Hurricanes likely to be quiet at NHL trade deadline, and that’s fine

Thomas Dundon, left, with Canes' general manager Ron Francis as Dundon was introduced as the buyer and new majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes at a press conference at PNC Arena on Jan. 12, 2018. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
Thomas Dundon, left, with Canes' general manager Ron Francis as Dundon was introduced as the buyer and new majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes at a press conference at PNC Arena on Jan. 12, 2018. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
RALEIGH

It’s pretty clear at this point that big moves aren’t Ron Francis’ style. At this particular trade deadline, at this particular juncture for the Carolina Hurricanes, that’s actually the right approach for the general manager to take.

This team hasn’t proven itself competitive enough to be worth overpaying for a rental player by Monday’s trade deadline – if there’s even one out there that’s a fit and worth the price – and it doesn’t have any expiring contracts that figure to be worth much to actual contenders. So maybe flip impending free agents Derek Ryan or Lee Stempniak for a late draft pick if you can, if there’s any interest, but no move is likely to be the right move for the Hurricanes.

That’s going to be frustrating to fans who clamor for a goalscorer or a center. The Hurricanes definitely need help in those areas, but this isn’t likely to be the right time to make that move, barring a feat of unprecedented creativity from Francis. The deadline is a time for tweaks, for short-term moves, when demand far outpaces the supply of quality players. Big moves, long-term moves, are best saved for the offseason, when the salary cap isn’t a pressing issue for trade partners and teams are less concerned about tinkering with established chemistry and more concerned about shaking things up, especially teams unhappy with their postseason performance.

It’s the offseason inaction that makes the Hurricanes’ incremental progress in Year 4 under Francis so frustrating – the Hurricanes are four points ahead of where they were last year through 60 games – but the limited inventory and inflated prices at the trade deadline typically make this the wrong time for corrective action.

That’s certainly true of the Hurricanes, who are on the outside of the playoff race looking in and have fallen back quickly each time they have clawed their way into the wild-card picture. For a general manager looking at the bigger picture, as Francis has, that’s anything but a sure thing, hardly worth mortgaging even a tiny part of the future. There may be a point where Francis goes to new owner Thomas Dundon with a big proposal, but this isn’t likely to be it – and given the prices typically paid around the deadline, probably shouldn’t be it, although anything’s possible.

The Canes' head coach Bill Peters, left, and assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour, center, try to come up with a plan to score during a time out in the final minutes against the San Jose Sharks at PNC Arena on Feb. 4, 2018. The Sharks beat the Canes 3-1.
Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

The Hurricanes can still make the playoffs, even if their recent skid against division opponents has made it significantly tougher than it looked a week ago, with another division game coming up Friday night when the Hurricanes host the Pittsburgh Penguins at PNC Arena. But whatever its chances are, this group is most likely going to have to do it without reinforcements – same as when Hurricanes coach Bill Peters all but demanded call-ups from the AHL earlier this month and wasn’t given any.

Peters was clearly resigned to that reality Thursday, but didn’t seem unsatisfied with it, either.

With our group, the way it currently is, we can get in. If there’s some additions to it, then that’ll help. But if it’s the group that’s out there today at practice, that’ll be good, too.

Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters

“With our group, the way it currently is, we can get in,” Peters said. “If there’s some additions to it, then that’ll help. But if it’s the group that’s out there today at practice, that’ll be good, too.”

The deadline is always a nervous time for players and an exciting one for fans. Hurricanes fans in particular are desperate for any kind of movement, which is going to fill the run-up to Monday with anticipation even if they should be prepared for disappointment at 3 p.m. The time for bigger moves is coming, but it’s still a few months away, whether the Hurricanes make the playoffs this season or not.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock