Will the Hurricanes keep pace with division foes before the NHL trade deadline?

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Chip Alexander
·4 min read
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The Tampa Bay Lightning traded for David Savard, a right-shot defenseman on Saturday.

The Florida Panthers traded for Brandon Montour, a right-shot defenseman, also on Saturday.

Next up, the Carolina Hurricanes?

With their Central Division competitors making moves ahead of Monday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline, the Canes could also be in the market for a defenseman who is a right-handed shooter. They may feel that need even though Carolina’s defensive corps is deep and envied by many in the league.

When the Canes made defenseman Haydn Fleury a healthy scratch Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, that further fueled speculation. Could Fleury be a part of a potential trade?

What about rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic? He was the Canes’ third goalie Saturday as Petr Mrazek started and James Reimer served as the backup against the Red Wings. Could he be available?

What are they looking for?

Canes president and general manager Don Waddell has mentioned a right-shot defenseman and an extra forward as deadline possibilities — if proposed deals make sense. He also has said he would not completely rule out moving one of the three goalies currently on the roster.

“We’re always thinking we can be better but I’m extremely happy with our group,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Thursday. “I think it would really have to be something special to tweak this lineup to make it better.”

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell faces reporters during a media availability Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Boston, in advance of Thursday’s Game1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell faces reporters during a media availability Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Boston, in advance of Thursday’s Game1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

At the same time, Brind’Amour noted Waddell was staying busy talking with other GMs and assessing what needs to be done.

“But I don’t know how much is actually going to get done or needs to,” Brind’Amour said.

The Canes came out of Saturday’s shootout loss to Detroit 27-9-4 overall and in first place in the Central. They’ve done that despite Mrazek missing more than 30 games after thumb surgery, and with versatile forward Teuvo Teravainen out, first with COVID-19 and then a concussion.

Winger Brock McGinn missed his third straight game Saturday with an upper-body injury. But Brind’Amour said he saw McGinn participating in an off-ice workout Saturday at PNC Arena, which he considered a good sign.

Brind’Amour recently said getting Mrazek and Tervainen back would be like obtaining two key players at the deadline. Mrazek is back, but Teravainen’s return is uncertain; he has not gone through practices or morning skates with the Canes.

Who are they looking at?

The Canes may have had discussions concerning defensemen Josh Manson of the Anaheim Ducks, who does have a year left in his contract, or Sean Walker of the Los Angeles Kings. Both are right-shot defenders with term left on their contracts and were mentioned as potential Canes targets by Frank Seravalli of TSN Sports and other national media.

A year ago, before the pandemic struck and stopped the NHL regular season in its tracks, Waddell and the Canes were very busy at the deadline. Defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce both had been lost for the season — Hamilton with a broken fibula and Pesce needing shoulder surgery — and the Canes needed replacements.

Waddell traded a first-round draft pick to the New York Rangers for defenseman Brady Skjei. He made a deal with New Jersey for defenseman Sami Vatanen, who was on injured reserve at the time. But he wasn’t through.

Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck, left, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck, left, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In a surprise move, Waddell traded for Florida center Vincent Trocheck, sending four players — forwards Eric Haula, Lucas Wallmark and Eetu Luostarinen, and defenseman Chase Priskie — to the Panthers. That was a stealth move that had not reached the rumor stage leading up to the deadline.

But this year? The “need” factor isn’t that pressing.

The Panthers needed defensive help after the loss of Aaron Ekblad, one of the NHL’s best, and got Montour from the Buffalo Sabres. The Lightning added to a strong defensive group by getting Savard in a three-team transaction that had the Columbus Blue Jackets trade him to Detroit, who sent him to Tampa Bay -- Columbus retaining 50 percent of Savard’s salary and Detroit another 25 percent.

Waddell might not have another Trocheck-type move in his pocket for a forward. What Brind’Amour wants more than anything at the trade deadline is to not “mess up.”

Do you blame him?