Hurricanes and Panthers exchange prospects

Most of us have been waiting for Jim Rutherford to make a few trades and he did so last night by dealing forwards Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forwards Evgeny Dadonov and AJ Jenks. This trade likely won’t much in the grand scheme of things but it does make sense for both teams. Florida needs forward depth for their AHL team in San Antonio and Matsumoto is the Charlotte Checkers leading point-getter. Carolina, on the other hand, needs more forward prospects that are close to being NHL ready and Dadonov fits the bill there. You can never have too many good prospects or players under 25, so I do like this trade for the Hurricanes even if Dadonov never pans out in the NHL, which is very possible.

The other two prospects in this deal could also have an impact but Dadonov appears to be the centerpiece because he has prior NHL experience and has the highest ceiling. He is a very skilled and talented player who possesses a solid two-way game but hasn’t been a top-point producer at the KHL or AHL level, which does show some cause for concern but he was a very useful player for the Florida Panthers last year and could serve the Hurricanes well, too. We’ll explore Dadonov and what he can do for the Hurricanes after the jump.

Drafted in the third round of the 2007 NHL Draft, Dadonov is billed as a “small but offensively-gifted player who doesn’t shy away from physical play” and projects to be a strong two-way forward with top-six potential. He was able to show his skills on a national stage at the Rookie Skills Competition during last year’s All Star Game and Hurricanes fans probably know about his physical play, too. He has decent speed, a deceptive shot and shows a very impressive defensive game for a guy his size. From the look of things, he should be able to make it in the NHL but there are quite a few red flags surrounding Dadonov and most of them stem from his lack of production in the AHL.

Dadonov has only 59 points in 120 games in the AHL, which is less than I expected him to have and it really brings down his NHL expectations if we go by translations. Dadonov’s .49 point pace in the AHL would translate to roughly 18 points over an 82 game NHL season. That’s very disappointing and things don’t look much brighter even if we factor in his KHL stats (37 points in 107 games) which say that he would have only 24 points in an NHL season. Take these translations with a grain of salt, though because there have been a lot of players who have been good in the NHL despite under-performing in the minor leagues and Dadonov could easily be one of those players.

The strangest thing about Dadonov is that he has been a pretty good NHL player despite the red flags. 20 points in 55 games may not seem like much but in each of his stints with Florida, the Panthers saw more shots and scoring chances go in their favor when he was on the ice. We’re dealing with a small sample size here, but it is big enough to know that Dadonov was at least being productive during his time in the NHL. Many thought that he would make the Panthers out of camp this year but Dale Tallon’s race to the cap floor blocked him and a few other prospects from making the team. You would think that a player who did well with top-nine minutes against top competition would be good enough to make the final cut on most teams. However, this is where another one of his “red flags” shows up because his most common linemates last season were Stephen Weiss and David Booth, two top-six forwards who are possession monsters, so it is entirely possible that his great territorial play was due to strong linemates. That said, he hasn’t been given that luxury this season but has played much softer minutes so his ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone hasn’t dwindled much. With Carolina in desperate need for a scoring winger in their top-nine, it is very possible that he could play a similar role in Carolina as soon as this year.

There is a very good chance that this trade ends up being nothing in two years but as of right now, I like the deal for Carolina. The Canes get a wing prospect who is near the age where we find out if he’s NHL ready or not while the Panthers get some help for their AHL club. Dadonov is a poor AHL performer while Matsumoto is the complete opposite of that. He never got much of a chance in Carolina but he has 300+ games of AHL experience and still has yet to find a permanent spot on an NHL roster, so it’s likely that he wasn’t going to work out in Carolina. Plus, he needs to pass through waivers for the Canes to call him up so getting a piece in return for him is better than losing him for nothing. The worst thing that can come from this is Dadonov failing to produce in Carolina and all they have to do is not tender him in the off-season when his entry level deal expires. It’s a low-risk, decent-reward move for the Canes and we could see Dadonov in Raleigh very soon.