Hainsey trade signals Hurricanes plan to be sellers at the deadline

Carolina staring at eighth-straight season without a playoff appearance

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg falls as he fights for the puck under pressure from Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey (65) and center Elias Lindholm (16) on Jan. 10.

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes’ trade of veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey to Pittsburgh on Thursday essentially threw up the white flag on the 2016-17 season.Hainsey, Carolina’s most desirable pending free agent, landed the Hurricanes a second-round pick in this summer’s draft and AHL forward Danny Kristo. It also left a gaping hole on the blue line, where the 35-year-old has been a top-four mainstay and key penalty killer.”It opens up an opportunity for youngers guys, right?” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said of Hainsey’s departure. “So now we’ll shuffle it around a little bit. Guys’ll get an opportunity on the kill that haven’t been on the kill and they’ll get increased minutes in that situation. If they were playing on the penalty kill, now their minutes are going to go up and their matchups are going to change on the back end.”For now, that means second-year player Noah Hanifin will slide into the top-four alongside Brett Pesce, and Ryan Murphy — a first-round pick in 2011 who hasn’t been able to carve out spot in the lineup — will get yet another look on defense.The team will again try to team up Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk — who partnered with Hainsey for much of the past two seasons — as the top pair, a plan Peters had prior to this season that never came to fruition.”We’ve been in this situation a few too many times,” Faulk said of Carolina being sellers at the trade deadline. “It’s tough losing guys. It’s never fun. When you’re losing guys it tells you where you are in the standings.”The most likely names to move out are the Hurricanes in the final year of their contract — Jay McClement, Derek Ryan, Viktor Stalberg and Matt Tennyson — and all could find their name floated in trade rumors leading to the March 1 trade deadline.”I’d say it’s a little farther forward then the back of my mind,” McClement said of the possibility of being traded. “It’s just the situation that we’re in and the situation that I’m in in my career. It’s all part of it. I’ve been through it before, and it’s sort of out of my control. So I’ll just wait and see what happens.”McClement, who was a second-round pick of the Blues in 2001, was part of the deadline deal that saw St. Louis and Colorado swap defensemen Erik Johnson and Kevin Shattenkirk in February 2011.McClement said there had been no talks between him and the Hurricanes about a new contract — he signed a two-year extension on deadline day in 2015 to keep him in Carolina — which indicates the team is ready to move in a new direction.”It’s always a tough time of the year and it’s disappointing when you’re the team that’s shipping guys out,” McClement said.Carolina is one of the few teams that has now seemingly committed to being sellers, a byproduct of the NHL’s point system and the parity it brings to the league.”It’s kind of a unique market in the sense that there’s a lot of teams that feel they’re still in it,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said. “They’re not sure they’re in it, but they think they’re in it. Should they buy? Should they sell? So it will be interesting how it plays out over the next few days.”The market could be limited for both Ryan and Tennyson, two players who have not established themselves as full-time NHLers. But Stalberg’s experience — he’s played in 43 playoff games in five playoff campaigns, including winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013 — should make him a target for a team looking to add size, speed and penalty killing into their bottom six.Anaheim could use more depth at the bottom of its forward ranks, and the Blackhawks could also look to a familiar face like Stalberg to add experience and help their poor penalty kill.Francis already has 10 picks — including a first, three seconds and two thirds in the first three rounds — to work with in the 2017 draft, and he said Carolina would look to parlay those picks and any more that come at the deadline into improving the team for next season, perhaps via trade.”That’s something that we’ll continue to look at as we move forward, both expansion draft and heading into the actual draft,” Francis said.With the Hurricanes already looking ahead to the fall in February for the eighth straight season, there’s plenty of work to be done between now and then.