With only five games remaining before the trade deadline, the Hurricanes find themselves in an interesting but uncommon position. They are only one point out of a playoff spot with games in hand against some of the teams they are competing with, but most would argue that this isn't a playoff team. The Canes have been woefully inconsistent this year and could easily be a bottom-feeder in the conference right now if it wasn't for a strong month of January where they went 10-4-0. They also got some help in October/November where they were in the middle of the pack of the Eastern Conference despite posting some of the worst possession numbers in the league.
Given that, it might make more sense for the Hurricanes to "sell" at the deadline and see how the rest of the year shakes out because one month of strong play shouldn't deceive us into thinking that they can be a cup contender. Normally, I'd agree but a closer look at the team's performance this year shows that they've slowly been improving and their strong record in January wasn't just a fluke. The Canes have become a much better possession team over the last two months and that wasn't going to go unrewarded in the long term. At least not while they get solid goaltending to back them up (again, thanks Khudobin!).
So, here we are. The Hurricanes are now in the middle of a jam-packed Eastern Conference playoff picture with seven teams fighting for two spots. This could change depending on how the Rangers, Leafs & Habs seasons shake out, but that appears to be the scenario right now. Is there a potential trade out there that can put the Canes at a higher level than the teams they are competing with? Probably not, but there are some things the Hurricanes can do to improve their playoff chances and put them at a better position for next year.
Something I get annoyed with around the deadline is how everyone tries to figure out if their team should be "buyers or sellers." For some teams, it's obvious because they're either so far out of contention that it's time for them to start trading off assets to rebuild or beef up their roster for a potential playoff run. With so many teams still in the hunt now, it's tougher to identify "buyers and sellers" and less teams are going to be willing to trade off assets for picks. Things might change depending on how the next "month" goes, but the picture is a little bleak right now.
If you're a team in the Hurricanes position, the best thing to do at the deadline is to trade off overvalued assets for draft picks or future considerations while making other deals to bolster your roster. The San Jose Sharks did a fantastic job of this last year by trading away Douglas Murray, Ryan Clowe and Michal Handzus and replacing them with cheaper players like Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres & promoting from within to fill the other holes. This is how I would approach the deadline if I were running the Hurricanes, but the Canes roster situation is a little different.
It was easier for the Sharks to make these types of trades because Murray, Clowe & Handzus were in the final year of their contracts and having awful seasons to boot. Carolina, on the other hand, is saddled with a lot of long-term contracts and most of the UFAs they have wouldn't garner much of a return unless they were in full-out sell mode (Malhotra, Hainsey, Dvorak). The Sharks also had enough organizational depth to promote from within while the Hurricanes forward depth has been a train wreck for most of the season.
With that said, GM Jim Rutherford's intentions seem to be set on this team making the playoffs this season or else it's time for a major retool, so he will likely either stand pat or do his best to improve the Canes at the deadline. There's been rumors of some players being "available," but what are some realistic trades that could be on the horizon for Carolina? After the jump, we'll look at that and dive deeper into what their situation is as we get closer to the deadline.