I tell you what; this world can be cruel (in a funny way). I’ve been guessing Lucas Wallmark all season long for the first goal contest for two reasons. First, he has a great first name. Second, on the off chance he does score first, my odds of winning the signed puck are just a little better than most. Low and behold, the one night I’m late to submit my guess, Wallmark is the one scoring first. Talk about bad luck. I like to think the world exists in a balance though. The Canes’ good luck in the trade market dating back to last season’s playoffs (minus the Skinner trade) has to be evened out somehow. I’ll take this one for the team this time, guys.
The trade deadline passed us by again, and the Canes didn’t make any big moves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing like it was in years past. The big splash that was the Nino deal made our need to acquire a top-6 forward much less urgent. Also, let’s not forget about the trade with Calgary that got us Ferland and Hamilton. They have both been as advertised, even if it took the latter awhile to adjust. They’ve both been equally as important to the changing culture.
Furthermore, you didn’t forget that we flipped Marcus Kruger for Jordan Martinook did you? Martinook has exceeded expectations and been a great mentor to Andrei Svechnikov. All of this considered, the team’s current positioning in the second wild card spot set them up as not a true buyer and not a true seller. Staying quiet today was a totally acceptable course of action.
Instead of making another contender even better, the Canes elected to hold on to pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Micheal Ferland and use him as an “own rental.” I’m not a fan of this term because it’s just trying too hard. An “own rental” is simply holding on to a contract that expires at season’s end. It’s nothing more than him still being a Hurricane and helping our playoff push. Somewhere along the line, a concept was conceived that seller teams must offload their pending UFAs to contenders for draft picks or prospects. This is so they don’t “lose him for nothing” to free agency. As mentioned before, the Canes aren’t sellers this season. They just play in a loaded eastern conference. Every team will have a shot at signing Ferland this summer, including the Canes. But if we get the most out of him right now, do we actually lose him for nothing come July 1? No.
Something else the Canes didn’t do today was move one of their right-handed defensemen (RHD). All of that speculation leading up to today was for nothing. Time to crawl back under our rocks. Rest assured, the Canes will likely move one this summer, just not now. Why fix something that isn’t broken? Just to make room on the roster for Adam Fox once he signs? There’s a spot. Don’t worry.
Fox is our highly touted right-defense prospect that has said he wants to play in the NHL as soon as possible, and rightfully so. He can sign once he finishes his season at Harvard, which will be soon. The general idea floating around was that we had to move one of our RHDs to give him a roster spot immediately and not risk him not signing. At one point I was worried about this, but a real quick glance at our roster took care of that.
An NHL roster has a minimum size of 20 (18 skaters, 2 goalies) and a maximum of 23. With no one on injured reserve right now, the Canes have 21 players. They have the 20 who dress for each game and 1 healthy scratch. That leaves room for 2 more healthy scratches. They can sign Fox sometime in March, and add him to the roster. He can get a few NHL games under his belt yet this season, and on the other nights, he’ll be scratched. Better yet, the team chemistry doesn’t have to be affected by a trade. It’s a win-win.
While the Canes didn’t move Ferland or any of their RHDs, they did make a minor league transaction. It was designed to help the Charlotte Checkers’ playoff push and Calder Cup hopes. Officially, it appears as two separate trades because you can’t trade NHL contracts for AHL contracts. The Canes acquired Tomas Jurco from the Florida Panthers, who is signed to an AHL contract. The Panthers received Cliff Pu, who is on his NHL entry-level contract (RIP the Canes Cliff Pu era, it was a legendary 6 months). On the other end of these “separate” deals is the term “future considerations.” The future considerations are those two players themselves, but because it was an NHL-AHL deal, the phrase has to be there to be league compliant. Though insignificant for the Canes, this deal repays the Checkers after the Canes called up Greg McKegg earlier this season.
You know what is significant for the Canes? Jordan Staal is back. No, he wasn’t the subject of a trade, but we can view him as a major re-acquisition based on the timing of his return. He had missed 32 of the last 34 games with concussion symptoms. When he returned to play against the Dallas Stars last Saturday night, his impact was immediately felt. Dallas was held to 4 total shots almost halfway through the game en route to a 3-0 shutout win. Staal’s presence in the lineup is a big confidence booster for the guys, and his ability to shutdown other teams’ top lines going forward is a welcome addition (back) to the Canes.
I’m of the opinion that the Canes were smart to hold tight regarding the deadline this season. They’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, and it’s clear something special is being built in the locker room. While trade deadline day itself was largely uneventful, the Canes have had their fair share of good luck over the course of the season. In a way, not having to lose our minds while the rest of the contending teams did may prove quite beneficial. The Canes are playing genuinely meaningful games post-trade deadline for the first time in a long time. Holding on to the wild card spot will be tough, and the final 20 games are going to make for one heck of a horse race in the eastern conference.