Almost everyone is looking at a few positions of need for the Carolina Hurricanes this trade deadline. A top-six forward, goal-scoring help, a second-line centre, and a goalie are all topics that have risen to the top of the Hurricanes trade deadline wish list. But there is another positional need that could prove to be as much a necessity as any of these. The Hurricanes should target a true depth defenceman this trade deadline.

The Carolina Hurricanes Trade Deadline Should Target Depth Defencemen

Since the Hurricanes have returned to relevance over the last five years, defence has been their strength. This is evident in how they play, the responsibleness of their forwards defensively, and the strength of their defensive core. It makes sense given the type of two-way player that Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour was in his playing career. He clearly instills that in his team as well.

What They Have

The current top six defencemen for the Hurricanes is no exception. A trade for a top-six defenceman seems unnecessary. A core six of Brent Burns, Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce, Dmitry Orlov, and Jalen Chatfield is as strong as almost any team in the NHL. They have a healthy balance of offensive ability in Burns and Skjei, elite shutdown ability in Slavin, another defensively responsible minute cruncher in Pesce, and a newly formed excellent bottom pair in Orlov and Chatfield. But after those six, there’s a drop-off.

The team re-acquired Tony DeAngelo in the offseason to provide another offensive option on the back end. The DeAngelo experiment has not worked well in Carolina. He has only played 299 minutes and 21 games. Many times serving as the seventh defenceman and only really seeing time on the power play. In that span, he only has two goals and seven assists. Analytically he hasn’t been bad actually, with a positive ten expected goal differential. But his actual goal differential is zero.  This is inflated due to his power play time, however. At 5v5 he has a -2.1 expected goal differential with a team-worst -10 actual goal differential. On the power play, he can help. But Carolina needs someone that can provide more than power play help. They were reportedly looking to trade him but didn’t seem to find any takers. As a note, the Hurricanes also signed Caleb Jones only to trade him before the season began.

What They Need

If the Hurricanes top-six defencemen stay intact without injury or other issues, then sure, what they have works. But if there is one thing that the playoffs show it is how important team depth is. This is why the Carolina Hurricanes trade for a defenceman is important. If a defenceman goes down, is DeAngelo the best option to replace him? For an offensive defenceman, it may not be as bad but the reality is that none of Carolina’s defencemen are entirely one-dimensional (except DeAngelo). We saw how the DeAngelo/Orlov pairing didn’t work early in the season and it’s hard to say whether it would work any better now. Maybe he could play with Slavin some, but that is really due to Slavin’s elite ability to cover his partner.

There are also not really many options beyond DeAngelo for depth defencemen. Dylan Coghlan would likely be the next one up and he has had a good year with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL. He was named as an AHL All-Star. But again, Coghlan has limited NHL experience and tends to be slightly more offensively leaning. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t come in and show something this season, but again is it a gamble Carolina should take?

The better option is to find a true depth defenceman. This would be a responsible, two-way defenceman or even one who is more defensive-leaning. Likely this would be a veteran player who has no problem sitting in the press box for an extended period of time and jumping in when needed right away. It would be someone who may not wow anyone with goal scoring, but it is someone who also plays the game responsibly on defence, fits the team’s style, limits mistakes, and ideally can still move the puck up ice even if just as a precise first breakout pass. If someone in the top-six goes down, a player like this could be invaluable come playoff time.

So, Who’s Out There?

The good thing about the Hurricanes searching to trade for a defenceman like this is that there should be some options out there at relatively low costs. Each option would provide a little something different. Depending on what the team wants, this would be (ideally) a supplemental add to one of the more “high-profile” needs mentioned above. The cost here should only be some mid or late-round draft picks or lower-end prospects. This might also see DeAngelo on his way out as part of the trade. There are a few names out there that might fit the bill.

Marc Staal

Could the Hurricanes look to the Philadelphia Flyers to unite with captain Jordan Staal‘s brother Marc Staal? They saw plenty of him in the playoffs last season and could look to bring in the veteran defenceman in the seventh spot for depth. With 17 years of NHL experience, this could be valuable. Staal can step in and play a reliable game defensively. This season, he has a 1.5 expected goal differential with a -1 goal differential at 5v5. He only has been in 17 games this season but this is the position for him. A veteran player who can step in when needed after spending time off the ice. And could this reunion of brothers positively influence their play?

The downside to Staal is that he may not be fast enough to keep up with Carolina’s style. He likely would be paired with Orlov or Chatfield depending on who’s out. Both of them like to skate wide open so there’s a risk that Staal either can’t get back to cover or will have to play a little more conservatively. But at the end of the day, Staal should not be an expensive deadline purchase and could provide the team with needed depth and experience.

Nick Seeler

Another option is to look to the Flyers again and target Nick Seeler. He will certainly cost more than Staal but also would be a stronger option in a depth role. At 30 years old, the pending UFA has been somewhat of a journeyman and has really found his game in the last few years. He is the prototypical defensive defenceman who brings energy, physicality and sandpaper but also is able to move the puck. He isn’t afraid to drop the gloves if needed as well. Come playoff time, having some toughness can really help. At 5v5, Seeler has a 2.4 expected goal differential but has a team-leading 10 actual goal differential for the Flyers. Seeler could be a very effective 6/7 defenceman for the Hurricanes. He also can play on the penalty kill.

The cost for Seeler would at least be more around the mid-round pick range versus the late-round one. If the competition for Seeler gets tight, you might even see it hover around the second-round range. Even though the Flyers have indicated they may want to re-sign Seeler, they may look to fetch assets for him as he will likely be a true rental. If Seeler isn’t available, Sean Walker is another defenceman from the Flyers who may also be available. In somewhat of a similar role, Walker provides more offence and is right-handed. He also would likely require more assets to acquire. But let’s not only focus on the Flyers here given that they are actually pushing for the playoffs.

Ilya Lyubushkin

If Carolina is looking for a big physical presence on the back end, Ilya Lyubushkin could be an option. He is 6′ 2″ and 200 lbs and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. He is second for Anaheim Ducks defencemen in hits with 62. With 72 blocked shots and 6.83 blocked shots per 60 minutes, he leads Anaheim defencemen in that category. While he won’t provide a lot offensively, few defencemen can play as heavy of a game defensively as Lyubushkin. His underlying analytics aren’t as strong but he is also playing on a bottom-dwelling Ducks team. He also could be a fit with the team’s contingent of Russian players like Orlov, Andrei Svechnikov, and Pyotr Kochetkov.

The cost for Lyubushkin will largely be determined by who is fighting for him. Last year, Lyubushkin was traded for a fourth-round pick and he likely would fetch something similar this year. Once again, providing a little sandpaper on the back end with defensive responsibility could turn helpful come playoff time.

While these aren’t the only defencemen available for the Hurricanes to trade for in this role, this gives a good picture of the spectrum that may be available here. For example, if the Washington Capitals decide to sell, a reunion with Joel Edmundson might be a fit here. A move like this might not get the fanfare of a trade for Elias Lindholm for example, but it could be the piece that makes the difference.

Main Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.