Eddie Lack and Ryan Murphy were two very different kinds of mistakes, equally well-intentioned, neither of much eventual use to the Carolina Hurricanes, who washed their hands of both Thursday night.
Lack was supposed to push, if not supplant, Cam Ward in net. Over the past two seasons, he never could do either. His one good run in a Carolina uniform came this spring, with the team long ago effectively eliminated from playoff contention and confidence in Lack long ago lost. This moment was inevitable even before the Hurricanes traded for Scott Darling. The defining moment of Lack’s Carolina tenure was either his “Lacko Taco” television commercial or Bill Peters’ “Make a (bleeping) save” rant. Either way, memorable.
To get Lack off the books, general manager Ron Francis had to retain half of Lack’s salary, about $1.4 million, the price Francis must pay for his miscalculation with Lack – not so much acquiring him, which made perfect sense at the time, but giving him a two-year extension before he played a game for the Hurricanes. Still, that was cheaper than buying him out or burying him in Charlotte, the only other options with Darling the new starter and Ward transitioning into the backup role.
Francis bears little responsibility for Murphy, though. He’s one of the last messes Jim Rutherford left behind that hadn’t been cleaned up yet. The 2011 draft wasn’t a great one, but there were better players available at No. 12, and the last thing the Hurricanes needed at the time (or need now) was an undersized defenseman. (Second-guessing drafts from six years down the road is a fool’s game, but no one would have blinked had the Hurricanes taken one of the forwards still available; J.T. Miller went three picks later.)
Concussion issues certainly played a role in Murphy’s failure to develop, but the offensive skill he showed in junior hockey was rarely on display in the NHL. He was given all the chances in the world, and a steady line of young defensemen still moved right past him and into the lineup. Maybe a fresh start will help him in Calgary, but it’s hard to see him fitting very high in that defensive depth chart, either. Either way, there’s no doubt that there was no room on the blue line for Murphy here.
So the Hurricanes clear half of Lack’s contract and all of Murphy’s $787,500 (and one-way) contract off the books and turn a seventh-round pick into a sixth-round pick into the process, also adding a 6-7 defenseman who played mostly in the ECHL last year – part lottery ticket, part taking a contract off Calgary’s books to balance the deal.
That’s the business of hockey. You pay for your mistakes, the ones you make and the ones you inherit. It happens all the time. It’s rare two of them get bundled into one deal.
The Hurricanes actually got better, albeit at a cost. They lost two players who couldn’t help them and gained financial flexibility, although not as much as they would have if someone had been willing to take all of Lack’s contract. The free-agency window opens Saturday. Onward.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock