The main reason that I think it is time to establish that the Canes are “sellers” this year is for the long-term benefit of the team. Now I am not suggesting that the Canes intentionally tank, more that this isn’t the season to make short-term acquisitions to fix long-term problems (IE the bandaid approach). The Canes and GMRF approach has been one to create sustained success, not occasional.
The Canes have a decent amount of prospects in the AHL who are rumored to be in the conversation for making the Canes roster next season. To help the Canes hone in on where exactly they want to improve in the draft/trades/FA market this summer, I think it is imperative to get a benchmark on those guys. Given that the Canes aren’t out of the mix, it gives the young guys great experience to play games that still “mean” something.
The biggest area that I think that needs to be evaluated is the Canes D. I think it is time that the Canes give Fleury/McKeown a chance to show their development and “NHL” readiness. Looking at next season, the Canes will definitely have Slavin, Pesce, Hanifin and Faulk on the roster. This means that the 5th and 6th spot are open for the taking. The decision to bring back “depth” D or sign/trade for better ones is a major concern, especially for a team with average (at best) goaltending.
No one wants to go into training camp just hoping that Fleury/McKeown can cut the mustard. I think it is a lot to ask to expect Bean to be NHL ready next season too. The pressure/defensive liability is compounded even more if his partner is another unproven and developing D as well. By moving a veteran like Hainsey, the Canes can at least get a feel on the progress and status for both those D.
Finding out that they aren’t ready at training camp isn’t good for the future of the team. This means that then you have to pick from the remaining scraps from the FA market, make a desperate trade or hope you get someone off of waivers. If the Canes have another 3rd D pairing that is consistently a liability like this season, it will be another long year of groaning at blown leads and missed opportunities.
It reminds me a lot of the Capitals in the two seasons leading up to them bringing in Orpik and Niskanen—they too had a promising blueline and a littany of talented, unproven D prospects and dealt with a revolving door on the 5th and 6th D spot. Those that don’t remember this was one of the years that the Caps missed the playoffs and Holtby looked like “swiss cheese.”
The second reason I say it is time to move Hainsey is because he is increasingly looking less and less engaged (except for against NYI). It is almost like he knows his time with the Canes is coming to an end and he is just collecting a paycheck. As of late, he has been making poor defensive decisions that have cost the Canes some winnable games. Finally, when looking at the game against the Caps on Tuesday, he was more of a liability and his effort was sub-par.
He is a great 6th D for a team that is looking for a playoff run who is also tight on cap. His hit is $2.5M, so just over $1M at this point in the season. If the Canes were to move him, then they are able to give Hanifin more minutes and pair him with Faulk. I think it would be beneficial to see how Hanifin looks with a reliable partner, especially if he is expected to play Top 4 minutes next season.
So yes, I do think it is time the Canes sell. No, I don’t think they should tell the guys to tank. The future is bright and investing in developing them with some NHL experience this year could go a long way to preparing the Canes for a “serious” string of playoffs runs starting with next year.
Tomorrow I will be looking at why Stempniak will break current three season long streak of being dealt at the deadline.