Luke DeCock

Hurricanes still focused on future instead of present – DeCock

Martin Necas poses for photos after being selected 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center in Chicago.
Martin Necas poses for photos after being selected 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center in Chicago. Getty Images

Martin Necas may turn out to be a great player a few years down the road, so this isn’t a reflection on him, but it still will be frustrating to fans – and coach Bill Peters – to see the Carolina Hurricanes use their first-round pick instead of finding a way to trade it for immediate help.

Maybe Ron Francis, always taking the long view, just couldn’t bring himself to part with the 12th overall pick (albeit in what some scouts say is the weakest draft in more than 15 years) and has more moves up his sleeve before the draft is finished Saturday. But the Hurricanes didn’t get an inch closer to making the playoffs Friday night and still have a lot of work to do to get there – and no longer have that first-round pick to dangle.

There aren’t many players in any draft outside of the top few picks who appear ready to make the jump to the NHL, and this draft probably has even fewer. Necas certainly isn’t one of them. He has a lot of positive attributes, but strength isn’t one of them, not yet. What he needs, more than anything else, is time.

Unfortunately, the Hurricanes continue to ask their fans, in their owner’s infamous words, to be “even more patient.” To end the playoff drought that now stands at eight years, to close the gap on the rest of the Metropolitan Division, they still need at least one and probably two more top-six forwards. No matter how much the exciting young defense continues to improve and no matter how much of an upgrade Scott Darling offers in net, going into next season with the same group of forwards leaves no margin for error. Peters made that abundantly clear after the season.

Having given up a third-round pick for Darling and a second-round pick for defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, Francis still has four of the next 42 picks Saturday.

At this point, it’s less about getting fair value for those picks in a trade than it is getting any immediate value at all for them.

With Necas on board and a system that’s increasingly well stocked with prospects, the Hurricanes don’t need seven more players out of a weak draft. They need more NHL players, and they need them now. Draft weekend seems like the most likely time for that to happen, since in three-plus years as GM, Francis has made a single player-for-player, straight-up hockey deal: Anton Khudobin for James Wisniewski. (Who can forget that blockbuster?)

Players are moving. Derek Stepan. Jonathan Drouin. Artemi Panarin. Brandon Saad. Even if the Hurricanes didn’t like those players or the prices, there are deals to be made.

Having gotten only one player – van Riemsdyk – out of an expansion process that Francis went into “open for business,” in large part because Vegas general manager George McPhee put a mafioso lockdown on the trade market, the Hurricanes can’t afford to get shut out at the draft as well.

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

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