We all knew that there had to be a few roster cuts or trades on the horizon and late last night, we got our first moves as the Hurricanes dealt Jeremy Welsh and Zac Dalpe to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward Kellan Tochkin and a fourth round pick in this year's draft. My initial reaction to this was shock because the Canes just sent two roster players to Vancouver for a mid-round pick and a player who spent all of last season playing in the Central Hockey League. On the surface, the Hurricanes got fleeced and they'll likely end up on the short end of this deal a few years from now unless Tochkin really surprises everyone. So why did they make this trade then?
Unfortunately, this all comes down to cap space and salary. The Hurricanes unwisely gave Jeremy Welsh a two-year contract that had him on a one-way salary the second year, meaning he would be paid the same amount of money regardless of where he played. Welsh is set to make $1,000,000 this year and that is obviously too much money for someone who was likely going to be in the AHL to start the year. If Welsh made the team out of camp, then this is a different story but he was largely unimpressive both in camp and the preseason so the odds of him being on the Canes opening night roster were slim.
Not wanting to spend $1 mil. on an AHLer, the Canes decided to send Welsh to a team who might have some use for him and if not, they're a big market team and shouldn't have much of a problem swallowing his $1 mil. salary in the AHL. Unfortunately, you have to either give up something or expect little in return when making a trade like this and that's exactly what the Hurricanes had to do here by also sending Dalpe to the Canucks while receiving a fourth round pick and a CHL player in return. Or at least that's what the general belief seems to be.
While I have no doubt that the Hurricanes may have needed to "sweeten the pot" to get Vancouver to take on Welsh's contract, I'm not sure if throwing in Dalpe was that difficult for them. Dalpe was one of the team's better prospects and can still have a bright future in the NHL, but him being on the opening night roster was looking like a longshot based on the reports out of training camp. Dalpe was scratched in two of the last three games and played less than 10 minutes in Saturday night's preseason finale against Buffalo.
I still like Dalpe and believe he can be a regular NHLer, but it was becoming pretty clear that he wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with the coaching staff, especially since Muller took over. Dalpe played a total of six non-consecutive games under Muller in his first year as head coach before being sent down in mid-February and he got only 10 games last year, four of which coming after he was initially sent down at the beginning of the year. Muller was also prone to use other players from Charlotte (Bowman, Samson, etc.) or make do with what he had on the roster instead of calling up Dalpe when he didn't have to pass through waivers. I don't want to assume anything because I'm not around the team 24/7, but it's fair to speculate that the two weren't on the same page and Dalpe likely would have been placed on waivers once the final roster cuts were announced.
If this was the case, then I don't see the problem in getting something in return for Dalpe rather than risk losing him for nothing on waivers. Why else would the Hurricanes trade a promising scoring talent who fills a current need as a right winger? Dalpe is 23 years old and is at the age where he needs to make the NHL or risk tolling away in the minors for the rest of his career, and I think he will have a good shot at breaking into the league with the Canucks. It's just unfortunate that his situation with the Hurricanes ended up as bad as it did because the team spent a 2nd round pick on him and he has really made considerable strides since making the transition to the right wing.
I know that I've made 1,000 excuses for why Dalpe isn't in the NHL right now, but I truly believe that he has yet to be given a fair shot and can thrive in the right situation. He should have gotten more than 10 games last season and I have a feeling that he will get a decent look on a Vancouver team that needs forward depth right now. If his development continues to be on-pace, then he should begin to look like the guy the Hurricanes took in the second round a few years ago.
I can understand the Hurricanes motives behind this trade since they were backed into a corner, but I can't say that I agree or like the move at all since it presents little upside for them. The one good thing that can come from moving Welsh & Dalpe is that it opens up the opportunity for a waiver claim or a trade to fill some other holes on the roster. It wouldn't shock me if there is at least one new face in on the team come Tuesday afternoon.