The 31-year-old is coming off a terrible campaign—arguably his worst and easily his most disappointing since signing with the 'Canes in July 2009. With new general manager Ron Francis seeking more consistency and well-roundedness in the defensive unit, Harrison could be on the trade block very soon.
Harrison tallied four goals and 11 assists in 68 appearances, averaging 16 minutes and 37 seconds of ice time per game. His offensive production declined from the 23 points he tallied in the full-length 2011-12 season.
|Jay Harrison Stats: Last Four Seasons|
|NHL.com stat database|
If the box score numbers weren't pretty, advanced statistics skewered the 31-year-old veteran.
Per ExtraSkater.com data, Harrison ranked dead last among 'Canes defensemen with a 47.9 Corsi percentage despite benefiting from a favorable 54.5 offensive-zone start percentage, a better than average minus-1.3 percent relative quality of competition, and a unit-high 1,023 PDO (an indicator of luck).
Harrison's shot blocking also dropped off significantly, falling to an average of 1.21 per game (compared to 2.34 and 2.12 per game the previous two seasons).
Since his arrival five years ago, Harrison has revived a career once left for dead and had carved out a steady niche as a depth defenseman.
At the time, his signing was merely footnote news compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs' addition of Rickard Wallin, who finished his NHL career with 79 total appearances. Harrison entered his first training camp in Raleigh, North Carolina, fighting with less than stellar competition like Brett Carson, Bryan Rodney and Zack Fitzgerald for the Hurricanes' seventh defenseman slot.
A defensively outstanding 2010-11 campaign, however, vaulted Harrison into Carolina's nightly starting 20. Blue-line opportunism and uncanny pinching instincts made 2011-12 into the high-water point of Harrison's career to date.
But such opportunism and timing evaporated after the 2012-13 lockout. Harrison's aggressive decisions recently only seem to lead to counterattack chances the other way, highlighting his lack of skating speed and shaky defensive coverage awareness.
Despite his recent decline, Harrison may be able to fetch decent return on the trade market.
Moreover, Harrison—unlike other oft-mentioned 'Canes trade bait Cam Ward, John-Michael Liles and others—isn't weighted down by a large or excessive salary-cap hit. He carries only a $1.5 million cap hit with two years remaining on the contract, according to Capgeek.
Beneath first-pairing stars Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera, Carolina truly possessed no legitimate second-pairing blueliners this past season.
Late-summer free-agent signing Ron Hainsey took on the additional minutes admirably, but Ryan Murphy appeared overwhelmed in his rookie season, Liles didn't provide the expected offensive boost, Brett Bellemore didn't display much top-four upside and Harrison took a major step back in his play.
The Hurricanes' need for two No. 3 or No. 4 defensemen could be filled by pending free agents such as Derek Morris, Tom Gilbert, Andre Benoit, Mike Weaver, Stephane Robidas, Willie Mitchell and Anton Stralman.
But with unrestricted free agents Hainsey and Bellemore both moderately likely to be re-signed, and five other blueliners remaining under contract (Faulk, Liles, Sekera, Harrison and Murphy), one or two of the group will need to be shipped out to free up roster spots.
After such a woeful 2013-14 season, it seems quite probable that Harrison will be the first victim.