With less than a week remaining until the NHL's trade deadline (Wednesday, March 3, 3 p.m.) the Carolina Hurricanes made their first major move.
The Hurricanes dealt veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and forward Danny Kristo, who will report to the Charlotte Checkers.
Video: Ron Francis: "Never easy"
Hainsey played 300 games - a third of his career - in a Hurricanes' uniform. He tallied 15 goals and 43 assists (58 points) and missed just two games in his time with the Canes since the 2013-14 season.
Assuming Hainsey plays in each of Pittsburgh's remaining 23 games and remains healthy for the postseason, the 35-year-old veteran defenseman will make his first playoff appearance after NHL record 914 career games.
"Ronnie has been a good guy for us for a long time. 300 games in the organization and a good leader for our young defensemen," said Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. "It's a good opportunity for him, a chance to get in the playoffs and have success."
"He did a great job for us. 22 minutes a night and played a prominent role on a real good penalty killing unit. He gave us real good work this year," head coach Bill Peters said. "He's very, very intelligent and thoughtful, and he thinks before he speaks. He's got a good, sharp wit about him.
In return, the Hurricanes add another draft pick to their collection, which now stands at 10 for this year's draft. At Francis' disposal include three selections in the second round and two selections in the third round.
"We just felt this was good value for what we were looking to do, which is why we did it at this point," Francis said.
The Canes also add a depth forward in Kristo, a 26-year-old winger who was a second-round selection of the Montreal Canadiens in 2008. Kristo has tallied 153 points (78g, 75a) in 267 career AHL games with four clubs.
"He has scored in the American League in the past, so we'll see what he can do for us down there," Francis said.
Hainsey's departure leaves behind ample opportunity on the Hurricanes' blue line. Noah Hanifin perhaps stands to benefit most, as he now moves into the team's top four to pair with road roommate Brett Pesce.
Video: Noah Hanifin: "Prove I can play"
In the third pairing, Klas Dahlbeck and Ryan Murphy will get a look together on Friday against Ottawa. Matt Tennyson is also available.
Should they want to explore further options, the Hurricanes have a number of defensemen-in-waiting in Charlotte, too, including Trevor Carrick, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown.
"The roles basically stay the same, but the opportunity changes. Enhanced opportunity for younger guys now, for sure," Peters said. "You've got to play, play well and stay in the lineup. It's still going to be very competitive to be in the lineup."
This move could be the first in an active week leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline. On Jan. 17, the Canes were a point out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They have gone 3-9-1 since and now rank last in the conference, a playoff spot a distant and nearly unattainable goal.
"It's been kind of a disheartening and frustrating stretch here for us," Francis said. "The game the other night was a good example. I don't think it was for a lack of effort; I think we played well enough to win and certainly had enough chances to win, but we just couldn't find a way. I still believe in the guys in the locker room and feel like we have a lot of good, young pieces."
With 26 games remaining in the season, those good, young pieces have the chance to showcase what they're capable of.
"They're going to play hard. I was asked the other day about morale, and morale is very good. Guys play hard," Peters said. "Sometimes when there is a little bit of adversity, we've got to show a little more stick-to-itiveness. That will be our challenge."