Over the next few days, I am going to look at each team in the Southeast division and determine what kind of moves they could be making as the trade deadline approaches. We've already seen a few deals go down the last few days and have an idea of what the market looks like, so I am sure that things will get interesting soon.
What I am going to do is look at the situation each team is in and whether or not they will be "buyers" or "sellers" over the next week and look at where they stand monetarily. Different GMs have different kinds of budgets and that effects what kind of trades they will be making. Some GMs are more likely to pony up money to re-sign a player while others will trade him away for draft picks or future assets. I will also examine some of the moves that these teams have made leading up to the deadline to get an idea of what to expect.
Of course, I will be starting with the Carolina Hurricanes, who currently sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference but they haven't been in complete sell mode yet. The only expiring contract they have dealt is Alexei Ponikarovsky and they actually re-signed Tim Gleason to a four-year deal. The cap floor and injuries in both Raleigh and Charlotte might be preventing Jim Rutherford from making all of the moves he wants, but Carolina doesn't need to blow everything up right now. The most likely thing Rutherford will do is trade those with expiring contracts or those who are on cheap deals in return for salary, prospects and picks. Who exactly do the Hurricanes have to trade now that Tuomo Ruutu is injured, though? Better yet, what kind of moves will Rutherford be making over the next week if any at all? After the jump, we'll review Rutherford's activity this year and look at what kind of situation the Canes are in.
Here's what Rutherford has done so far.
Claimed Andreas Nodl off waivers
A low-risk, decent-reward move for the Canes. It took some time for Kirk Muller to find a place for Nodl in the lineup but he has been a main staple of their third line now. Him, Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer are regularly used against other team's top lines and have been very good defensively. The addition of Nodl really helped that.
Traded Tomas Kaberle to Montreal for Jaroslav Spacek
I know that you need some foresight as a GM, but Rutherford's decisino to sign Tomas Kaberle wasn't a good move. He probably didn't expect Justin Faulk to be ready for the NHL so early in his career, but everything about Kaberle's play over the last two years showed that he was declining. He is nothing more than a third pairing defenseman/powerplay specialist at this point in his career and Rutherford gave him a three year deal. Realizing he made a mistake, Rutherford desperately tried to find a trade partner for Kaberle and Habs GM Pierre Gauthier took up his offer. Kaberle's three year contract is off the books and the Canes have a brittle, but servicable third defenseman who has played decently with sheltered minutes. Kaberle being able to get rid of Kaberle's contract is huge because with Spacek's contract expiring next year, it frees up both roster space and cap room.
Traded Mattias Lindstrom and Jon Matsumoto to Florida for Evgenii Dadonov and AJ Jenks
This trade was done to give the Charlotte Checkers more depth and give Carolina a couple pieces they can use in the future. Matsumoto has always been great in the AHL but he's 25 and yet to see much action in the NHL. He also isn't waiver exempt, so it's very likely that the Canes didn't have him in their future plans. It's very possible that both Dadonov and Jenks never play a game for the Hurricanes but as of right now, they are both young players who Carolina will be able to use as AHL call-ups if they are retained next year. Dadonov also has some potential and has shown he can play in the NHL with Florida so he's a nice piece to have.
Traded Alexei Ponikarovsky to New Jersey for 4rd round pick and Joe Sova
This was a "sell-low" move by Rutherford because while Ponikarovsky has top-six potential, he wasn't scoring at all with Carolina. Most of it was bad luck (he was shooting at 7.1%) but with the Canes having a lot of younger forwards like Drayson Bowman looking for roster spots, someone in the top-six had to be moved and Ponikarovsky was the easiest. Even if the pucks weren't going in for him, Poni is a terrific player at driving possession and would have some value to a playoff team. With the Devils needing bottom-six depth, they decided to take the gamble and it's working out well for them so far. As for what Rutherford got in return, it wasn't much but it's something. Draft picks are often treated as currency around this time and Sova gives Charlotte defensive depth, which they needed with Faulk graduating. It's about the return you would expect for Ponikarovsky given his goal/point total in Carolina.
Re-signed Tim Gleason to a four year $16 mil. contract
This was a surprising move because Gleason was thought to be on a lot of team's "want" list. He plays tough minutes, was signed to a cheap contract and has an expiring contract. Seems like the perfect player to deal around this time but Rutherford decided to lock him up for four more years. Why? Because the Hurricanes defensive depth after Gleason is pretty bleak when it comes to players who can play tough minutes. Faulk/Harrison were given a brief audition in that role and they struggled a bit, which may have impulsed Rutherford to sign Gleason instead of trading him. With guys like Hal Gill, Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina all fetching second round picks and more, you could say that Rutherford missed out on a big opportunity but remember, the cap floor prevents Carolina from trading for only picks/prospects and the team needs defensive depth at the NHL level. Gleason provides both and he isn't the only d-man with an expiring contract on the roster right now. Plus, with the cap floor, Carolina has to overpay and Rutherford decided that Gleason is worth it.
Since the Canes are out of the playoff picture, we don't need to look at their depth chart and we'll move right to what things look like for them next year. These are the forwards and defensemen they have under contract through next season and how much money they have invested in them.
Top 3 Forwards: Staal, Jokinen, ??? - $11,250,000
Middle 6 Forwards: Sutter, LaRose, Skinner, Stewart, ???, ??? - $6,066,667
Top 4 Defensemen: Pitkanen, Gleason, Faulk, ??? - $9,400,000
Bottom 9 Players: Nodl, Brent, Dwyer, Joslin, Harrison, ???, ???, ???, ??? - $3,620,000
Goaltending: Ward, Boucher - $7,250,000
Total: $37,586,667 invested in 16 players (9 forwards, 5 defensemen)
UFA: Ruutu, Spacek, Allen
RFA: Bowman, Tlusty, Samson, McBain, Peters
The Canes need to spend a little over $10 million to reach the cap floor (although that might change with the new CBA kicking in), so they will probably be spending some money this off-season. I expect Rutherford to re-sign Tuomo Ruutu to around $4 mil. per year, so that will eat up some cap space but they still need to spend a bit more to reach the floor. Keep in mind that Rutherford operates on a budget and rarely spends to the cap, which will effect how much money they spend via free agency. The new contracts given to Tlusty, Bowman and McBain will likely take up both cap space and roster spots, as well so that should prevent Rutherford from spending too much in the open market.
As for trades, I think it is a given that both Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen will be moved. If Gill can get a 2nd round pick and a prospect in return, then I have to think that Allen is going to fetch a similar return. Maybe even more. I've heard talks about Allen being re-signing but with so many defensemen in the system, there isn't much room for him or Spacek next year. Plus, the offers Rutherford could get for Allen might be too good to pass up. Spacek might be kept around if Joni Pitkanen is ruled out for the year but a team looking for a depth defenseman or some offense from the back end might want him. I wouldn't expect a big return for him, though.
It's possible that some other players might be moved, too. The Canes don't have many expiring contracts, but there's plenty of guys on cheap deals that shouldn't be too difficult to move. Chad LaRose, Tim Brent, Zach Boychuk and Derek Joslin come to mind. Boychuk is an interesting piece because he is a high draft pick who has yet to crack the Hurricanes roster full-time and is due a new contract next year. I'm not sure if Rutherford sees him in Carolina's future plans so he could be traded if he isn't given a qualifying offer.
Rutherford's goal is likely to make team better in the future which will involve trading players for picks and prospects but the problem is that he doesn't have much to work with, so I wouldn't expect too many big moves from Carolina over the next week. The cap floor also might prevent him from making the moves he wants. What they could get for Bryan Allen is intriguing, though.
Contract information from Cap Geek.