Faulk To The Ducks?
About a week before training camp, the Carolina Hurricanes surprised the hockey world by signing free-agent defenseman Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract. That move reignited questions over blueliner Justin Faulk's future in Carolina.
Over the last two seasons, the 27-year-old Faulk frequently surfaced in media trade chatter as a trade candidate. Gardiner's addition, as well as Faulk becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021, increased the speculation.
On Monday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Hurricanes were having ongoing discussions with the Anaheim Ducks, who are also interested in signing Faulk to an extension.
The News & Observer's Luke DeCock subsequently tweeted the two sides are believed to have a deal in place. With the Ducks on Faulk's 15-team “no-trade”list, it's up to him to decide. DeCock speculated Ducks winger Ondrej Kase could be part of the return for Carolina.
Believe the Hurricanes have a deal in place with Anaheim for Faulk. Anaheim is not listed among his 15 preapproved teams, so it’s in Faulk’s hands now. Hurricanes have had a longstanding interest in Ondrej Kase, would be surprised if he isn’t involved.
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) September 9, 2019
With Justin Williams deciding to step away from the game this season, the Hurricanes could use a right winger with scoring potential. Kase, 23, has been hampered by injuries during his brief NHL career but has 30-goal potential. As an NHL sophomore in 2017-18, he netted 20 goals in 66 games. He's also signed through 2020-21 with an affordable annual average value of $2.6 million, as per CapFriendly.
Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register reported that Anaheim needs an additional right-hand shot on their blueline. With over $8.5 million in cap space, it can easily afford Faulk's $4.83 million cap hit.
NBC Sports' Adam Gretz, however, doubts that Faulk will significantly improve the Ducks. He believes they're in desperate need of overhauling their aging roster with younger, more affordable talent.
It appears that Carolina has also explored trading Faulk for some time. Following the Gardiner signing, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the Hurricanes attempted to re-sign the 28-year-old this summer, but they couldn't get a deal done. He also said they spoke with other clubs about the blueliner. The Athletic's Sara Civian also tweeted that they tried to move Faulk during the 2019 NHL Draft.
Trading Faulk could also help Carolina become cap compliant before the start of the season. Gardiner's new deal, which carries an AAV of $4.05 million, pushed the Hurricanes $1.55 million above this season's $81.5-million salary cap.
Demoting a couple of lower-salaried players could address that problem, but won't leave them with a lot of flexibility for other moves as the season progresses. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk could be placed on long-term injured reserve if he's not recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, but Carolina still has to clear cap space when he's ready to return. Trading Faulk to Anaheim or another NHL club would more than help free up space.
What next for Marleau?
When Carolina bought out winger Patrick Marleau's contract in June after acquiring him from the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was assumed he'd return to the San Jose Sharks. He spent all but two of his 19 NHL seasons with the Sharks and earlier this year moved his family back to San Jose.
Hopes for a reunion were dashed when Sharks GM Doug Wilson confirmed he won't bring Marleau back for one last hurrah in San Jose. While Wilson praised the former Sharks captain, he indicated he was giving his younger players more playing opportunities this season.
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Marleau's age and declining performance also worked against him. He turns 40 on Sept. 15 and his production dropped from 47 points in 2017-18 to 37 last season.
While returning to the Sharks isn't an option, Marleau could find a home with a rebuilding club seeking short-term leadership and experience. Recent rumors linked him to the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers, but it remains to be seen if there's any truth to that chatter.