For the Carolina Hurricanes and general manager Ron Francis, the NHL’s trade-deadline day turned out to be a very slow day.
While several NHL teams scrambled to make deals Monday before the 3 p.m. deadline, the Hurricanes had their business done. Francis had traded forward Jiri Tlusty and defensemen Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason, and signed center Jay McClement on Sunday to a two-year contract extension.
All four players would’ve become unrestricted free agents after the season, free to sign with any NHL team, and Francis said he was pleased with what he was able to accomplish.
“We knew what we were looking for, and at the end of the day we’re comfortable with what we got done,” Francis said.
The Sekera deal with the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday was significant. The Canes received a conditional first-round draft pick and defensive prospect Roland McKeown from the Kings, the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Should the Kings reach the playoffs this season, the Canes would have their first-round selection in the 2015 NHL draft and their own – in a year in which the pool of prospects is deep and rich with talent. Carolina also obtained 2015 draft picks from sending Tlusty to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday and Gleason to the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Francis noted the Canes could have 11 picks at the June draft, saying, “We have a lot more options on whether to use the picks, or move some for players, or package some to move up in the draft. There are a lot of scenarios and more options than we had 10 days ago.”
There’s also the chance, if slight, the Canes could win the draft lottery. Should that happen, he said, “That changes our perspective moving forward.”
Forwards Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and defenseman Noah Hanifin are seen as immediate impact players in the draft, and McDavid has been compared to Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canes (24-30-7) were 26th in the NHL before their game Monday at Chicago. Carolina and Toronto each has 55 points, but the Canes have two games in hand.
Francis said trading Sekera and Gleason allows management and the coaching staff to get a better look at some younger defensive players at the NHL level. The Canes on Monday recalled defenseman Rasmus Rissanen from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
It was the first NHL callup for Rissanen, 23, a sixth-round draft pick in 2009.
Although Francis said the Canes have some promising defensive prospects – Haydn Fleury was Carolina’s first-round pick in 2014 – he said the defensive corps would be addressed in the offseason. He said other tough decisions might have to be made, noting some players will be going into the final year of their contracts in the 2015-16 season. Among them: captain Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward.
But Francis indicated the Canes might not make major personnel changes in the offseason. He mentioned their 14-7-3 record since Jan. 1, and said he likes the structure first-year coach Bill Peters has brought to the team and a better “compete level” from game to game.
The Canes lead the NHL in penalty killing, and one reason McClement was re-signed was his effectiveness in killing penalties.
“The league’s very close, and if you make the right tweaks you’re a lot closer to accomplishing what you want to accomplish,” Francis said.
Francis, a Hockey Hall of Famer for his playing career, is a first-year general manager and this was his first trade deadline as the boss.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous,” he said. “It’s different when you’re calling the shots. You just prepare the best you can.”
Canes at the deadline
The Canes made four moves in the days leading up to Monday’s NHL trade deadline:
▪ Traded defenseman Andrej Sekera, a pending unrestricted free agent, to the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional first-round pick and defensive prospect Roland McKeown. The Canes will have the Kings’ first-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft if L.A. reaches the playoffs. If the Kings fail to qualify for the postseason, the Canes will have their first-round pick in 2016.
▪ Traded forward Jiri Tlusty, a pending UFA, to the Winnipeg Jets for either a 2015 fifth- or sixth-round pick (based on whether the Jets reach the playoffs) and Winnipeg’s third-round pick in 2016.
▪ Traded defenseman Tim Gleason, a pending UFA, to the Washington Capitals for defenseman Jack Hillen and a 2015 fourth-round pick. Hillen also is due to be a UFA.
▪ Signed center Jay McClement, a pending UFA, to a two-year, $2.4 million contract extension.