NHL Trade Speculation: 6 Best Fits for Carolina Hurricanes' Andrej Sekera
This summer, Andrej Sekera is going to get a massive pay raise. That much is certain.
Where he plays the final months of the 2014-15 NHL season prior to his offseason cash-in, however, has yet to be determined.
After failing to agree on a contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he has ignited his career as an upper-tier playmaking defenseman, TSN's Bob McKenzie broke the news that Sekera will hit the market prior to the March 2 trade deadline.
At age 28 and carrying a low $2.75 million cap hit on a contract that expires in July, the acquisition of Sekera would require little commitment from a win-now playoff contender.
What it would add would be a reliable top-four defenseman with strong offensive abilities and underrated defensive vision and awareness. Sekera tallied 44 points in 74 games last season (he's regressed to 18 in 52 games this year) and ranked seventh in the league in takeaways.
He's experienced with big minutes, having averaged 23:19 per game over the past two seasons, and creates positive possession, with a 52.9 Corsi rating despite starting 50.6 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone.
Thus, the Slovak blueliner is expected to be one of the most sought-after players as Ron Francis and the 'Canes enter the trade market. Sunday morning's Cody Franson-to-Nashville deal, as reported by Josh Cooper of Yahoo Sports, seemingly set the baseline value for Sekera: a first-round pick and possibly more.
Where do the latest rumors and speculation indicate he may land? A breakdown of six of the most likely destinations lies on the coming slides.
Despite their second-place ranking in the league, the Anaheim Ducks are a subpar 19th in team defense and would evidently like to add more experience to their back end.
Integral defenders such as Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are all under the age of 24. Adding a player like Sekera, who has 473 NHL games under his belt (albeit only eight in the playoffs), could be the change that gets the perennially underperforming Ducks past their annual postseason disappointment.
The Fourth Period magazine reports that Carolina's valuable rearguard is firmly on Anaheim GM Bob Murray's trade radar. With over $11.5 million in cap space to work with—the third-most in the league—he should have plenty of flexibility with which to work.
As reported by Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman on Sunday (h/t Josh Gold-Smith of The Score), "The Dallas Stars traded for one of (head coach) Lindy Ruff's former players this week, Jhonas Enroth. There is believed to be interest in Andrej Sekera from Carolina."
Ruff, Sekera's former coach during his many seasons in Buffalo, loves creating offensive pressure through the use of actively pinching defensemen and quick reloads. Sekera indeed seems like an ideal fit for Ruff and the Stars' tactics.
Despite boasting the NHL's third-highest goals-per-game rate, Dallas remains five points out of a Western Conference playoff spot and needs to be bold at the deadline.
Detroit Red Wings
Production from defensemen, long a staple of the Red Wings' balanced attack, hasn't been much of a trend in the Motor City yet this season—Detroit is one of only six teams lacking a defenseman with more than six goals (Niklas Kronwall's six leads the team) and ranks 17th in total points from defensemen.
The Red Wings are strong, however, in terms of prospects to lure Francis into dealing Sekera—and considering the mere four-point deficit separating them from the Eastern Conference's top-seeded Montreal Canadiens at the moment, GM Ken Holland should be more than willing to exchange some futures for a major playoff push addition.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have limped into an unfamiliar position on this Feb. 15: 10th place in the Western Conference.
Sporting the NHL's worst record in games decided by one goal, the Kings are just a few timely goals away from a much more encouraging outlook. They certainly have a chance to overtake inexperienced Winnipeg and Calgary in the coming months, however, and will hope to add a few important pieces at the deadline to prepare for that push.
Sekera would instantly become the third-oldest blueliner on the Kings' roster and provide a spark to a defensive unit that's uncharacteristically struggling to find the back of the net and giving regular playing time to Jamie McBain.
The 'Canes were one of three non-regular teams represented by scouts attending Los Angeles' recent game against Calgary, per The Fourth Period's Dennis Bernstein, and TSN's Bob McKenzie reports that the Kings do indeed have interest in Sekera.
Conversely, L.A. GM Dean Lombardi's club is right up against the salary cap and would need to get creative—and most likely shed Mike Richards—to fit even an affordable player like Sekera.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Radko Gudas's potentially season-ending surgery in January left a Lightning team already winning on offense even more shorthanded on the back end. Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman has been presumably searching to add a defenseman ever since.
Both Sportsnet's Mike Johnston and Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir think Yzerman and the Bolts could have their eyes on Sekera. Five of the top 10 teams in the league—Tampa Bay is currently sixth—had scouts at the Carolina-Anaheim game on Thursday.
Sekera, moreover, could be a quite well-suited addition to the aggressive, explosive Tampa Bay playing style. The Lightning need a power-play spark, ranking a mediocre 20th in that area, and would jell quickly with the Slovakian's free-flowing playmaking.
Few teams have relied more on their cast of forwards for scoring than the Vancouver Canucks, who rank 14th in goals per game but 28th in points by defensemen.
Although not officially connected to Sekera by any rumors yet, the Canucks appear arguably the best fit for No. 4 in the entire league. He would immediately become the team's top-scoring defenseman and likely receive plenty of opportunities to quarterback defensive-zone breakouts.
In seeking to hold on to the playoff spot it currently holds by a tenuous two points, Vancouver would be well-advised to call Francis about Sekera's price.