Will Carolina Really Sell Its Stars?
The Carolina Hurricanes are having another rough season. For a few seasons now fans in Raleigh have had to hear the same refrain of weak optimism: there’s young talent on deck, management is willing to spend, and better times lie ahead. But through coaching changes, strong draft picks, and a few years of waiting, the Canes just don’t seem to have gotten much better. Despite having played nearly .500 hockey of late, Carolina rests in seventh place in the division with a losing record (as of the time of this writing) of 16-17-7.
Furthermore, the long-term outlook for the remainder of the season doesn’t look that encouraging. From a points perspective the Hurricanes actually aren’t in so deep a hole that a brief hot streak can’t put them back into playoff contention. But the oddsmakers at Betfair have them listed at seventh in the division, even with their current standing, in terms of likelihood to come out on top. Granted, they wouldn’t have to win the Metropolitan to have had a decent season, but with six teams marked with decisively better odds to top the division, it’s clear there’s not a lot of faith in these Hurricanes.
As a result, there’s been talk for a few months now that changes might be on the way to Raleigh. While the Hurricanes may not command much of the spotlight, the possibilities are cause for attention. That’s because the two players the team is rumoured to be interested in moving are Cam Ward and Eric Staal, former stars who have really defined the team’s identity for the better part of a decade. There’s no question that both are well past their respective primes, and now the question becomes whether or not the Hurricanes ultimately have much to gain by unloading them before the trade deadline.
The thinking, according to the reports at Fansided, is that general manager Ron Francis may not be able to retain both players for prices that make sense for a Hurricanes team that isn’t built to win now. While Staal and Ward can both be useful, neither is quite the player he was when Carolina won the Cup a decade ago. It’s conceivable, particularly in Staal’s case, that the lure of staying at home in the twilight of his career could result in a cheap negotiation with Carolina when he becomes a free agent this coming offseason. But if Francis doesn’t foresee such a scenario, both players could be traded and picked up by other clubs as short-term rentals for the playoff stretch this season.
So far there are no concrete rumours of specific transactions that may be in the work, but the same reports from Fansided did mention a few logical possibilities that will be worth keeping an eye on as the trade deadline approaches. In particular, a Calgary Flames team eyeing the playoffs but in desperate need of goaltending stability could certainly target Ward; and a Minnesota team close enough to contention to try something dramatic could look to acquire Staal as a way of getting over the hump.
Those are just a few of the potential scenarios that are out there. This writer’s guess is that Staal ultimately signs a new deal in Carolina, while Ward gets shipped out to a contender intrigued by his playoff experience. But we’ll all see how things play out in the coming month.
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