As the February 28 NHL trade deadline approaches, the Carolina Hurricanes are in a very interesting position. If the season ended today, Carolina would be the final team to qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They are in a close race with the New York Rangers, Buffalo and Atlanta for the final two spots.
Despite being in the thick of the playoff hunt, look for GM Jim Rutherford to seek to tweak his roster rather than make major changes. If anything, the Canes organization will be looking more at the long term situation than the short term.
This summer, Rutherford will have a lot of players scheduled to become restricted free agents (Brandon Sutter, Jiri Tlusty and Troy Bodie) and unrestricted free agents (Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, Sergei Samsonov, Jussi Jokinen, Ryan Carter, Pat Dwyer, Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison). That situation will probably have a greater impact on the Canes moves down the stretch than any glaring holes on their present roster.
Of the potential unrestricted free agents, Samsonov and LaRose may be the most likely to be included in a deal due to their lack of consistency on the ice. Still, if dealing either of these forwards, Rutherford would need to get some scoring prowess in return.
The Hurricanes do have some room under the cap to add salary for the stretch drive, but it would be out of character for Rutherford to add a high priced player like Marian Gaborik of the Rangers who would add roughly $7 million to next year’s payroll.
Instead, look for Rutherford to add a complimentary scorer to the mix, perhaps an experienced veteran rental player who might help them for the stretch drive without sacrificing the future.
The Canes already made a pair or trades on February 18 with the San Jose Sharks which may be typical of the moves we can expect from Rutherford. Carolina sent defenseman Ian White to San Jose for a 2nd round pick in 2012 and acquired defenseman Derek Joslin for future considerations. Trading White cleared out salary cap space and gave Brett Carson the chance to get more ice time. Joslin is expected to merely add depth.
Overall, expect the Hurricanes to make a few trades before the deadline, but they will be complimentary deals or trades that help make the team’s future brighter, not headline grabbing blockbusters that will drastically change the team’s landscape.
About the Author
Written by Brad Kurtzberg
Hockey writer for more than 10 years. Has been published on Fox Sports, MSG Network, Huffington Post and Inside Hockey. Wrote the book, "Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team" on the old California Golden Seals and is presently working on his second book.