Despite facing the prospect of having Justin Williams out for another three to four weeks with a broken hand, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect to make any trades before the March 4 deadline.
Williams and Scott Walker are currently the only players out of the team’s lineup due to injury, but both play right wing, which leaves a sizeable gap at that position as the team pushes towards a playoff spot. Walker is expected back either late this week or early next, but Williams will be out longer, prompting Rutherford to make adding a forward his only move of interest.
“We miss Williams in our top nine,” said Rutherford. “I thought when he got hurt, in the three or four games leading up to that he was really getting his timing back and nearing the point where he was going to be 100 percent down the stretch. “That’s an area we have to look at, but that’s probably it.”
Even after identifying that need, given the lofty asking prices around the league, the economic situation and the fact that said replacement would only be temporary, Rutherford isn’t confident that deal will be made.
“It’s difficult to make that move, because those players will be back,” he said. “In order to make that kind of move we’d also have to offset the contracts. At this point less than a week away, it looks like it will be difficult to make a move. The prices to get players, certainly at this point, are very high and in my opinion not worth it.”
As most teams, the Hurricanes included, are unable to make significant additions to their payroll even with room under the salary cap, putting together deals at the last minute will be difficult. A case in point is the Jussi Jokinen trade that Carolina and Tampa Bay made earlier this season, which required two months of negotiations before the teams figured out a way to meet their needs while keeping their payroll figure intact.
That being said, Rutherford said that teams are still active at the moment in exploring their options and figuring out which players could be available.
“We sit here today and the circumstances suggest that we probably won’t be doing anything, but you get into the last six to 10 hours of the trading deadline and a lot of funny things happen,” he said. “It’s always hard to predict.”
As was the case last season, the solid play of those who enter the lineup due to injury has somewhat reduced the urgency to fill those holes immediately. Michael Ryan has been effective in his latest stint with the team, while Tim Conboy adds an important physical element and is very well-liked in the locker room.
Conboy, who is on a one-way NHL contract next season, may actually be sticking around for the rest of this year regardless of how the injury situation plays out.
“I think that with Timmy, we’ll try to find a way where he’s part of the team,” said Rutherford. “We made a full commitment to him for next year, and he does a lot of good things for our team. I would think that we’re going to figure out a way as to how he fits in.”
Conboy is on a one-way NHL contract next season. Over the last two years, the Hurricanes are 18-5-5 with him in the lineup.
Even though the Hurricanes have been inconsistent, Rutherford said it never occurred to him that they would be sellers at the deadline. Now that they’re only one point out of a playoff spot with the chance to move above the cut line as early as Thursday night, that isn’t about to change.
Even though that technically puts them into the “buyer” category, there may not be a deal worth making, although Rutherford said that one never knows what could happen.
‘We’ll be looking and listening, but we’ll be cautious,” he said.