The opening of the free agent market is less than 24 hours away, and it promises to be a doozy of a first day.
All week long, there has been speculation and rumor that Carolina was attempting to negotiate a trade with Philly wherein Carolina would send defenseman Nic "The Secret Weapon" Wallin and would receive the rights to UFA defenseman Joni Pitkanen. That rumor fit right in with Jim Rutherford's idea to move one of the "defensive" defensemen for a "puck-moving" defenseman. As the eleventh hour is upon us, and Pitkanen it about to be in the free market, this trade seems less and less likely.
This trade would have rid the Hurricanes of all things Swede, and therefore would have significantly reduced their evil quotient.
It's unlikely that Carolina will pick Pitkanen out of free agency unless they trade away one of their existing d-men, and it's also unlikely that they'll trade with whoever picks him up. Consider this deal dead.
I'd still like to see some sort of trade that nets Carolina a defenseman with offensive upside, but we will probably have to wait.
In the free agent market, Carolina is looking for a third line center, and RBH is solidly in the Todd White camp. At 32 years old, he's no spring chicken, but he's a solid centerman with consistent offensive output of around 40 points a season. He's smallish and quick, which means he'd fit right in. I'm guessing that he could be had for less than $2M, which would fit in nicely under Carolina's self-imposed budget of $44M. It would also give some wiggle room for Carolina to orchestrate a trade where the new guy has a healthier contract.
There are a few other names on Carolina's "wishlist", but I can't be sure who they are.
The Sabres have yet to offer a qualifying sheet to Dainius Zubrus. That certainly is an interesting possibility. However, Zubrus might require knee surgery, which makes him a significant risk. I wouldn't roll the dice on that.
Jiri Novotny, who was traded to Washington for Zubrus has not been given a qualifying sheet, and will thusly become an UFA. Not very interesting if you ask me. He's a young cat, and quite big, but he doesn't have much offensive upside. He's almost a carbon copy of Big Joe "Lord of Evil" Vasicek, which is not what the Canes are looking for. Both players are Czech. Vasicek is 26, Novotny is 23. Vasicek is 6-5/215. Novotny is 6-2/204. Vasicek had 22 (6/16) points with Nashville/Carolina last season. Novotny had 19 (6/13) points with Buffalo/Washington last year. Vasicek is slow and lazy. Novotny is slow and lazy. No sale.
The Caps have also declined to qualify Kris Beech, who was scheduled to become a RFA. Now he will be an UFA, and could be had for peanuts. Another big-ish young guy with minimal (but sufficient for third-line pivot) offense. It wouldn't be a "sexy" move, but it would leave a ton of room under the cap for a trade deadline move.
Speaking of the Capitals, they have a TON of room under the cap, and could easily sign Briere or Drury. I don't anticipate Drury playing for any team not named "Buffalo", but Briere is probably gone.
Mike Comrie would be a solid pickup for the Canes, but would be a little too expensive. Plus, it might be a little confusing to have Commy (Mike Commodore) and Comrie. Added to that, he kinda looks like Craig Adams, so that would be additional confusion. Last summer, there was some Comrie talk, but not much.
Peca? Forget about that. For his diminishing skill set, his price tag is wicked high.
Denis Arkhipov? Lazy Russian.
Robert Lang? Everyone loves a Czech, but he's old. Almost as old as Glen Wesley.
Bryan Smolinski? Not bad. Again, his age is a concern. He's 35, which isn't exactly ancient, but I think the Canes already have enough old dudes on the team. For all my worries, though, it would be hard to complain about getting 40 or so points out of a guy for right at $2M for a one-year contract. Bubba from Canes Country is a fan of Smolinski. Read his take on the matter.
Byron Ritchie? Not really an NHL-calibre player. Would be a downgrade from Vasicek.
Carolina is not in the sweeps for any of the big buck guys like Briere, Drury or Ryan Smyth. Of the above mentioned lot, or any others who have been talked about in Carolina, the only one I really like is White.
Don't forget, Carolina now has three NHL goalies on its payroll. I don't think they'll trade Michael Leighton, since they went to the trouble of acquiring him in a draft day trade. I think Laviolette likes Crackers too much to get rid of him, and Cam is the franchise goalie. I'm guessing Leighton goes to Albany, and we trade away one of those prospects.
Tomorrow I'll be glued to the computer screen all day watching the market frenzy.
3 years ago