Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith (28) and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey (65)   - Photo Credit:  Andy Martin Jr

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith (28) and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey (65) – Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr

This was supposed to be the year that the Carolina Hurricanes break through and finally make their triumphant return to the playoffs. New, under-the-radar acquisitions were supposed to plug the holes, giving fans their first taste of playoff hockey in five years. Unfortunately, the rest of the NHL had other ideas, and the team was plagued by a myriad of issues, ultimately sinking their season yet again.

Though over 20 games still remain, the ‘Canes sit 7 points in back of the final playoff spot, with five teams in front of them. Sports Club Stats gives them just a 3.9 percent chance to make the postseason, and they would need to go 14-5-2 to have a greater than 50 percent chance of securing a berth.

The trade deadline is Wednesday, and the Hurricanes are sellers.

It’s time to make a call on the future of several players in Carolina. Some are obvious — Anton Khudobin must be re-signed — some, not so much. Ron Hainsey falls into the latter category.

It’s been all but confirmed that Hainsey was Jim Rutherford’s mystery free agent this past offseason, taking less money than market value in order to sign in his preferred destination. Hainsey agreed to a one year, $2 million contract, and his play has been almost too good to be true for the price.

Locked into the number 3 role all year, Hainsey has given Kirk Muller one half of a solid middle pairing. He’s played primarily with Brett Bellemore, and the duo has been surprisingly effective. Among Carolina defenders, only John-Michael Liles has produced a better shot-attempt differential relative to the rest of the team.

His sudden — and at times, accidental — goal-scoring prowess has also been a welcomed addition. Through three-fourths of 2013-14, Hainsey has notched more goals than from 2010 to 2013 combined. He’s only recently been given some looks on the powerplay, and doesn’t look out of place.

Most importantly, he appears to be a great teammate. A few nights ago in Dallas, Antoine Roussel demolished Khudobin’s crease with speed, sending the Carolina goaltender sprawling onto the ice. Hainsey immediately jumped to Khudobin’s defense, bloodying Roussel for his lack of awareness.

Off the ice, Hainsey offers a rare, honest approach with the media. He eschews cliches, and his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, especially after a tough loss, is a breath of fresh air. Not every defeat can be spun into a positive.

Whether year one in Carolina has swayed his desire to remain is anybody’s guess. It’s unlikely Hainsey will be available for anything close to what he’s making now, and north of $3.5 million a year is a very real possibility. But is Hainsey worth it? The ‘Canes have long searched for defensive depth, and don’t have similar talent ready to make the leap from Charlotte anytime soon — if at all. Any free agent replacement will likely cost just as much, and probably more.

Hainsey is exactly the type of player many playoff teams seek. Though he’s still searching for his first postseason appearance in over 650 NHL games played, he has been around the block. He’s an above average skater with a hidden mean streak, and could bring back at least a second round pick. The market is barren of true sellers, and players of Hainsey’s caliber are always in high demand and short supply.

In the worst case scenario, Hainsey is kept through the end of the year, then walks on July 1. In the best case, Hainsey is dealt for assets, gets his first taste of meaningful April hockey, then returns on July 1. In the spectrum of scenarios, all possibilities appear to be on the table.

After spending a combined 8 years playing for perennial losers Columbus, Atlanta, and Winnipeg, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that he may tack on a few more with another.

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7

6 Responses

  1. Ih8theriders

    SunbeltHockey should they keep hainsey? They never should have signed him in the first place So no

  2. Ih8theriders

    ndrewL7 wow Andrew I usually agree with you. But I want hainsey gone

  3. ndrewL7

    Ih8theriders Because of play or the return he’d fetch?

  4. Ih8theriders

    ndrewL7 return. And I just got a bad taste in my mouth watching him for 2 yrs in wpg. I just think he’s terrible in his own end.

  5. ndrewL7

    Ih8theriders I didn’t watch much of him in Winnipeg, but I think he’s done pretty well here. Ideally, he’s a very good #5.

  6. Ih8theriders

    ndrewL7 his offensive numbers are better. I just cringe when he’s on the ice