RALEIGH — What has been rumored for years finally became reality Tuesday: Defenseman Justin Faulk, the longest-tenured Hurricanes player, was traded to the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. Carolina gets back another defenseman, Joel Edmundson, and 2018 first round pick Dominik Bokk. The Hurricanes also sent a 2020 fifth round pick to the Blues and received a 2021 seventh round pick.
The trade is another change on arguably the best defense in the NHL. The Hurricanes traded Calvin de Haan during the offseason, but then Carolina added Toronto free agent Jake Gardiner shortly before the start of training camp.
The four-year deal given to Gardiner — who, like Faulk, is used to manning the point on a top power play unit — was the writing on the wall for the 27-year-old Faulk, who is in the final year of the six-year, $29 million contract he signed during the 2013-14 season. Extension talks between the Hurricanes and Faulk’s representation during the offseason had the two sides far apart.
“It’s never easy when you’re moving pieces out. It’s not easy,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said in a teleconference of trading Faulk. “But, again, we felt the return was going to help our hockey club not only today but certainly down the road.”
Faulk nixed a deal to Anaheim earlier in training camp, enacting his modified no-trade clause after he and the Ducks could not come to terms on a contract extension.
The writing in Faulk’s contract with Carolina allowed him a 15-team trade list, and Anaheim was one of the teams that needed Faulk’s approval to facilitate a trade. St. Louis was not on that list, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, but the Blues wanted to hammer out an extension to execute the deal. Faulk agreed to a seven-year extension with the Blues worth $45.5 million that will kick in next season.
“We are excited to add Justin to our core group for the next eight years,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. “He’s a Top-4 defenseman who averages over 23 minutes a game and we are confident he will be a strong addition to our club.”
In return for Faulk, the Hurricanes get Edmundson, a stay-at-home defender who had two goals and nine assists in 64 regular season games with the Blues last season. He then had seven points in 22 playoff games, helping St. Louis win its first Stanley Cup.
The addition of Edmundson, 26, fills a void left by de Haan, who averaged 18:31 a night and played 1:59 a night on the penalty kill last season. Edmundson averaged 2:05 of shorthanded time per game last season for the Blues and logged 19:23 overall — fourth among St. Louis defensemen. The Brandon, Manitoba, native was a second round pick of the Blues in 2011 and played four seasons in St. Louis.
“Joel is a big, physical presence on defense, who knows what it takes to win a championship,” Waddell said in the press release announcing the deal.
The trade frees up some cap space for Carolina, who shipped out Faulk’s $4.83 million hit for Edmundson’s $3.1 million. Carolina retained $840,000 of Faulk’s salary for the season, according to CapFriendly.com, meaning Carolina saves about $860,000. Edmundson, a left-handed D, should slot on the Hurricanes’ third pairing.
As part of the trade, the Hurricanes also received Bokk, the 25th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The German winger had eight goals and 23 points in 47 games with Vaxcjo HC in 2018-19, his first full season in the Swedish Hockey League. That ranked sixth on the team and third among under-20 players in the SHL.
The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Bokk the 50th-best prospect in the NHL earlier this month, calling the 6-foot-2, 181-pound right-handed shot “full of skill.” Pronman did question Bokk’s consistency and effort, but called him “an excellent passer who makes flashy passes routinely.” North State Journal’s 2018 NHL Draft Composite Rankings had Bokk as the No. 32 player in last year’s draft. International Scouting Services ranked Bokk 28th in the draft, saying he “has the natural tools to lead his team in all offensive aspects.”
While Carolina will miss the 85 goals Faulk scored in his eight seasons in Raleigh — he’s the top-scoring defenseman in team history — his departure also leaves a leadership void. Two of the players who wore letters for Carolina last season, captain Justin Williams and Faulk, are now not on the roster. That leaves Jordan Staal, who wore an “A” with Faulk last season after sharing the captaincy with him in 2017-18, as the lone returning captain.
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin has been a fill-in alternate captain at times, and center Sebastian Aho is one of the favorites to replace Williams if coach Rod Brind’Amour decides to name a new captain ahead of the season.