There are still a few more players who the Carolina Hurricanes could move between now and Monday's NHL trade deadline, in minor deals. The heavy lifting is done. The two most marketable pieces are gone, for very different returns.
For Andrej Sekera, one of the top rental defensemen on the market, the Hurricanes were able to obtain a first-round pick and a solid defensive prospect. While there's a big asterisk next to that pick - if the Los Angeles Kings miss the playoffs, it slides to 2016, what they call "lottery protection" in the NBA - it's still a first-round pick.
Throw in defenseman Roland McKeown, a second-round pick by the Kings last June, who adds much-needed prospect depth in the Hurricanes' system, and it's not a bad haul for Sekera. McKeown, who plays for Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League, was the second pick in the 2012 OHL draft. Connor McDavid, the consensus top pick in this June's NHL draft, was the first.
Could Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis have gotten more by waiting until Monday? Possibly. He had arguably the top defensive addition available to contending teams, and there are several in desperate need. But he got what should have been the minimum return on Sekera, a first-round pick and a prospect. Mission accomplished.
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The same can't be said of Jiri Tlusty, who brought a paltry return from the Winnipeg Jets, a third-round pick in 2016 and a conditional fifth- or sixth-round pick in 2015. That's not much for a player who routinely scores 15-20 goals with no long-term commitment, but Tlusty also has three goals and seven assists in the past 30 games. That didn't exactly galvanize the parade of visiting scouts into writing effusive reports for their bosses back home.
Francis made the best deal he could, apparently afraid of being stuck with Tlusty at the deadline. Tlusty's failure to score didn't just hurt the Hurricanes competitively. It diminished his value as an asset as well. He's worth more than this in a vacuum, but not in February 2015.
Tlusty's tenure is a microcosm of the Hurricanes' downfall since 2009. They took Phillipe Paradis with their first-round pick in a supernova of terrible scouting and evaluation. Paradis lasted all of five months in the Hurricanes' organization before they traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tlusty. (Paradis lasted seven months with the Leafs; he's now with his fourth team and has yet to play an NHL game. )
Essentially, the Hurricanes started with the 27th pick in the draft and turned it into a third-rounder and a fifth- or sixth-rounder, with one 20-goal season from Tlusty along the way. That's how you miss the playoffs six years in a row and eight out of nine.
The Hurricanes may not be done - there could yet be interest in impending unrestricted free agents Jay McClement, Patrick Dwyer, Tim Gleason and Brett Bellemore - but any major deal involving a player under contract next season or beyond is unlikely at this point.
They are who they are, and without Sekera in particular, they aren't nearly as good as they were Wednesday morning. This is, by the perverted logic of the NHL draft, a good thing.
Going into Wednesday night's games, the Carolina Hurricanes sat 27th in the NHL, four points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes, five ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. (The Buffalo Sabres are firmly entrenched in 30th.) The farther the Hurricanes drop, the better their odds of landing either McDavid or Jack Eichel, franchise-changing centers that make the top of this year's draft the most pivotal in years.
So pivotal, the Kings insisted on protecting that first-round pick, just in case they miss the playoffs and end up in the lottery. The Hurricanes may or may not have Los Angeles' pick this year, but without Sekera and Tlusty, they might have a pretty good one of their own.