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Canes Upgrade Forward Corps in Trade

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
It was no secret. The Carolina Hurricanes had flexibility, both in terms of salary cap space and assets, specifically draft picks. The Chicago Blackhawks did not, already pressed up against a salary cap that, at best, isn’t moving much at all.

That precipitated today’s trade, the third between the teams in the last nine months, in which the Hurricanes acquired forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell from the Blackhawks in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick.

“You make a lot of phone calls and poke around to see what teams are looking to do. In Chicago’s situation, they’ve got a lot of good players and because of that success, sometimes you need to find space,” said Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “We had some dialogue with Stan (Bowman) that evolved over time, and it got to the point where we both felt comfortable with the deal. Then we got it done.

“In a lot of your conversations when you’re trying to find a good, young forward, everybody wants a good, young defenseman back,” Francis continued. “The beauty of this deal is we’re able to do it and not take away from our back-end we have right now.”

In Teravainen, the Canes get a 21-year-old Finnish forward with immense potential. The 18th overall pick in 2012, Teravainen completed his first full NHL season with Chicago in 2015-16, tallying 35 points (13g, 22a) in 78 games. He split the season prior between Chicago and Rockford, its American League affiliate, and has totaled 17 goals and 27 assists (44 points) in 115 career NHL regular-season games.

“We feel that this is a real good young player with a big upside,” Francis said. “He scored 35 points last year in his first full season and probably didn’t see much time on the power play, so I think it’s a good opportunity for him to grow and develop.”

On the first day of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Hurricanes completed a blockbuster trade that brought Jordan Staal to Carolina and sent the eighth overall pick, among other assets, to Pittsburgh. Had the Canes held onto that pick, Teravainen was certainly in the mix (and was profiled ahead of the draft here).

“I remember discussions with our scouts, and they loved him,” said Francis, who then served as the Vice President of Hockey Operations. “Great hockey sense, great skillset, skates well. He was somebody that they really thought highly of in that draft. It didn’t happen for us, and Chicago was probably surprised to get him at 18 when they did.”

Teravainen will join Canes forward Sebastian Aho on Team Finland for the World Cup of Hockey in September.

“The fact that he’s Finnish doesn’t hurt either with a young kid like Aho coming in,” Francis said. “It gives him (Aho) somebody there as a ‘much older’ mentor; I think Teravainen will be all of 22 when the season starts.”

Teravainen played all three forward positions for the Blackhawks in 2015-16, and Francis said he doesn’t yet have a preference for the Finn’s place among the Canes’ forward corps.

“I think a lot of it will depend on how the rest of the summer goes and when we get into camp what we feel like. I think the fact that he can play center or left right or right wing gives us some flexibility,” Francis said. “Sebastian Aho can play center, left wing or right wing; that gives us flexibility. (Elias) Lindholm we drafted as a center is on the right wing. I think we have some flexibility with guys to move some things around, and that’s something that Bill (Peters) and the staff will decide as we get into camp and get comfortable with how things look.”

In Bickell, the Canes receive a 30-year-old veteran and three-time Stanley Cup Champion. At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, Bickell adds size to the Hurricanes lineup and bolsters their forward depth. The Bowmanville, Ont., native has recorded 65 goals and 70 assists (135 points) in 384 career NHL regular-season games and has added 20 goals and 19 assists (39 points) in 75 playoff contests.

“That’s a big body, something that we’ve talked about getting into our lineup,” Francis said. “He skates, and he’s got some skill. I would think that in being in the last year of his deal that he’ll be extremely motivated. I would think it’s not easy in Chicago playing behind a lot of those talented players to feel like you’re in it, so hopefully he’s excited about the opportunity here and comes in ready to roll.”

In September 2015, the Hurricanes acquired forwards Joakim Nordstrom, Kris Versteeg and a 2016 third-round pick from Chicago in exchange for two prospects (one of which was re-acquired at the trade deadline) and a 2017 fifth-round pick. It was another salary cap-related move for Chicago in which the Canes, who have flexibility with their payroll, were able to benefit.

“It’s not every day that you’re able to do a deal like this,” Francis said of today’s trade. “I think we feel fortunate that we are able to get those guys into our organization and lineup. We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t have the [salary cap] room cleared out over the last year or two, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t have the draft picks we’ve built up, as well.”

In today’s transaction, the Hurricanes parted with two draft picks: a 2016 second-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick. This year’s second-rounder (50th overall) originally belonged to the New York Rangers and was acquired by the Hurricanes in the Eric Staal trade. Next year’s third-rounder was returned to Chicago after the Canes acquired it in September as a part of the trade that brought Nordstrom and Versteeg to Raleigh.

The Canes still have six picks in the top 75 (two first-round picks, a second-round pick and three-third round picks) and nine total picks heading in to the 2016 NHL Draft.

“It just gives us flexibility with what we want to do and how we want to move forward,” Francis said. “We’re always looking and having conversations. Whether something gets done or not is next to impossible to tell, but we’re not sitting on our hands saying, ‘We’re good,’ at this point. We still want to be able to try and do other things if we can.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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