After the Carolina Hurricanes made a move on Tuesday to acquire a defenseman, the team made just one trade as the deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon.
In their lone transaction, the Hurricanes sent Jussi Jokinen to Pittsburgh for a conditional sixth or seventh round 2013 draft choice, a move that was telegraphed last week when the team waived the 30-year-old forward. As a component of the trade, Carolina is retaining a portion of Jokinen’s salary, though the team is not disclosing the amount.
“The main point of Jussi’s deal wasn’t about him or him as a player,” said team President and General Manager Jim Rutherford. “It was more about preparing for where we go in the future with our payroll.”
As far as other potential trades go, Rutherford said there wasn’t one to be made, a sentiment that seemed consistent around the league right up until the last hour before the 3 p.m. deadline when activity escalated.
“Based on the position we have put ourselves in over the last two or three weeks, I wasn’t going to trade younger players or high draft picks for somebody that may or may not make a difference here in the last month,” Rutherford said. “There weren’t any deals that made sense for us.”
With asking prices high and the pool of quality available players thin, Rutherford wasn’t too optimistic of making a big splash heading into today.
“I think there were more deals made prior to deadline day,” he said. “Overall, I don’t think there were as many players available that could really impact and make a different in what we’re doing.”
Given where the Hurricanes sit in the standings – not too far out of the playoff race to be sellers, yet not solidly ensconced in postseason position to be buyers – Rutherford said he wasn’t going to make a move that compromised the future of the team on a short-term risk.
“As much as I would have liked to have made a deal, there wasn’t any deal that made any sense. How aggressive do you get on making a deal, and how far do you want to go?” he said, noting he wasn’t going to trade high draft choices or a prospect like Zac Dalpe. “This is about a tough of a position to be in – a team on a big losing streak, we know we’re a better team than we’re playing and not having any deal that made sense for us that could give us a little boost.”
So, with just over three weeks remaining in this shortened regular season, the Hurricanes will make a final push for the playoffs with their current roster. It’s a group of players that has been successful; as recently as early March, the team had won six of seven and sat comfortably atop the Southeast Division. But fleeting positive results over the last three weeks have left Rutherford nonplussed.
“[I’m] about as frustrated as you can get,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Certainly, we’re not sitting here saying it’s over. But the most frustrating part is, in the first part of the season, we showed what kind of team we had. We were a very capable team, and we played very well.
“The real point here is to put the best product on the ice that we can. I believe we had a good product, and as we speak today, we don’t.”
Injuries certainly haven’t helped the Hurricanes’ cause as of late. Losing goaltender Cam Ward for what is likely the remainder of the regular season and defenseman Justin Faulk, who eats up ice time rather effectively on the back-end, has left the team with near irreplaceable holes, gaps that even trades could not fill.
“The guy that we miss the most is Faulk. To me, he’s our No. 1 defenseman,” Rutherford said. “When he’s in the lineup, he makes a difference. We talk about missing Cam, but I’d say Justin Faulk falls right in line with Cam as a guy who has really hurt us being out of the lineup.”
That said, time and games in hand still could work in favor of the Hurricanes, who are just four points out of first place in the division with 13 games remaining.
“We have to win a couple of games to get some confidence,” Rutherford said. “We have to get on a little bit of a roll with one goalie who can come in and really get on a confidence run. If we do that, it’s not out of reach.”