The Carolina Hurricanes low-key have one of the best defence groups in the league. Led by Justin Faulk and a bevy of young, cheap, and competent NHL defencemen, the Hurricanes put up strong possession and expected goal figures last season.
Of course, what the Hurricanes lack is a high level scoring talent. To be sure, they have some offensively gifted players. Sebastian Aho is awesome, and Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, and Jordan Staal all have real offensive chops. Aside from those players, however, it can be quite grim.
With the acquisition of Scott Darling seemingly shoring up their goaltending situation (their other big problem in recent years), it’s logical to assume that acquiring forward talent is the next step for Carolina. GM Ron Francis foreshadowed an active offseason last month, though he seemed to indicate that he’d be willing to spend from the Hurricanes’ impressive store of picks and prospects.
That hasn’t stopped fans from thinking that their NHL defencemen were up for grabs. This idea was bolstered when they sent a 2nd round pick to Las Vegas for Trevor van Riemsdyk, and a 7th round pick (both in 2017). They now have 7 capable NHL defensemen, with prospects like Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury presumably waiting in the wings (both former first round picks).
The guy most people turn their attention to is Faulk, who is a skilled, right-handed, offensive defenseman who puts up points like they’re going out of style. He’s very good, and would be a coup for any team. Stylistically, he fits with the Leafs well - a Rielly-Faulk pairing might break records for how high-paced it would be, in both directions.
Noah Hanifin has also caught some eyes. The 5th overall pick in 2015, the fact that he is in the NHL at such a young age is promising. His results have lagged behind some of the other young Hurricanes defencemen, but he remains an intriguing player to acquire. Notably, Mike Babcock reportedly wanted to draft him over Mitch Marner. And if Carolina is going to give up a young, NHL caliber defenceman, Hanifin looks more likely to go than Brett Pesce or Jaccob Slavin (that’s 20th in Norris voting, Jaccob Slavin to you).
That said, we shouldn’t get carried away in eyeing up that roster. According to Pierre LeBrun, Francis’ quote from last month still holds, and the Hurricanes aren’t planning on moving their NHL defencemen for forward help.
They like their D-corps and would prefer to keep it intact. But again, I suppose will depend on offers...— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 22, 2017
He sticks some qualifiers on the end to cover his ass, but there you go. If you’re targeting Carolina defencemen, you may have to look down to the AHL or CHL level to find one they’re willing to give up.
It should also be noted here that Carolina has noted genius Eric Tulsky on board, to whom they recently gave a promotion. They seem to be on the analytics train, and they have arguably the brightest star in hockey analytics on their side. It’s not likely that they get fleeced in a deal.
So with that in mind, we should cut out the ‘JVR for Faulk’ trade proposals on Twitter. Looks like the Leafs will have to find their NHL-ready defence reinforcements elsewhere.