Luke DeCock

With plenty of picks, plenty of possibilities for Canes – DeCock

Ron Francis on Carolina Hurricanes draft outlook, player updates

Video: Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis talks about the team's philosophy going into the upcoming NHL draft and gives updates about Cam Ward and other players.
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Video: Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis talks about the team's philosophy going into the upcoming NHL draft and gives updates about Cam Ward and other players.

There is no more liquid currency in the NHL than draft picks, and the Carolina Hurricanes are swimming in them. With six of the first 75 picks, including two in the first round, they have the currency to make some big moves this weekend.

The Hurricanes already converted one of those – the second-round pick they obtained in the Eric Staal trade – along with a third-round pick next year to pluck Teuvo Teravainen from the Chicago Blackhawks. General manager Ron Francis still has plenty of options going into Friday night’s first round in Buffalo, N.Y.

One tantalizing possibility is a swap with the Edmonton Oilers for the No. 4 pick, since the Hurricanes have two first-rounders (No. 13 and 21) and the Oilers would happily move down out of the forward-heavy top part of the draft to add a couple much-needed defensemen later in the first round. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, would have their pick of forwards outside of those expected to go 1-2-3 (Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi).

That group includes power winger Matthew Tkachuk, son of Keith, and big center Pierre-Luc Dubois. There’s also Logan Brown, another big center but more likely to go in the 8-12 range, born in Raleigh while his father Jeff played for the Hurricanes. At 6-2, 202, Tkachuk seems like exactly the kind of player the Hurricanes need going forward.

According to a draft-pick-value chart compiled three years ago by analytics blogger Eric Tulsky, the 13th and 21st picks roughly equal the 4th pick.

According to a draft-pick-value chart compiled three years ago by analytics blogger Eric Tulsky, the 13th and 21st picks roughly equal the 4th pick – although presumably Tulsky has updated that chart for the Hurricanes’ eyes only since he joined their front office two years ago.

Or the Hurricanes could stay put and be confident of landing a couple forwards who won’t offer immediate help but will continue to redevelop that position. Brown could potentially fall to 13, but a USA Today mock draft that has the Hurricanes taking goal-scoring winger Kieffer Bellows, son of Brian, at 13 and gangly 6-foot-5 Minnesota high school winger Riley Tufte at 21 makes a lot of sense.

Beyond the first round, the Hurricanes still have four picks in the next two rounds and five picks in the first three rounds next year to broker other deals this summer, with more help still needed at forward and questions in goal even after the re-signing of Cam Ward to a reasonable two-year extension.

 

Going into another season with Ward and Eddie Lack as the tandem remains a big gamble. The Hurricanes didn’t see much they liked on the free-agent market before re-signing Ward but there may yet be a trade option or two out there to shake up the position. One of the big names is already off the market: Frederik Andersen, an original Hurricanes draft pick in 2010 who refused to sign with the team, was just traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Toronto Maple Leafs for first- and second-round picks and signed a new five-year, $25 million contract.

The question is whether there’s any market for Lack, who has two years left on his deal at $2.75 million per. The answer would normally be no but the Hurricanes can thank expansion for creating a market for him. Teams can only protect one goaltender in the expansion draft next year; Lack has value as a goalie to leave exposed.

He could fill that role for the Hurricanes in a pinch, but the Hurricanes could also safely expose the final year of Ward’s contract if there’s another goalie worth protecting on the roster. Which is a long way around to say, you might be able to move Lack when normally you wouldn’t.

That’s kind of the theme of the weekend for the Hurricanes: With all their draft picks they’re in a position to make moves they normally are not.

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

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