The NHL’s trading season has officially arrived.
We knew the Carolina Hurricanes were going to be one of the teams to watch over the next few weeks as the trade deadline approaches, and they made a fairly significant deal on Thursday afternoon when they sent forward Victor Rask to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Nino Niederreiter.
There is no salary retained in the deal and is strictly a straight up one-for-one trade.
Both players still have three years remaining on their current deals, with Rask counting $4 million against the cap and Niederreiter carrying a $5.2 million hit against the cap.
At first glance this is an extremely curious move by the Wild because it is really difficult to see where they get better here other than saving a minimal amount of salary cap space and picking up a player that is one year younger.
When it comes to production and what actually happens on the ice, this would seem to be a step backwards.
Rask has been limited to just 26 games this season where he’s scored just a single goal and recorded five assists. That all comes after a disappointing 2017-18 season where his production dropped across the board and saw him record the worst numbers of his career. He is 25 years old, never tallied more than 48 points in a season and has seen his play regress over the past two years.
While Niederreiter has also been stuck in a down year, he has still been the more productive player over the past two seasons and is probably a better fit for what the Hurricanes need — A player that, in theory, can finish and score goals.
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“We’re excited to welcome a proven goal-scorer and veteran presence in Nino Niederreiter,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said in a team statement. “We wish Victor the best moving forward and thank him for his efforts on the ice and in the community during his time in Raleigh.”
Niederreiter has pretty consistently scored at a 25-goal pace over 82 games in each of the past four years while also playing a really good two-way game where he can drive possession and control the puck.
Rask has topped the 20-goal mark once in his career, and that was four years ago.
The Hurricanes have been on a bit of a roll over the past two weeks but still sit seven points back of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That is a pretty big mountain standing in front of them, but with Niederreiter signed beyond this season and being an upgrade it is a perfectly reasonable trade for a team in this situation to make.
The Wild, on the other hand, are one of the teams in the jumbled Western Conference wild card mix and just seemingly made themselves worse. Not significantly worse, but definitely worse. That is not something you ever want to do, especially when you are not even guaranteed a playoff spot.
Perhaps there is another shoe to drop and another trade to be made, especially with a little bit more salary cap space at their disposal. But in a vacuum this is a fairly bizarre trade for a team desperately fighting for a playoff spot to make.
Unless they are wildly optimistic about a chance of scenery and a fresh start sparking some sort of bounce back for Rask. There is not much evidence to suggest that is a strong possibility.