Noah Hanifin

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PHT Morning Skate: Is Matt Duchene a big upgrade on Kyle Turris?

–On Sunday evening, the Senators, Avalanche and Predators pulled off a major swap that involved Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris. Did Ottawa really upgrade their roster that much by making this deal? The Score takes a deeper look at the Duchene vs. Turris debate. (The Score)

–Marijuana will become legal in Canada as of July 1st, so will hockey players be able to use it for medicinal purposes? It’s something the players’ association and owners have to talk about it. (TSN.ca)

–The NHL usually makes a big deal of their outdoor games, but it seems like the tilt between the Maple Leafs and Capitals in Annapolis this March isn’t getting much attention. (scottywazz.com)

Cam Ward had been serving as the starting goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes for years. This year, he’s been the backup to Scott Darling for the most part. That’s a difficult adjustment to make. “There’s no question it has been an adjustment,” Ward said. “I’m doing what I can to stay sharp in practice. When you’re not playing as much you have to emphasize more the practices and trying to stay sharp.” (Charlotte Observer)

–Popular Nashville Predators fan Ben Butzbach, who used to have painted messages on his stomach at games, passed away at the age of 33. “Big Ben” was extremely popular with both fans and players and he will be missed. (NHL.com)

–The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to a great start this season, and their advanced stats are quite impressive too. The Jackets have the fourth-best corsi in the league and their expected goals for indicate that more offense could be on the way. (unionandblue.com)

–There are three reasons the Capitals are struggling this season. First, injuries have been problematic for them. Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky are both on the shelf right now. The Caps also have a lot of new faces, and their early-season schedule is pretty difficult. (novacapsfans.com)

–Cardiaccane.com looks at three reasons why the team should move defenseman Noah Hanifin. There’s a number of big-name players around and teams definitely hold the young blue liner in high regard.  Will they pull the trigger on a deal? (cardiaccane.com)

Kalle Kossila has made quite an impression with the Anaheim Ducks this season. No one expected the team to rely on him so heavily, but that’s exactly what’s happened this season. “We didn’t expect we were going to have to use him as much in this situation,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “But that’s what happens. You get injuries and you’re going to have to call on the depth of your organization to supplement your lineup.” (OC Register)

 –Adam Twenter of thesinbin.net wrote a thoughtful piece about how cancer isn’t fair. He’s encouraging all his readers to join this hockey-related fundraising campaign. (thesinbin.net)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Penguins, Rangers, Capitals headline PHT’s mighty Metro Division preview

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The Metropolitan Division hasn’t just produced the last two Stanley Cup winners (Pittsburgh Penguins) and last two Presidents’ Trophy winners (Washington Capitals).

It’s also a division that runs deep. The Columbus Blue Jackets took the league by storm in 2016-17, and while Sergei Bobrovsky might not be sensational again, many still believe they’re legit. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders still boast significant strengths, while the Carolina Hurricanes are dark horse candidates once more.

Even the New Jersey Devils keep adding promising talent.

Let’s preview what might once again be the best division in the NHL.

Also, check out these other previews: Atlantic Division, Central Division, PHT’s picks and predictions.

Carolina Hurricanes

Poll/looking to make the leap

Columbus Blue Jackets

Poll/looking to make the leap

New Jersey Devils

Poll/looking to make the leap

New York Islanders

Poll/looking to make the leap

New York Rangers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Philadelphia Flyers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Pittsburgh Penguins

Poll/looking to make the leap

Something noteworthy from today:

Washington Capitals

Poll/looking to make the leap

Would Duchene for Murray, Jenner trade make sense for Avs, Blue Jackets?

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With Colorado Avalanche training camp looming on Thursday, the urge to trade Matt Duchene might rise. For some Avs fans, it could be as much about getting some closure as anything else.

Now, it’s important to note that there’s no word on a trade being close.

Really, there are plenty of reports that indicate that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic continues to hold out for a great deal, whether you believe his aims are reasonable or not.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in “31 Thoughts” that the Avalanche may have at least discussed P.K. Subban with the Nashville Predators, and updates back up the notion that Sakic is shooting high:

Wow.

So, to reiterate, it could be quite a while before the Avalanche trade Duchene. It’s really difficult to tell, especially since moves can come together quickly after laying dormant for what seems like ages.

***

So, again, this isn’t to say a trade is coming. With training camp nearing, it’s fun to break down the facets of a possible move, anyway.

On Tuesday, PHT pondered the Hurricanes giving up Noah Hanifin for Duchene. Such an idea didn’t seem particularly well-received by Carolina fans.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets have not offered up the combination of Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray to try to nab Duchene, but in a Wednesday newsletter, Portzline reported that such a combination could possibly meet the Avalanche’s needs.

Even beyond this post’s earlier disclaimer, it’s important to note that Portzline reports Jenner is a little banged up, so that would likely hold up a move even if Sakic would bite:

Let’s explore the logic of a possible move, though.

***

A game-breaker for Columbus?

The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets have at least two things in common that could make a Duchene trade more feasible and palatable: each franchise boasts a nice prospect stockpile and lack a true top center.

Now, you can argue that Duchene isn’t an “elite” No. 1 pivot, but he could really flesh out Columbus’ group (and take some pressure off, say, Alex Wennberg).

It’s easy to fixate on Duchene’s rough 2016-17 season, but at age 26, it’s fair to argue that last season was an anomaly. The Avalanche were a borderline historic disaster, and even if Duchene could have played better, it’s absurd to pin too much on the speedy scorer.

Look at his previous four sesaons and you’ll see evidence of a gamebreaker, especially in the low-scoring, modern NHL.

Duchene generated at least 20 goals in three straight seasons from 2013-14 to 2015-16, and he almost hit 20 (scoring 17) during the 48-game lockout season of 2012-13.

The Blue Jackets, to some extent, score by committee. Adding a little more dynamic skill could really help Columbus find that “extra gear.”

Murray, the mystery

Reports have already surfaced that Ryan Murray wouldn’t be enough of a showpiece to pry Duchene away from Colorado.

Portzline indicates that a package involving Murray and Jenner could move the needle more, so let’s ponder Murray for a moment.

Considering that the Avalanche are shooting high for a Duchene return, they’d have to figure that Murray, 23, needs a fresh start. Management might even see the potential for a high-draft-pick turnaround that parallels how Erik Johnson‘s enjoyed a nice run with the Avs.

Because, yikes, it’s been a bumpy ride. Injuries derailed his early development, and Murray seemed generally overwhelmed in 2016-17:

via Domenic Galamini

Yep, that would require a leap of faith … or the Avalanche would really need to be smitten by Boone Jenner.

On Jenner

Jenner is an interesting test case in perception.

Yes, he scored 30 goals in 2015-16, but nine of them came on the power play. Jenner was limited to 18 goals in 2016-17, with none coming on Columbus’ locomotive man-advantage. Realistic expectations probably place him at 20 goals with modest playmaking.

Jenner brings nice size and is only 24, so there are selling points.

Still, it’s possible that Blue Jackets management views his strengths as redundant. He averaged less than 30 seconds of power-play time last season after logging about two minutes per night in 2015-16, for instance,

Some conclusions

Jenner ($2.9M, RFA after 2017-18) and Murray ($2.825M, RFA after 2017-18) and Duchene ($6M, UFA after 2018-19) all have their strengths and weaknesses. They’re all at or approaching a fork in the road in their careers with little time on their current contracts.

A Jenner + Murray combo could make some sense for the Avalanche, especially with both being at prime ages. You’d think that the Blue Jackets might need to sweeten the deal with a prospect, at least considering how big Sakic is seemingly dreaming.

Personally, from a Blue Jackets perspective, this seems like a great deal.

It would set the stage for a potentially fascinating summer of 2019, as Duchene, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky would all be eligible for unrestricted free agency. On the other hand, that would allow Columbus to assess where the franchise is at over a season or two, and pivot if they feel that this group just can’t get it done.

One understands the lure of hoarding prospects, especially with how fans can sometimes get attached to the daydream of production that may never come. Sometimes you have to swing for the fences, though, and the Blue Jackets might want to do that with Duchene.

You know, if they can actually convince Sakic to accept a reasonable deal.

Looking to make the leap: Haydn Fleury

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This post is a part of Hurricanes day at PHT…

The Carolina Hurricanes have built an impressive stockpile of young defensemen, arguably the best in the NHL.

Looking at their current NHL roster there isn’t one defensemen under contract for this season that is over the age of 26, while three of their best — and youngest — are all signed to long-term deals. Not only are they young, they are also already really, really good and just need a more stable goaltending situation behind them to help the Hurricanes take a big leap forward this season.

For as good and promising as that group already is, there is another young player in the pipeline that hasn’t even had a chance to make an impact yet in 2014 first-round pick (No. 7 overall) Haydn Fleury.

The 21-year-old Fleury is coming off of his first year of pro hockey, spending the 2016-17 season with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Other than missing part of the season due to injury it was mostly a successful pro debut for the young rearguard, appearing in 69 games and scoring seven goals to go with 19 assists and showing considerable improvement down the stretch following a slow start.

The logjam of young defensemen already in Carolina is going to make it tough for Fleury to crack the lineup, but the No. 6 spot on the blue line does seem to be up for grabs between him and Klas Dahlbeck. Even if he doesn’t grab that spot at the start of the season it seems reasonable to assume that at some point during the season — whether it be due to injury, a trade, or just a lack of performance from somebody else — that he is going to make his NHL debut.

When he does it will be just another promising young player added to a defensive core that already boasts Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. Given the contracts Faulk, Slavin and Pesce are signed to, and the fact Hanifin and Fleury are still on their entry level deals it gives the Hurricanes a ton of flexibility when it comes to constructing their roster. Any of them would be attractive pieces in trade talks to make improvements elsewhere, or they can be the foundation of the defense — and the team itself — for the next six or seven years for a remarkably affordable price.

Hurricanes bet big again on young defense by extending Brett Pesce

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The Carolina Hurricanes are wasting no time in locking up their defensemen of the future this summer.

Jaccob Slavin still has one year remaining on his rookie deal, yet they extended him for seven years at $5.3 million per season earlier this summer. They did something similar with fellow defenseman Brett Pesce today, handing him a six-year extension with a $4.025 million cap hit.

(That works out to $24.15 million overall.)

“Brett took another big step forward last season,” GM Ron Francis said. “He plays a smart defensive game and has good ability to move the puck and contribute offensively. We plan for him to be a part of the Hurricanes’ defensive corps for a long time.”

Much like Slavin, Pesce still has a year remaining on his current deal, so that $4.025M won’t begin until 2018-19.

During his sophomore season, Pesce saw big gains. He played all 82 regular-season games for the Hurricanes, generating 20 points and averaging 21:12 TOI, up from 18:46 during his rookie season.

Pesce’s offense was pretty average, but he showed serious promise in his own end, particularly for a player who is only 22.

Pesce and Slavin join Justin Faulk as Hurricanes defensemen with at least three-year commitments. Carolina still has three other blueliners slated to become RFAs next summer, including Noah Hanifin, whose value could really climb if his 2017-18 season goes well.