Erik Haula

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Trying to make sense of Panthers’ plan after Trocheck trade

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It was only about a month ago that things were really starting to look up for the Florida Panthers.

They were in the middle of a six-game winning streak, had the highest scoring offense in the league, and at least looked like a solid bet to make the playoffs for just the sixth time in franchise history. Given the moves they made over the summer the playoffs should have been a very realistic goal, if not an expectation.

They can still get there, but they are probably only a 50-50 shot (at best) entering the stretch run as they compete with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

On Monday they made one of the most curious decisions at the NHL trade deadline when they dealt forward Vincent Trocheck to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, and two prospects.

It is a strange trade for the Panthers on pretty much every level.

For one, Trocheck is the best player changing teams here and is still signed for a couple of more years at a reasonable salary cap hit.

There’s nothing wrong with Haula and Wallmark as players. They’re legit NHLers and have a place on a good team. But neither one is an upgrade over Trocheck or has the upside that he does when he’s at his best. Haula is also an unrestricted free agent after this season. If he doesn’t re-sign, the trade comes down to Wallmark and the development of two solid-but-not-great prospects.

Even more curious was general manager Dale Tallon’s explanation for the trade. Basically, he just wanted to shake something up for a team that has struggled since the All-Star break.

Via The Athletic’s George Richards:

“Since the All-Star break, our team has really struggled and we wanted to find a way to shake things up and see what would work,” Tallon said on Monday afternoon, an hour after the NHL’s trade deadline for the 2019-20 season had passed.

“The more we got into discussions over the past 10 days or so, teams starting making offers. Some of them were pretty fair, some better than others. We just decided this was the right path to add more depth throughout the organization, for the big club and the minor-league team, and it was conscious from all of us that this was a fair deal and something we should do not only for the present but for the future.”

Something about this just seems flawed. Do you really weigh a couple of weeks so highly that you trade a player that, as recently as the beginning of this season, was considered one of your core players to “add more depth throughout the organization?” Especially when that player’s trade value is probably at a low-point, and without even addressing the team’s biggest current need? And in the middle of a push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a year where you’ve invested millions of dollars and a ton of assets?

If anything the justification at the time could have been that it created enough salary cap space to add a defenseman in another move before the trade deadline, but that did not even happen.

It just seems like less than ideal asset management, something that has been a reoccurring — and significant — problem for the Tallon-led Panthers.

The expansion draft fiasco that saw them give away Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights three years ago has been well documented. Last year they dealt Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann for a collection of spare parts and mid-round draft picks to help clear salary for a free agency splurge. They ultimately landed their prized free agent — goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky — on a massive contract, and then followed that up by putting him behind a porous defensive team that can not stop anyone. Now this trade happens.

In the end it is probably not a trade that is going to ruin the season, and they very well could still end up making the playoffs even after sending Trocheck away. But it is not necessarily the result that is concerning here. It is the process that seemingly went into the decision that is most concerning (panic move when things are going bad, selling key player at low value, questionable asset management). It is the sort of process that has repeatedly burned the Panthers in recent years.

Related: NHL Power Rankings: Teams that improved the most at NHL Trade Deadline

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hurricanes send package featuring Haula to Panthers for Trocheck

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While the Hurricanes and Panthers pursue playoff spots, the two teams decided to be trade partners on Monday.

Florida sent the 26-year-old center to Carolina in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie, and Eetu Luostarinen

“Vincent brings elements of skill and competitiveness that fit the mold of the style we want to play,” said Hurricanes GM Don Waddell. “He’s a right-handed center who is excellent in the face-off circle. With two years left on his contract after this one, this fills a need for our roster for this year and moving forward.”

The move now gives the Hurricanes Trocheck, who has two more seasons on a contract that carries a $4.75M salary cap hit, Sebastian Aho, and Jordan Staal as their three big centers. That’s a strong threesome down the middle for a team that has eyes on doing more than just finding their way back into the postseason.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Haula, who has 12 goals and 22 points in 41 games this season, can be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s shooting 15.4% this season, higher than his average of 12.9%. Will a third team in two seasons kickstart him offensively after netting 29 goals with Vegas two years ago?

On the flip side, this is a moving by the Hurricanes where they see plenty of upside in Trocheck. They wanted to add a player with term and got one. Trocheck is shooting 7.8% this season, well-below his 10% average, which could mean the goals will come in Raleigh.

“Today we acquired players with depth, versatility, and playoff experience,” said Panthers GM Dale Tallon. “Haula and Wallmark give us more depth in the forward line and more options for our coaches as we continue our quest to make the playoffs this season.”

“It’s always a tough decision to part with one of our core young men. Vincent is a quality person and we thank him for his excellent work ethic and play and passion for the game. This deal helps us in the present and in the future as we strengthen our depth chart.”

Florida has lost nine of their last 13 games and sit two points behind the Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four points behind the Hurricanes for the final wild card. Is this Tallon’s attempt at waking up his team?

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

What Hurricanes should expect from Justin Williams

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Now that Justin Williams is officially back with the Carolina Hurricanes the waiting game is on for when he makes his season debut. Coach Rod Brind’Amour isn’t putting a timeline on it and just wants to make sure the 38-year-old winger is up to speed.

Once that happens he has the potential to be a significant addition and make an already talented, deep Hurricanes roster even better.

Let’s take a look at what they can — and should — expect from him once he makes his debut.

Even at 38 Williams has not slowed down

If there is a concern with Williams at this point it has to be the fact that he is going to be one of the oldest players in the league, having just turned 38 back in October. There are only four other players in the league age 38 or older this season (Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Ron Hainsey).

The thing that should give the Hurricanes a lot of optimism about Williams’ ability to produce is the fact his game never really showed any sign of slowing down in recent seasons. Everything about his level of production has remained remarkably consistent.

Durability? He has that, having missed just three regular season games since the start of the 2011-12 season, and none during his two most recent seasons in Carolina.

Production? Still very much there. He has yet to shown any sign of dropping off, averaging 20 goals and 50 points with fairly strong shot rates in each of the past four seasons.

While it is inevitable that every player will slow down as they get deeper into their 30s, there are some decent comparable players to Williams that suggest he could still have another year of similar production.

Dating back to the start of the 2000-01 season, Williams is one of five forwards that averaged between 0.60 and 0.70 points per game between the ages of 34-37 (minimum 300 games during that stretch).

The others: Patrick Marleau, Andrew Brunnette, Luc Robitaille, and Keith Tkachuk. Marleau and Brunnette came back in their age 38 seasons and maintained a very similar level of production. Robitaille missed his age 38 season due to the 2004 lockout, and came back at 39 and scored 15 goals in 65 games. Tkachuk retired.

Great value beyond just offense

What makes Williams such a big addition is that his game is far more than just offense. It always has been. Williams is an ice-tilter. When he is on the ice you know the puck is going to be at a certain end of the ice and that his team is going to be in control.

He has consistently been one of the best possession players in the league, and even the past two years in Carolina had some of the best defensive metrics not only among Hurricanes forwards, but also the entire league.

There were 350 forwards that played at least 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey the past two full seasons. Williams ranked among the top-20 in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, and expected goals share (via Natural Stat Trick). Defense doesn’t slump, and the type of high hockey IQ that Williams has had throughout his career doesn’t go away. So even if his finishing ability and offensive production slides a little, he is still going to be able to provide a lot of value.

The Hurricanes get even deeper 

When the Hurricanes’ roster gets discussed a lot of the focus tends to fall on their blue line, and for good reason. They are loaded on defense with young, impact players that are some of the best in the league. But their forwards are nothing to sleep on, either.

That group is also better than it was a year ago, even before the addition of Williams.

Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are bonafide top-line stars. Andrei Svechnikov is turning into a superstar. They added strong depth players like Ryan Dzingel and Erik Haula (an outstanding player when healthy) over the summer. Martin Necas is blossoming into good, young NHL player. They have good options on every line, and that doesn’t even include Nino Neiderreiter who can still be better than he has shown.

Now they just added a top-six caliber winger without giving up anything in return.

With Williams having a half season to rest and coming in fresh with no wear and tear, combined with his all-around play, he could be one of the most significant additions an Eastern Conference team makes before the trade deadline.

Related: Hurricanes sign Williams to 1-year contract

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Hurricanes’ Haula out with more knee issues

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A couple of years ago the expansion draft process gave Erik Haula an opportunity to get an increased role with the Vegas Golden Knights.

He took advantage of that opportunity with a breakout season that saw him score 29 goals and become a key part of one of the most improbable Stanley Cup Final teams ever.

It has been a tough road for Haula in the two seasons since due to injuries, and now his first year with the Carolina Hurricanes is being sidetracked by more knee issues.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour announced on Monday that Haula is “going to be out for a while” and that he does not think the forward will be playing anytime soon due to continued issues with his knee. Haula had recently missed four games this season due to soreness in his surgically repaired knee before returning to the lineup on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. He played in each of the Hurricanes’ past two games, logging 27 minutes of total ice time in a more limited role.

Haula was originally injured a little more than a year ago when an awkward fall during a game in Toronto resulted in him being stretchered off the ice. He did not play another game for the Golden Knights and was traded over the summer in salary cap-clearing deal.

He was off to a great start this year with eight goals in his first 16 games with the Hurricanes. That total has him just one goal off the team lead where he trails Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Dougie Hamilton (all three have nine goals, while all three have played in all 20 games so far).

This is a tough injury for both the Hurricanes as a team and for Haula on a personal level.

First, the Hurricanes are losing one of their most productive forwards and a player that had already seemed to be a perfect fit in their lineup. His addition was a huge boost to their forward depth and so far everything had been working exactly as planned for a team that has its sights set on becoming a championship contender.

As for Haula himself, he is currently in the final year of his contract and given the way he has produced the past three years when healthy he was playing his way toward what could be a fairly significant raise this summer, whether it was with Carolina or another team. There is obviously still a chance he can return at some point this season and pick up where he left off, but the short-term outlook is definitely concerning.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Fabbri, Pageau highlight this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Nick Paul, Senators – C/LW: Paul has gotten tastes of The Show for years now, but coming into this season he was far from established as a regular in the NHL. In 2018-19, he had a goal and an assist in 20 games while averaging a mere 8:28 minutes and the season prior to that he had a goal in 11 games while averaging 7:54 minutes. However, when he played in the minors, he was developing into a serious offensive threat, to the point where he scored 16 goals and 39 points in 43 AHL contests last season. Now he might finally be ready to apply those skills to the NHL. Over his last six games he’s scored two goals and six points in six games while averaging 17:03 minutes. The rebuilding Senators have given him a chance to prove himself and he seems to have taken advantage of it. Obviously, he’s still a significant risk, but it’s also worth noting that he’s only owned in 2% of Yahoo leagues, so if you’re feeling aggressive, you can scoop him up now in the hope that this is just the start of something bigger.

Cal Clutterbuck, Islanders – RW: Clutterbuck is a bit of an interesting one from a short-term perspective. He’s spent his entire career as a bottom-six forward who makes his presence known physically and can chip in a bit offensively, but he’s logged over 16 minutes in each of his last six games. To put that in perspective, his average playing time over his entire 457-game tenure with the Islanders is 13:18 minutes. He’s done more offensively while his playing time has been up, scoring two goals and four points over those six games, which is pretty nice given that he’s also one of the best sources of hits in the league. His uptick in playing time is probably not going to last and it is worth noting that the Islanders have dealt with more than their fair share of forward injuries lately. Still, for now he’s an interesting pickup.

Tony DeAngelo, Rangers – D: DeAngelo had 30 points in 61 games in his 2018-19 breakout campaign and he’s been building off that this season. He has five goals and 13 points in 13 contests and he’s hot right now with at least a point in each of his last four games. If you look at his average ice time this season, you’ll see it’s at 17:58 minutes, down from 19:20 minutes in 2018-19, but that shouldn’t be taken as a warning sign. He only logged 8:09 minutes on Oct. 18th and that’s skewed down his average. From Oct. 10th onward, he’s averaged 18:49 minutes in 10 contests.

Jared McCann, Penguins – C/LW: McCann wasn’t a major offensive threat when he was with the Florida Panthers, but he was a young forward with upside. When the Penguins acquired him during the 2018-19 campaign, it offered him a fresh start and even the potential to play alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Malkin missed a major chunk of the season due to injury, but since returning on Nov. 2nd, McCann has been getting minutes with him. In fact, McCann has a goal and four points over his last two games with Malkin factoring in on three of those points. As long as he’s playing with Malkin, McCann should have some fantasy value.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Senators – C: Pageau isn’t exactly a major offensive threat most of the time, but he’s red hot right now. He’s on a four-game goal streak and five-game point streak. That’s brought him up to eight goals and 12 points in 16 contests this season, but don’t expect him to come close to maintaining that pace. Once he starts to cool down, you’ll want to re-evaluate owning him.

David Krejci, Bruins – C: Krejci had 20 goals and 73 points in 81 games last season, which made him a pretty compelling player to own in most fantasy leagues. What it didn’t do is convince fantasy owners that he would be a great option this season. Krejci was only drafted in 6% of leagues and his average draft position was 164.1. Now a lot of that has to do with him only having center eligibility and in fact, Krejci is a good example of just how deep that position is. Nevertheless, after shaking off an early season upper-body injury, he’s gotten on track with two goals and six points in six games. Even as a center, he should be good enough to be a factor on a lot of teams. He’s currently owned in 24% of Yahoo leagues.

[For more fantasy sports analysis, check out Rotoworld]

Jared Spurgeon, Wild – D: Spurgeon set a career-high last season with 43 points, but that was hardly an anomaly for him given that he had 38 points in 76 contests in 2016-17 and 37 points in 61 games in 2017-18, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that this season should produce more of the same. Certainly he’s on that track with two goals and 10 points in 17 contests. Even if that’s not enough to appeal to you, he’s still worthy of consideration as a short-term pickup given how hot he is. He’s scored a goal and six points in his last seven games.

Tyler Bertuzzi, Red Wings – LW/RW: The Red Wings are a terrible team this season, but there are a few silver linings on this squad. Bertuzzi is one of the main ones. He had six goals and 16 points in 19 games while averaging 19:32 minutes. He’s owned in 52% of Yahoo leagues, so the window on scooping him up is closing, but if you still have the option to grab him, you should seriously consider doing so.

Bryan Rust, Penguins – LW/RW: Rust suffered a hand injury in the preseason that prevented him from making his season debut until Oct. 26th, but he’s already made up for that lost time. He’s recorded at least a point in each of his six contests, giving him five goals and seven points in six games. It certainly doesn’t hurt that, like McCann, he’s been playing alongside Malkin recently. That makes this potentially more than just a hot streak, but even if it ends up being just that, he’s still worth considering as a short-term grab.

Robby Fabbri, Red Wings – LW/RW: Fabbri had 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games with St. Louis as a rookie in 2015-16, but injuries have proven to be a significant roadblock in recent years. Fast forward to 2019-20 and he’s healthy, but the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues just didn’t have a role for him. With that in mind, trading him to Detroit last week was something of a favor. It gives him a fresh start on a team with openings for young players. Fabbri has taken advantage so far with two goals and three points in two contests with Detroit.

Players You May Want To Drop

Nick Bonino, Predators – C: Bonino has been a pleasant surprise so far this season with eight goals and 13 points in 17 contests. Rather than being propelled by a major hot streak, he’s been fairly consistent in his contributions. While a hat trick on Oct. 29th certainly has skewed his goals total, it’s also true that he’s only been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games once this season (Oct. 5-8). That said, his shooting percentage is at 25%, which is way higher than normal and doesn’t seem sustainable. His PDO and IPP are also similarly high, which are potential warning signs that he’s due for a regression. If you picked him up early and have ridden the wave then I wouldn’t advise dropping him at this time, but I do believe that you should at least see if you can cash him in for someone more likely to deliver long-term. As it is, there’s a good chance that he’s peaked in terms of value this season and will likely trickle down from here.

Erik Haula, Hurricanes – C/LW: After being limited to 15 games with Vegas last season due to a knee injury, Haula got a fresh start in Carolina in 2019-20 and was taking full advantage of it. He scored eight goals and 11 points through 14 contests, but the same knee that derailed him in 2018-19 is threatening to do so again. At first the injury didn’t sound too significant, but Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour went from describing him as day-to-day to saying that’s not the case. With Haula out indefinitely now, it’s unfortunately time to evaluate your alternatives.

Alex Galchenyuk, Penguins – C/LW: The Penguins got Galchenyuk in the Phil Kessel trade, but so far he hasn’t done much with his new team. It hasn’t helped that he’s missed time due to injury, but even while healthy he’s been limited to three assists in eight games. He’s averaging a modest 14:56 minutes per game, though he has seen some ice time with Crosby and Malkin. If you took him at the start of the season hoping that moving to the Penguins would give him a boost, it’s fair to drop him, but he is still interesting enough to warrant keeping an eye on.

Mikael Granlund, Predators – LW/RW: Granlund has fallen quick and hard offensively. He peaked in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with 69 and 67 points respectively, but last season he dipped to 54 points and so far in 2019-20 he has just two goals and four points in 17 games. He hasn’t recorded a single point in his last 12 contests and has fired an underwhelming 23 shots over that span. I think he’s fair to say he’s capable of more than this, but he’s not worth holding onto during this cold streak. If he starts to heat up then at that point he’ll be worthy of re-evaluation.

Ondrej Palat, Lightning – LW: Palat had two goals and five points in the span of four games from Oct. 26-Nov. 1, which drew some fantasy owners to him, but that hot streak has fizzled out. It’s worth noting that outburst corresponded with a stretch where he was averaging 18:49 minutes, but he has no points in his last two contests while logging 14:14 minutes and then 13:37 minutes. Palat is a solid secondary scorer who will have some hot streaks like that and periods of time where the Lightning lean on him more than usual, but his overall value over the course of a season is somewhat suspect in standard fantasy leagues.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.