The Carolina Hurricanes are in a difficult position. The club is in the playoff hunt but is stuck in the middle of several teams vying for a limited number of spots.
General manager Jim Rutherford has publicly addressed his desire to upgrade his roster through trade, but has been met with obstacles that complicate the process. With several teams squeezed by the salary cap, most deals require an equal exchange of money to make the trades work for both sides. This is slowing things down, Rutherford says.
So, the result is a club looking to improve with no way to do so. With several rental options available on the market, it seems unlikely that a fringe playoff team would expend assets, only to lose the rental come July. This means the Hurricanes — despite their desires to make moves — might be inactive in the days leading up to the deadline.
Forward help wouldn't hurt
The Hurricanes are at the bottom of the league in most offensive categories and are one of the league's lowest scoring teams. While the team's four highest paid forwards — Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Eric and Jordan Staal — all rank in the top-five in team scoring, Eric Staal and Skinner are the only two players remotely close to producing at point-per-game clips.
Carolina could certainly use added firepower, but the massive contracts of those four players makes the financials difficult. It becomes a question of whether the Hurricanes are willing to levy future assets for rental players that might walk.
In a perfect world
The Hurricanes would probably like to upgrade their defense, because they've been trying to do so for a while. The only problem is several teams are looking for defense, and the teams that have it want to keep it. NHL-ready defensemen are difficult to come by, which is why it's such a common demand.
Carolina has made several moves over the last several months to help sure up their defense, which includes the acquisition of Andrej Sekera, John-Michael Liles and Ron Hainsey. The Hurricanes probably have interest in adding to that list.
The Hurricanes have pieces that other clubs might find appealing. Hainsey is an unrestricted free agent this summer and Rutherford might be able to leverage him to improve other areas. Given how hungry the market is for capable defenders, this might be a viable route for improvement.
Tuomo Ruutu's name has been floated several times. Rutherford would probably love to get his $4.75 million contract off the books so that he could have more flexibility, but finding someone to take on that hit likely isn't easy, especially with his performance this season.
Carolina has a strength in goal, as the club has three capable NHL goaltenders in Cam Ward, Anton Khudobin and Justin Peters. Ward likely isn't going anywhere by March 5, but Khudobin and Peters are pending unrestricted free agents, which might inspire Rutherford to trade one. Of course, that's the most saturated portion of the trade market, so finding a deal there will be tough.