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Canes Keep Eye Toward Future at Trade Deadline

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

TAMPA BAY - As another trade deadline came and went, the Carolina Hurricanes unfortunately found themselves in a familiar position as sellers instead of buyers.

Though nothing materialized on Wednesday prior to the 3 p.m. deadline, the Hurricanes made a pair of moves in the week prior, acquiring a 2017 second-round pick, a 2017 third-round pick and depth forward Danny Kristo in exchange for Ron Hainsey and Viktor Stalberg, two players set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Tweet from @VStalberg: Just wanted to take a second to thank the @NHLCanes organization, teammates, staff and fans. Was truly a pleasure working with you all.

"Nothing happened for us today," said Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis as he began his press conference. "There were some smaller kicking tires things, but to me, they didn't make sense for us not only now but in the long term. There was nothing really of significance that we were strongly considering."

Six weeks ago, the Hurricanes seemed to be heading in a different direction. They were just a point out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference in mid-January, but a pair of prolonged winless streaks and inconsistency has plagued the team since.

"It's been kind of a crazy six weeks. Six weeks ago or even longer we were making calls trying to see what we might be able to add at the deadline, hoping we could go in that direction," Francis said. "Then we had a tough stretch. We lost those five games in a row heading into the All-Star break and have been inconsistent since then. Unfortunately it put us in the position where we felt like we had to do what we did which was move some pieces out."

Francis, who celebrated his 54th birthday on Wednesday, called the familiar situation "frustrating and disheartening," especially considering how different this week could have played out. But that's a short-term assessment; long-term, Francis remains focused.

"I do have to pause and still look at the big picture. There's a lot of positives in what we're doing and the direction we're going," Francis said. "We have to continue to build it the right way, and hopefully we can get over that hump sooner rather than later."

In making the duo of moves they did, the Hurricanes added to their stockpile of picks in the 2017 NHL Draft. The team now owns 11, including seven in the first three rounds alone.

Those are future assets, whether they're used to make selections or package together in a trade.

"It's an interesting year this year with the expansion draft. There could be teams that are in trouble and willing to move pieces rather than lose them in the expansion draft," Francis said. "We feel we can look at that with some of the picks we've accumulated. Then, certainly, it's something we can use to try to accumulate pieces to help make us better as we move forward toward next season."

So what will make the Hurricanes better? That will be assessed as the organization moves into the offseason. A veteran scoring forward would certainly be a welcome addition - but every team could say that.

"I think every team is looking for that type [of player], especially if he's a centerman," Francis said. "Everybody is looking for those high-end guys, particularly centers, to drive your team."

With the pieces the Hurricanes currently have both in their lineup and developing in the system, Francis is confident that strides are being made in the right direction. Sebastian Aho has proven himself to be one of the top rookies in the league this season, and the Canes' young defensive corps attracts rave reviews from folks around the league.

It's a process, and these types of trade deadlines are a part of that process. Soon enough, the Hurricanes hope to be buyers.

"When you look at some of the pieces we have in our lineup, they're extremely young but good players," Francis said. "As they continue to get stronger, understand the league and what it takes to be a pro and to compete each night, we think they're only going to get better."

More from the GM

Video: Ron Francis talks on the Trade Deadline

Here's more from the Hurricanes' general manager, who touched on a number of subjects in his 21-minute press conference. You can watch the entirety of that above, but here are some additional highlights.

On what he hopes to learn from his team down the stretch: "This is a great time to learn a lot. Last night was a great example. We're playing a team that's is fighting also for their playoff lives, and you know you're not going to get an easy game. You want to see which one of your guys is going to step up and play the hard style of game that needs to be played at this time of year. If you can't do it here, chances are good you can't do it in the playoffs."

On the status of Jeff Skinner (upper body): "He had a stiff neck yesterday morning. As a precaution, which we would do with any of our players, rather than play him in the game last night, we pulled him out. He went through the morning skate and in the afternoon didn't really feel up to playing, so we pulled him out at that point. We flew him back here to Raleigh where he saw Dr. Bloom this morning. He was not diagnosed with a concussion, so we're hopeful we can get him back into the lineup probably on Friday night."

On losing Eddie Lack (concussions) for an extended period of time: "It's a tough stretch when you lose a guy like that for a couple of months. Not only for him being out of the lineup, but it's also real tough on Cam. We had to rely on Cam probably a little too much in that period of time, and I think it caught up to him as it did with the team heading into the All-Star break."

On the future of the coaching staff: "It's a discussion I need to have with Bill. Bill has to have a stay in the staff he wants, so we'll have that conversation after the season is done. Those guys work hard."

On the possibility of Bryan Bickell returning to the NHL before the end of the season: "I talked to Bryan after the first game [back], and he said it was a lot tougher than he thought and he got better from there. … I just told him to continue to work hard and work on his timing. I certainly would love to give him the opportunity to come up here and play some games before the end of the season."

On naming a captain: "I don't take that letter lightly at all. If we don't feel we have a guy capable of wearing that letter, then we're not putting it on somebody whether it's this year or next year. Until we feel we have the guy that's the right choice, I'm comfortable not putting a 'C' on somebody."

On the ingredients for a captain: "There's a complete package that goes with it. … Their personalities, how they would deal with the responsibilities of that letter. How they handle themselves in games, in the weight room, off the ice. Whether they're vocal with their teammates and willing to step up and challenge guys when they're not playing well."

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