It will be awkward if it happens, but there’s every reason to believe both Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk will still be members of the Carolina Hurricanes when players report to training camp on September 13.
And it will be very awkward if that’s how it turns out.
Both have spent most or all of the entire summer on the trading block in varying degrees of public fashion, Skinner because of his contract, which will expire after the season with no indication he’ll re-sign with the Hurricanes; Faulk because of his expendability after the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton; both because their combined 15 NHL seasons without a single playoff appearance makes them prime targets amid the need for a shake-up in the dressing room.
Throw in the fact that Faulk was a co-captain last season, even if Jordan Staal bore almost all of that weight, but may not wear any letter at all in the first year of the Rod Brind’Amour regime, and he remains a prime candidate for a change of scenery in the wake of what could be a very visible demotion.
The Hurricanes’ asking price for both has been high, as it should be for two players with their ability at their age, and Skinner’s no-trade clause has thrown a complicating wrench into the works. So after months of open discussion about trading both players, they may not end up trading either of them after all.
“That will be one of the first things I talk about with both of them when they get back into town,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s something that most guys are going to deal with during their careers. But it’s not a big deal and I’m not going to make a big deal of it.”
The Hurricanes really only spoke publicly about trading Skinner – the talk about Faulk was primarily obvious speculation driven by the Hamilton trade – but they talked about trading Skinner a lot, right from the end of the season.
In recent weeks, Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon and general manager Don Waddell have dialed back their public rhetoric about Skinner, paving the way for his potential return to the roster even as discussions with other teams bubble along quietly in the background.
“We’re still talking about it, but we have no issues with Jeff,” Waddell said. “We’d be happy to have him back.”
In the absence of any looming deadlines to act as a catalyst, an injury or unexpected departure in training camp elsewhere could push a potential trading partner to meet the Hurricanes’ demands, but it’s also possible – even probable, at this point – both are wearing Hurricanes uniforms against the New York Islanders on October 4.
There’s no imperative to trade Faulk, even if his minutes and role on the right side stand to be greatly reduced playing behind Hamilton and Brett Pesce, since he still has two seasons to run on his contract and the Hurricanes have no pressing salary cap issues to address. The Skinner situation is more acute because of his contract and the need to get something back for him before it expires.
If Skinner starts the season with the Hurricanes, that would essentially defer any speculation to the trade deadline, when he would fetch less as a rental than he would now – or perhaps, by then, it would become worth it for a contending Hurricanes team to hold onto Skinner for a potential playoff run even if it meant losing him for nothing after the season.
Such a scenario seemed utterly improbable in May, when Skinner was as available and in demand as any player in the NHL, or in June when the Hurricanes’ big trade made Faulk expendable. After a lot of summer talk and little action, it looks increasingly likely that both will be back where they started in the fall, awkward as that may be.