The Carolina Hurricanes are going all-in on their pursuit of a playoff berth, making a series of moves Monday to improve their offense and defense.
First, the Hurricanes received forward Vincent Trocheck from Florida in exchange for forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark and prospects Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie.
Then Carolina addressed its defense — a much more urgent need after the loss of a defensemen and two goaltenders against Toronto last Saturday — by acquiring two blue-liners.
First the team traded a first-round pick to the New York Rangers for 25-year-old defenseman Brady Skjei, then sent two players — forward Janne Kuokkanen and defenseman Fredrik Claesson to Jersey for blue-liner Sami Vatanen. The Devils also got a conditional fourth-round pick in the deal, but will reportedly retain 50 percent of Vatanen’s salary.
As of early Monday evening, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell called the Skjei trade unofficial, as the teams await a conference call with the NHL to confirm that trade.
Defenseman Brett Pesce and goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were all injured during the Hurricanes’ 6-3 win at Toronto on Saturday. That game became noteworthy because emergency goalie and Zamboni driver Dave Ayres finished the game in goal to get the win.
Speaking with the media Monday, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters Reimer suffered a lower-body injury, Mrazek has a concussion and Pesce has an injured shoulder. Brind’Amour referred to all three injuries as “longer term.”
Trocheck, 26, has 36 points (10 goals) in 55 games this season. He has two seasons remaining on a six-year, $28.5 million contract signed in July 2016.
“Vincent brings elements of skill and competitiveness that fit the mold of the style we want to play,” Waddell said. “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.”
A third-round pick by Florida in 2011, Trocheck has 111 goals and 171 assists in 420 games since making his Panthers debut in March 2014.
Haula, 28, has 12 goals and 10 assists in 41 games this season. He has 173 points (85 goals) in 398 games with the Minnesota Wild (2013-17), Vegas Golden Knights (2017-19) and Hurricanes.
Wallmark, 24, has 11 goals and 12 assists in 60 games in 2019-20. His career totals include 54 points (22 goals) in 160 games, all with Carolina.
Luostarinen is a 21-year-old forward who has one assist in eight NHL games this season. Priskie is a 23-year-old defenseman who has spent the entire season with Charlotte of the American Hockey league.
Skjei has eight goals and 15 assists in 60 games, with 41 penalty minutes and a minus-6 rating. He has 25 goals and 87 assists in 307 games in his five-year career, all with the Rangers. He was selected No. 28 overall by New York in 2012.
Vatanen, 28, has five goals and 18 assists in 47 games this season, the final of a four-year contract. The free-agent-to-be has been out since Feb. 1 with a lower-body injury. He has 194 points (45 goals) in 434 regular-season games, along with six goals and 17 assists in 44 playoff games.
Kuokkanen, 21, has yet to register a point in 11 career NHL games, and has 12 goals and 30 assists in 52 games with Charlotte of the AHL this season.
Claesson, 27, has three goals and 16 assists in 47 games with Charlotte and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He also has six goals and 20 assists in 150 career NHL games with Ottawa and the Rangers.
Carolina (35-22-4, 74 points) began Monday in the second wild-card slot in the Eastern Conference, but tied with Columbus at 74 points. The Hurricanes are three points behind Philadelphia for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
–Field Level Media