Even after trading for Jordan Staal and coming up short in the Zach Parise sweepstakes, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford has still discussed the possibility of bringing in another forward for the top line. This is easier said than done because the free agent pool was already shallow enough and most of the big names are already off the market. With even fewer players available now, Rutherford is going to have to either overpay to get someone, take a risk on a low-valued talent (think something similar to the deal Wolski got) or possibly work out a trade with another organization. Acquiring Jordan Staal changes the foundation of the team and reduces the severity of a need for a top-six winger, but there is no doubt that the Hurricanes still need one for at least next season.
The biggest thing that is standing in the way of the Hurricanes making a signing is that they have very limited options in terms of who they can go after and what kind of contract they can give out. They have a few guys in the system who are going to be looking to play in the NHL within the next couple of seasons and probably can't afford to tie up a roster spot for the next five or six years with Ruutu and the Staal brothers locked up for awhile. An ideal situation for the Hurricanes would be to sign someone to a one or two year contract regardless of the cap hit and see how they work out. One of the main problems for the Hurricanes last season was the lack of quality top-line wingers, so Rutherford probably knows that he needs to at least try to acquire someone this year.
Who is available right now, though? If Rutherford wants to go the free agency route, there are still at least three players who he can go after and at least two of them are going to be looking for big money. Even with the cap currently over $70 mil., a team like the Hurricanes needs to get the most value out of the players they sign and that's especially true with the amount of money tied up in players like Ward and the Staal brothers. The Hurricanes not only need to acquire someone who will give them good value, they need to sign a player who also fits their system, which means that they will probably favor a player who can play in a power-vs.-power type role and not be overly dependent on his linemates.
After the jump, we will look at these said free agents and it will be up to you to determine which one fits the system best.
Judging from my experiences, many fans have biases of certain players and that often factors into their opinion on whether or not their favorite team should sign them. There are always players who are criticized for being "bad teammates" and not giving enough effort despite producing solid on-ice results for years. On the other hand, you have players who consistently produce good but not great results for years and are marveled for their "leadership" skills and "grit." My stance on this is that what goes on in the locker room is important but it's tough to determine how much of an impact it has from the fan's perspective. If a player is able to get it done on the ice, fit the system well and is available for a decent price then he is a welcomed addition in my book, personal biases be damned.
Thus, I am not going to name any of the free agents I have in mind but will present their stats from last season, analyze them a bit and it will be up to you to determine which player is the best fit for the Hurricanes.
|Player||Age||ESG/60||ESP/60||ESP||PPP||TOI/60||QOC Rank||Ozone%||Corsi Rel||SF/60||PenTaken/60|
Stats from Behindthenet.ca
Player A - This is the youngest player of the group and the one with the most offensive upside. He produced over 2 points per 60 minutes at even strength and scored almost one even strength goal per 60 minutes, as well. In addition to that, he has the most even strength points and was extremely effective at getting shots on net and swimming upstream at even strength. The only downside to him is that he has a tendency to take penalties and he faced noticeably softer competition than the rest of the group. From the looks of things, he would be a good candidate for the Hurricanes' top-six but may have to play on a more protected line (i.e. not the one centered by Jordan Staal). With that being said, he ranked third in his team forward corps in quality of competition the previous year and posted similar numbers so he has the ability to play tougher minutes if needed. All in all, he looks to be worth at least a one or a two year deal for a team in need of better top-six talent.
Player B - Here we have another player who was able to produce nearly a goal and over two points per 60 minutes at even strength. He was able to score at a top-six level while playing some pretty tough minutes and be a very effective player in terms of possession, as well. This player was also able to tally at least 20 goals in four of the last five years he played in the NHL, the issue is that he wasn't in the NHL the year before this most recent season. I should also mention that the team he was on shot at nearly 10% at even strength when he was on the ice, so things were going in his favor a little bit, especially when you look at the volume of shots he was on ice for. Him being 35 also restricts what kind of contract the team can sign him to. Still, it's hard to dislike his underlying stats and his ability to play somewhat tough minutes because that fits the Hurricanes' needs. It is also worth mentioning that this player is likely the cheapest option available.
Player C - Our third player was much less of a scoring threat last season but was producing at higher levels in previous seasons, so he could just be coming off a rough season and may rebound. However, he is also 35 and could see his production decrease with age, which seems to happen with most forwards when they get older. He usually plays against mid-tier competition and is capable of being a solid player in terms of driving possession in those minutes, so he fills a need for the Hurricanes. The one downside he has compared to the other two options is that he his scoring level at even strength is pretty low and there's a good chance that it may get worse as he gets older. That's not guaranteed but the Hurricanes may avoid taking that risk. Oh, and he's also going to need a 35+ contract if he gets a multi-year deal so whoever signs him will be on the hook for his cap hit.
So, which one of these three players would you like the Hurricanes to sign? Do you want to go for the player with the more offensive upside or sign one of the older players who could also contribute to the top-six. It's up to you.