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Five Takeaways from the Trade Deadline

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
SHORT HILLS, NJ – While trade deadline day might have been relatively quiet around the league, the Carolina Hurricanes did not rest on their laurels.

The Hurricanes made two high-profile trades on Sunday followed by a pair of deals on Monday before the 3 p.m. deadline, moving four unrestricted free agents-to-be and acquiring a collection of assets for the future.

Here are five takeaways from the Hurricanes’ deadline activity.

1. The Trades

First, the details of the overall haul from this year’s deadline deals.

Leaving Carolina:

Acquired by Carolina:

  • Aleksi Saarela (forward prospect)
  • Valentin Zykov (forward prospect)
  • Anthony Camara (forward prospect)
  • Dennis Robertson (defensive prospect)
  • 2016 2nd round pick
  • 2016 3rd round pick
  • 2016 5th round pick (conditional)
  • 2017 2nd round pick
  • 2017 5th round pick

“We had a lot of conversations,” a visibly worn Ron Francis said at his annual deadline press conference. “At the end of the day, these were the deals we could do.”

2. Building for the Future

From Dec. 3 onward, the Hurricanes were one of the top teams in the NHL. Unfortunately, they were still trying to climb out of a rather large hole dug in the first quarter of the season. The talk of playoffs heated up as the Canes did, and the team found itself in the midst of a postseason push in January and February.

The odds may never have quite exactly favored the team, but for the first time in some time, the Canes were in the mix.

Francis stayed patient, but he knew he couldn’t sacrifice his long-term vision for the lure of short-term success.

“For the first time in a while, we were legitimately in a playoff run in February. … You run the risk of chasing that,” Francis explained. “If you chase that and don’t get there, now we’ve almost taken the progress we’ve made to this point and gone backwards. I don’t think we can afford to do that as an organization or as a team. That’s why we went in the direction we went.”

After a three-game skid, the first such streak since the end of November, the Canes’ playoff hopes are slim. But the curtain hasn’t fallen on the 2015-16 regular season just yet, and there remains plenty left to play for – even if postseason contention isn’t among them.

“I still believe in the guys in the locker room,” Francis said. “I know they’re not going to quit; they are going to keep battling, and I wouldn’t put it against them to continue to surprise people down the stretch.”

3. Stockpiling Picks and Freeing Up Money

Count them. The Hurricanes now hold 13 – yes, 13 – picks in the first three rounds of the 2016 NHL Draft (two firsts, two seconds, three thirds) and 2017 NHL Draft (one first, two seconds, three thirds). Overall, the Hurricanes own 11 picks (with the possibility for that to swell to 12) over seven rounds in 2016.

That’s an incredible bounty of potential no matter how they’re used come draft day.

“We have an abundance of picks and now we have to look at the next stage,” Francis said. “Is that drafting the right players or turning those picks around for other assets in our lineup?”

The 2017 NHL Draft is looking just as rich with the Hurricanes holding 11 picks in the seven rounds, six of which are in the first three rounds.

With assets accumulated, the Hurricanes also figure to be in a position to be significantly active early in the summer.

“I think if you can find the right veteran, whether it’s a partner for a defenseman or a winger or center on a line to settle down the young guys and help them grow through the process, I think those are valuable pieces,” Francis said. “I do think we’re going to have some situations where we have draft picks we can move, and we might be in a position where if the cap doesn’t go up as much as people think, teams may have to move assets in the summertime. I think we’re going to be in a good position to acquire those assets if those situations present themselves.

“With the amount of picks, I think we’re also in a position to draft some good, young players,” he continued. “We’re constantly looking at all those options and exploring them all, and we’ll continue to do that as we move forward – after I get some sleep.”

4. A Different Team in New Jersey

Three veteran players removed from the lineup. A few more battling injuries, having already missed time in the last week. Among the chaos of the trade deadline, one thing is certain: the Hurricanes will have a different-looking team when they take on the Devils Tuesday night.

Meeting the team in New Jersey are forwards Brock McGinn and Derek Ryan, who earned his first NHL call-up, and defenseman Ryan Murphy.

Tuesday’s morning skate will be more akin to a practice environment, as the team adjusts to their new group.

“When you lose a guy like Eric, it’s a big void,” Francis said. “But we’ve got a lot of young players – Jordan included – and it’s an opportunity for them to take another step forward and assume more of that leadership role and steer the ship in the direction they and we want it to go.”

5. #ThankYouEric

Eric Staal donned a strange, unfamiliar color on Monday: blue. And with that began a new chapter for one of the most important players in Hurricanes’ team history.

It’s difficult to put into words what exactly Staal meant to the Hurricanes, both on and off the ice. He was intertwined in the community, a pillar of class in the way he handled himself in and away from the game, a captain of the team (the 13th in franchise history) and, maybe most significantly, a champion.

Many words have already been written and said about No. 12. Mike Sundheim provided a personal glimpse of Staal’s transformation from “that skinny kid from Thunder Bay” into “a man we will always be proud to have represented the Carolina Hurricanes.” I chronicled how Sunday, as inevitable as it may have been, was not an easy day for anyone involved.

We’ll leave it with two very simple words: Thank you.

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

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