesce, and Brady Skjei are very solid. The emergence of Jalen Chatfield and the steadiness of veteran Calvin de Haan have also rounded out the Hurricanes defensive core nicely this season. Dylan Coghlan, acquired as part of the Max Pacioretty trade with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, has been somewhat unsteady this season as a depth option. He has shown some improvement with increased ice time due to Slavin’s recent injury but not quite to the level the Hurricanes would like.
The Hurricanes could look internally at Chicago Wolves captain and AHL all-star Maxime Lajoie as a depth option. Lajoie is a stay-at-home, shot-blocking defenceman with 70 games of NHL experience.
Another Defenceman Might Be An Option
With all of that said, the Hurricanes may want to look to bring in an additional, more experienced bottom-six defenceman. This would lead to increased depth reliability and added insurance in the event of injuries. There are a few names out there that could fit this bill. The Hurricanes could look at reuniting with Montreal Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson or possibly Jake McCabe of the Chicago Blackhawks. While Carolina would hope to trade mid-range prospects and picks to acquire such a player, there is always craziness at the trade deadline due to supply and demand.
The Question Mark: Goalies
The Hurricanes’ goalie situation is rather interesting. They have two veterans that are playing decent hockey. Almost identical statistics, Frederik Andersen (11-3-0) has a .903 sv% and 2.48 GAA in 15 games played. Antti Raanta (13-2-3) has a .902 sv% and 2.46 GAA in 19 games played. Last year they won the William M Jennings Award for the goalie tandem having the lowest number of goals against in the NHL with at least 25 games played. However, during the 2021-22 playoffs, Andersen was out injured and Raanta was injured in game seven of the second round against the New York Rangers.
The Hurricanes third option in net is rookie netminder Pyotr Kochetkov. While his time in the NHL has overall been very good for a rookie, he is young and has had some ups and downs. From November to December of 2022, he was lights out and led the NHL in shutouts, save percentage, and goals against average for goalies playing more than one game. After that timeframe, came slightly back down to earth and was returned to the AHL upon Andersen’s return.
If Andersen and Raanta can stay healthy with Kochetkov performing like the end of 2022, Carolina could be great. But that is an “if” that seems to be questionable with injury histories. And Andersen already spending a decent amount of this season out of the lineup. But if injuries strike and Kochetkov can’t maintain consistent performance, there are not a lot of other options for Carolina in their system to take over. Fans probably won’t see the Hurricanes make a move to trade for a goalie barring a serious injury. They might make a minor deal for a depth option. How will likely ride the current status and use their efforts to address other needs.
The Non-Positional Weakness: Goal Scoring
The Hurricanes under Rod Brind’Amour are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. As part of that, they consistently rank high in possession metrics and shots produced. However, while they are first in the NHL for expected goals percentage, Corsi, and Fenwick are 25th in shooting percentage on all attempts and ninth for actual goals scored. The Hurricane’s struggling power play has been discussed on a previous article and how that needs improvement for playoff success. It is likely that fixing the overall lack of goal-scoring conversions would help the power play.
In the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs, goal scoring was an issue for the Hurricanes and played a large role in their second-round exit. The Hurricanes sought to address this issue in the offseason by bringing in Max Pacioretty, but he has spent most of the season on LTIR. With the exception of current players catching fire, there isn’t a lot of help in this regard from within the organization.
Already having an offensively productive defensive core, adding a true second-line center would certainly help this. The Hurricanes have also been rumored at looking at top-six wingers such as Timo Meier, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Meier is probably the top prize out of the winger options, but with that comes the highest price. Any of these would likely help the Hurricanes struggling goal-scoring and power play. While obtaining a top-six winger would be great in a perfect world, the cost will likely be too high for the Hurricanes. the centre position is a bigger priority.
The Tread Lightly: Keeping Chemistry
As with any team looking to improve at the trade deadline, the question always becomes how to get better without messing up what may already be working. A team brings in a high-profile player to provide scoring but maybe he doesn’t click with the rest of the team. Even though a transaction can look promising on paper, the team’s pro scouts are paid to assess as best as possible that the new player will gel with the team.
The trade deadline deals are different from off-season or early-season deals. Even if it is not a deal for a pure rental, the newly acquired player is coming in at a later point in the season with the expectation to contribute and help the team as soon as possible. Keeping team chemistry going after the trade deadline will be especially important for the Hurricanes who, are currently on a seven-game win streak. This doesn’t mean they should sit on the sidelines. But it’s a piece of the Carolina Hurricanes’ trade deadline analysis that is very important.
Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
The post The Carolina Hurricanes’ Trade Deadline Wish List appeared first on Last Word On Hockey.
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