Bill Peters acknowledged the obvious.
There is a very good chance that come Monday night in Chicago, the Carolina Hurricanes will not resemble the group constructed by general manager Ron Francis at the start of the season.
“I know all our guys – obviously upcoming free agents – are in play,” Peters said before the Hurricanes’ 5-3 win over the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. “(Francis) stayed behind (in Raleigh) to deal with those types of situations, and be prepared if something was to happen.”
Peters’ words came a few hours after he and his team learned Tim Gleason had been traded to Washington for Jack Hillen and a fourth-round pick.
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Dating back to the Dec. 18 trade of Jay Harrison to Winnipeg, Francis has acquired three picks – and potentially a fourth – in June’s draft, a 2016 third-round draft pick and prospect defenseman Roland McKeown. The first-round pick Los Angeles sent as part of the Andrej Sekera deal is essentially lottery protected; if the Kings qualify for the playoffs, it will be a 2015 first rounder. If the Kings miss out, the Hurricanes receive Los Angeles’ 2016 first round pick. Entering play Saturday, the Kings were the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Should Los Angeles qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Hurricanes would have 11 picks in June’s Draft.
With the NHL trade deadline set for March 2, there is a possibility that Francis could make another trade centered around Jay McClement, who scored twice against the Islanders. Justin Faulk, Brad Malone and Michal Jordan also scored. Twelve Hurricanes finished with at least one point, led by McClement, Malone and Andrej Nestrasil, all of whom had two-point games.
Against an opponent who thrives on setting the tempo, the Hurricanes were the aggressors as they used their forecheck to establish a territorial advantage. The Hurricanes attempted more shots than the Islanders (70-46), had more unblocked shot attempts (47-33) and more shots on goal (41-24).
“We (had) to skate against them. Get in their way, slow them down. We did a better job of that tonight, and the biggest difference was our specialty teams,” McClement said. The Hurricanes were 2 for 5 on the power play, and killed New York’s only man advantage.
“We were controlling play for the most part, didn’t give them a whole lot.”
For all intents and purposes, the game was decided in a second period in which Islanders starter Chad Johnson (36 saves) allowed four goals. Faulk’s power-play goal broke a 1-1 deadlock, and McClement’s second of the game was the winner. Malone and Jordan added goals 2 minutes, 6 seconds apart to add to the lead.
Cam Ward was the beneficiary. Ward stopped 21 of 24 shots, allowing goals to Michael Grabner, Nikolay Kulemin and John Tavares.
“We threw a lot of rubber at their net and by doing that created a lot of opportunities. I thought our game was solid throughout. We played big and heavy, didn’t give them a lot of time and space,” Ward said. “You have to be careful with your gaps because they have a lot of speed and that was our strength. We didn’t give them any time and space to get their feet going.”
Peters essentially kept the same lineup as the one that shut out Washington, 3-0, on Friday night at PNC Arena. The only changes were pairing Hillen with Jordan and Chris Terry replacing Patrick Dwyer on McClement’s line.
“We didn’t talk a whole lot. We just played,” Hillen said of his on-ice communication with Jordan. He noted he was told about the trade by Washington GM Brian MacLellan and head coach Barry Trotz at the Capitals’ practice. Hillen traveled from Washington to New York and, by his estimation, arrived an hour before the game.
The game marked the last time the Eastern Conference rivals would compete against each other at the old barn in New York’s Nassau County, as the Islanders will move into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center beginning next season. The Hurricanes finished with a 33-23-7-1 record in 64 all-time games at Nassau Coliseum.