Buyer or seller?
Or will the Carolina Hurricanes stand pat, not making any major moves?
The NHL trade deadline is a week from Monday and decisions need to be made. The Canes are winless in their past three games after a 3-2 overtime loss Sunday against the New Jersey Devils and have a 4-4-2 February record despite a heavy dose of home games.
Through Sunday, the New York Islanders and Canes were in a dead-heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, both having played 60 games and both with 64 points. The Islanders held the second-wild card playoff spot because of more regulation and overtime wins.
The rub is that the Canes (27-23-10) don’t play again until Friday, when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins, and have two games remaining before the Feb. 26 deadline.The playoff cutline number may be higher by Friday, something else to consider.
General manager Ron Francis recently said the Canes’ eight-game homestand and their record in February would dictate which direction they’re headed at the deadline. The Canes were 5-2-1 on the homestand, but have since lost twice to the New Jersey Devils in four days and were shut out by the New York Islanders in Metropolitan Division games.
“I think management and ownership have an idea what they’re going to do already, I would think, right?” Canes coach Bill Peters said Sunday.
Peters gave no indication which way the Canes might be leaning but added, “I would think they have a plan and have talked lots about what their strategy is going into the trade deadline.”
For the Canes, the X-factor is new owner Tom Dundon. He wants to win. The Dallas billionaire has the money to add players, if the right deals are there, and the Canes have the salary-cap space.
The Hurricanes have not been a part of the playoffs since 2009. That’s one streak Dundon wants over and done with quickly.
If anything, Peters in his postgame press conference appeared to make an appeal for more scoring help.
“We’re right there in every game but we’ve got to score,” he said. “It seems like nights we do score we get lots and the nights we’re not we’re scrambling to score.”
Other than their seven-goal aberration against the Los Angeles Kings last week in a 7-3 win, the Canes have scored two or fewer goals in 10 of the past 14 games (6-6-2). Nearly every goalie they’ve faced -- other than the Kings’ Jonathan Quick -- seems to be a “hot” goalie that particular night and Keith Kincaid was that goalie Sunday for the Devils with 40 saves.
Looking down the Canes’ roster, forwards Jordan Staal and Derek Ryan each have not scored in 11 games and Victor Rask in 10. Elias Lindholm has one goal in the past 14 games.
Teuvo Teravainen’s goal Sunday was his first in 11 games and came when he tried to pass to Sebastian Aho and had the puck redirected by a New Jersey defenseman in front of Kinkaid.
The fourth line production has been all but nil this season. Forwards Joakim Nordstrom has two goals in 59 games and Phil Di Giuseppe one in 27 games.
“It’s tigher hockey,” Staal said of the stretch run. “It makes it harder to score. Maybe it’s getting a little more frustrating for some guys including myself. I know I haven’t scored in a while. So it can build.”
Peters was asked Sunday if his team has enough offensive finishers.
“You’ve asked me that a few times,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to score, for sure.”
Jeff Skinner, after two goals in a 15-game span, has scored five in the past five games and could be on one of his tears. It was Skinner’s goal with 1:18 left in regulation Sunday that tied the score 2-2 against New Jersey — Skinner’s 20th of the season and 200th of his career.
A year ago, Skinner had 20 goals after the Canes’ first 60 games and finished with 37, sixth-best in the league. The Canes badly need something like that from the streaky winger again this season.
“There are still 22 games to be played,” Skinner said Sunday, glancing at the Eastern Conference standings posted in the locker room. “There still a lot of hockey to be played. We’ve got to keep working and clean up some of the things you want to correct and keep the positive things in our game.”
And see what happens at the trade deadline.