Rumors swirled this offseason surrounding the future of Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce. Both blue-liners were and still are entering the final year of their deals, making them possible trade pieces if the Carolina front office decided to move on.
Then, Don Waddell and the Hurricanes brass added three defensemen during free agency, creating a logjam on defense for the back-to-back Metropolitan Division champions.
That means all signs point to a trade, right? Not so fast.
NHL.com analyst Dan Rosen thinks Carolina is likely to roll into opening night with the duo of Pesce and Skjei both in the lineup.
“The Hurricanes can and they might [retain both] because depth at defenseman is an advantage for any team. They have eight with the additions of Dmitry Orlov, Tony DeAngelo and Caleb Jones to join Jaccob Slavin, Brent Burns, Jalen Chatfield, Pesce and Skjei,” said Rosen in his mailbag segment. “The latter two are in the last season of their respective contracts and can be unrestricted free agents, but so can DeAngelo, Jones and Chatfield, and the Hurricanes do not need to be in a rush to make any decisions on their futures.”
Pesce and Skjei were and still could be a great second defensive pairing for Carolina and Rosen believes it’s in the team’s best interest to keep them together.
“Pesce and Skjei are a solid defense pair. Trading one could hurt the other,” said Rosen. “It makes more sense for the Hurricanes, a win-now team, to keep them both and push decisions on them down the road to be dealt with later. The Hurricanes are not in any kind of cap crunch and can go with 23 players, including 13 forwards and eight defensemen.”
With a plethora of talent on the blue line that will likely see at least one of Tony DeAngelo, Jalen Chatfield, and Caleb Jones as a healthy scratch at times, there certainly could be an argument made that the Hurricanes could potentially replace the production and impact of Pesce or Skjei.
That may not be a true statement, but with the talent and numbers, it could be a thought process entering the regular season.
Including one in a trade package could help them strengthen an area of weakness, or, for a team that is among the Stanley Cup favorites, the area with the most question marks.
As we are less than one week out from opening night, it seems that a trade is less likely than it was in July or even August. Don Waddell and the Carolina front office could wait for other roster moves to shakeout to negotiate a deal, but I would not hold my breath.
Pesce and Skjei are a talented second defensive pairing and, as Dan mentioned, there is no telling what happens to one’s on-ice production if the other is shipped out.
The Hurricanes possess one of the best, if not the best, blue line in all of hockey and riding with both Pesce and Skjei into opening night seems to be imminent.