Luke DeCock

Clock ticking on Hurricanes’ pre-draft maneuvers – DeCock

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis traded a fifth-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights to protect his NHL roster in the expansion draft, but still has nine picks left in Friday and Saturday’s draft.
Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis traded a fifth-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights to protect his NHL roster in the expansion draft, but still has nine picks left in Friday and Saturday’s draft. cseward@newsobserver.com

The Carolina Hurricanes made a trade and gave up a draft pick to ensure the right player was plucked off their roster in Wednesday night's expansion draft. It just wasn't the one everyone was expecting, which means Ron Francis still has some work to do.

Francis gave up a fifth-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights to protect Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom and the rest of the exposed roster, losing 25-year-old minor-leaguer Connor Brickley instead. With an excess of draft picks this year, a fifth-rounder was a small price to pay to lose the right player.

What it wasn't was the still-needed move to clear up the logjam at goalie, where Scott Darling is the new No. 1 and either Cam Ward or Eddie Lack needs to depart. Ward is certainly a better fit in the backup role, and the expansion draft seemed like the best opportunity to give up an asset – one of the Hurricanes' three second-round picks? – to dump Lack’s contract. Vegas could have taken as many as six goalies, so it wasn't like the Golden Knights would have had to use him. Or Ward. Either way.

At any rate, that's a problem that still needs to be solved. As does the need for a top-line center, scoring winger and third-pairing defensive help. Francis and Bill Peters were certain the expansion process would pry someone loose, and Francis was, in his own words, “open for business.” The NHL has asked teams to refrain from finalizing trades until after the expansion draft, so more moves may trickle out Thursday and Friday ahead of the first round of the draft. At the moment, the clock is ticking. The Hurricanes need to keep a few of their draft picks to keep the flow of talent moving into the system, but certainly not all of them.

One rumor Wednesday night, as relayed by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, had Vegas flipping defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, their pick from Chicago, to the Hurricanes when the freeze ends on Thursday -- either as defensive help or laying the groundwork for a bigger deal for a forward.

So far, the Hurricanes have turned one of their surplus of draft picks into Darling and another into expansion-draft protection. They still have six of the top 73 picks and nine overall. There's a couple days left to convert a few more of those picks into the immediate help the Hurricanes so desperately need.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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