With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 29, NHL.com is taking a close look at what moves teams might be looking to make and whether they'll be buyers or sellers. Today, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Record: 24-21-9, 57 points; 6th in Metropolitan Division, 4th in Eastern Conference Wild Card
Unrestricted free agents: Eric Staal, C; Kris Versteeg, LW; Nathan Gerbe, LW; Riley Nash, C; Chris Terry, C; Brad Malone, C; John-Michael Liles, D; Cam Ward, G.
Restricted free agents: Victor Rask, C; Joakim Nordstrom, LW; Ryan Murphy, D; Michal Jordan, D.
Projected 2016 Draft Picks: 8 (2 first)
Projected 2017 Draft Picks: 8 (1 first)
Needs: Top-six forwards
Surpluses: Young defensemen
Players Potentially in Play: Staal, Versteeg, Liles, Ward.
Likely status: Seller
Skinny: The Hurricanes have played themselves into contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a variety of factors will influence what general manager Ron Francis does at the deadline. The Hurricanes are unlikely to take on additional payroll at the deadline, but having missed out on the playoffs six straight years, if they are solidly in playoff position at the deadline they may feel compelled to hold on to key assets in an effort to deliver some excitement for their fan base. But the most likely scenario involves Francis moving the contracts of Carolina's unrestricted free agents. Eric Staal and Cam Ward, the last remaining players from the 2006 Stanley Cup championship team, have expiring contracts. Francis has not discussed extensions with either player, and he is insistent the Hurricanes are building for the long term. Keep in mind, however, each player has a no-movement clause. Kris Versteeg, acquired in September from the Chicago Blackhawks, will draw considerable interest. With 31 points in 53 games, the two-time Stanley Cup winner is an ideal complimentary scorer. John-Michael Liles has been a steady contributor on the blue line, logging power-play and penalty-kill time to register more than 20 minutes per game. Carolina's strength is a core of promising young defensemen. Justin Faulk is already a two-time All-Star, and Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Noah Hanifin all made the jump from college hockey to the NHL this season. There are more young defensemen in the pipeline. The Hurricanes have their own first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, along with the Los Angeles Kings' first-round selection. Stockpiling early picks is always a plus, but Carolina needs forward prospects with a scoring pedigree, particularly if Staal or Versteeg is traded.