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Deadline Day: Breaking Down UFA's

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Paul Branecky
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It’s finally deadline day, and it should be one of the more active such periods in recent memory for Carolina.


However, with that being said, I would have expected things to be a little more hectic thus far. The week prior to the Olympic break was very busy with trades involving Matt Cullen and Niclas Wallin, but the lifting of the trade freeze did not come with a lot of activity.

Slow start or not, there’s still plenty of time for things to get done prior to today’s 3 p.m. deadline. Although no one save a handful of players has been declared truly safe, here’s a breakdown of the team’s unrestricted free agents that have been rumored to be on the move. I’ll have updates throughout the day on the Canes and moves around the league that affect the Canes, and coverage of today’s noon practice as well.


Whitney

Ray Whitney

The dynamic winger is at or near the top of every list you’ll see of the league’s top trade targets, and with good reason. The unrestricted free agent has been as consistent as they come ever since he arrived in Carolina, can immediately fit into any team’s top scoring lines and has Stanley Cup experience.

That doesn’t make the trade a slam dunk. Whitney holds a no-trade clause, and has already refused at least one done deal, rumored to be with Los Angeles at the beginning of February. More reporting from TSN’s Bob McKenzie today (he has been on top of this situation for over a month now), suggests that it could be Los Angeles or bust for Whitney, who simply may not be traded unless he agrees to that deal.

My feeling is that the Kings trade could still happen, and that Whitney will end up taking the best available option. Jim Rutherford obviously thinks highly of the package from Los Angeles if he was willing to make the trade a full month before the deadline, so it would be difficult to settle for anything less knowing that his preferred deal is still on the table. Meanwhile, a move to Pittsburgh, which was rumored to be Whitney’s preferred destination, seems less likely after the Penguins’ acquisition of Toronto’s Alexei Ponikarovsky last night.

A wild card in this situation will be Whitney’s demands for a contract extension from interested parties. Does he really require it, or has he been using that as a way to stall the trade process until the last minute?

Keep an eye on Los Angeles today to see if they make a move for another prized free agent forward, as that would likely signal that they have decided to move on.


Ward

Aaron Ward

Another unrestricted free agent whose name has been mentioned ever since the Hurricanes waived him in mid-December. Ward was widely rumored to be on his way to Ottawa in recent days, but the Senators’ acquisition of fellow blueliner Andy Sutton from the New York Islanders quieted that talk.

Ward was a healthy scratch for last night’s game in Toronto, which does not suggest that a trade is imminent. However, it is still quite possible, so it makes sense that he would be the odd man out both to protect an asset and make room for newcomer Alex Picard.

Despite early-season struggles, Ward has been serviceable of late and should still be able to fetch a draft pick from a team looking for a veteran depth defenseman with three Stanley Cups.


Corvo
Joe Corvo

Corvo’s name has appeared in rumors for the same reasons as the two previous players – unrestricted free agents on a selling team. However, that’s really been it. There has been considerably less chatter about Corvo than there has been about Whitney and Ward, which at least to me makes it seem less likely that a trade is imminent.

Part of that could be that the Hurricanes’ asking price will be high, and that Corvo’s long-term leg injury may be making teams a little more hesitant than they otherwise would have been. For a player that the Hurricanes covet (Rutherford was extremely pleased with his play this season prior to the injury), it may make more sense to hang on to him and then use the exclusive negotiation period to re-sign him prior to July 1. For all the reasons that would make him an attractive addition now, he would be very difficult to replace next season. A great offer could come through, but I don’t think the Hurricanes will trade him just to trade him.


Yelle

Stephane Yelle

A veteran UFA forward that would be a nice depth addition to any playoff team at an affordable price. Yelle has an outstanding amount of postseason experience (165 games), which could be attractive to a team that needs to fill out its fourth line. He was the other healthy scratch in Toronto, although that could also be attributed to the numbers game.



Walker

Scott Walker

Despite being one year older than Yelle (36), Walker does not have the same playoff experience (just 29 games) but showed last year that he nonetheless excels in the postseason. Injuries have limited him to just 33 games this season and he only returned from a 21-game shoulder-related absence last night, but teams may find his grit and heroic series-clinching overtime goal from last season’s playoffs tough to ignore.


Legace

Manny Legace

Ordinarily there would be a handful of teams looking for goaltending depth, but there seems to be a lot more supply than demand this year. I wouldn’t expect Legace to be moved, but potential moves involving bigger-name goaltenders like Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price or Florida’s Tomas Vokoun could produce a trickle-down effect of sorts.

That’s it for the UFA’s, although others could be on the move as well. Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook pages throughout the day for updates.

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