Found July 06, 2012 on Shutdown Line:

If you have been reading this blog or my posts on Twitter, then you probably know that the bottom-six is an area that I wanted the Hurricanes to address in a big way this summer, specifically the fourth line. Finding a top-six winger is the top priority right now, but with there being so few options available in free agency, all we can do right now is just wait and see what happens. Having a strong top-six and defense corps is obviously very important if one wants to build a contending team but the third and fourth lines are assets that teams have to have, as well. When I say that, I mean that those lines have to be useful.

Gabe Desjardins recently looked at last year's Stanley Cup Champs, the Los Angeles Kings and the elements that made them a winning team. One main thing that he pointed out is that the players in their bottom-six could all play. There were no goons inserted into the lineup for "toughness," or role players who couldn't be trusted to be used for more than five minutes a game. Their bottom-six players were all useful in their own way and were very cheap on top of that. Carolina doesn't quite have the pieces on defense to be a cup contender and their top-six is still a work in progress, but improving the bottom-six will make things a little easier for them next season so that Kirk Muller can run a more balanced system next season.

Keeping the bottom-six in mind, another thing that Desjardins mentions in the article is that teams should be on the lookout for players with underrated skills like being able to draw penalties, win faceoffs and take on tough competition. The Canes have a few of those guys in their bottom-six already (Patrick Dwyer, Chad LaRose and Andreas Nodl come to mind) and a couple younger players who have posted strong underlying numbers during their time in Raleigh who could also help out (Drayson Bowman), but their fourth line could not be trusted to play more than 5-8 minutes a game because they couldn't do much other than throw checks and create a physical presence.

The Canes might dig within the organization to find bottom-six depth but if they want to go the free agency route, they should strongly consider signing Jeff Halpern, a player who fits Desjardins' guidelines to a T. Halpern is 35 and doesn't have much offense left in him but if you are looking for a quality player to center your team's fourth line then look no further. Over the last few years, those who have coached Halpern have trusted him enough to use him in a defensive role on almost a regular basis. He's started less than 45% of his even strength shifts in the offensive zone for the last five seasons and has been matched up against opponents who were at least above average.

Halpern was also able to finish with a positive corsi relative of 2.9 despite playing in extremely unfavorable circumstances last season. He was also on ice for the fewest amount of shots against among Washington forwards, which speaks a lot about his defensive strengths. If that wasn't enough, he was the fifth best face-off guy in the league last season and has been able to win at least 51% of the draws he has taken over his career. By Desjardins' guidelines, Halpern is the type of player that you want in your bottom-six and exactly the kind of player that teams should take short-term risks on. He has decent underlying numbers, underrated skills and also kill penalties. The only red flag on him is his age but that shouldn't prevent him from getting at least a one-year deal somewhere.

Would Halpern fit on the Hurricanes if they signed him, though? The fourth line center spot is already occupied by Tim Brent and he is coming off a pretty successful year with 12 goals and 24 points. It's unlikely that the Hurricanes are going to demote Brent after a year like that but I've expressed my concerns about him many times before. He played very soft minutes and was just plain bad in terms of territorial play. His shooting percentage was also an unsustainably high 16.9% and if you take that away, you are left with a fourth liner with not much to offer other than some decent powerplay skills. Then the Hurricanes' fourth line becomes a real problem.

I've also expressed my desire to make the team's fourth line more of a defensive unit with Patrick Dwyer and Andreas Nodl playing the wings. If the Canes were to follow this strategy, Halpern is a much more suited for the fourth line center role than Brent. This is assuming that the Hurricanes decide that they want to do this, which is uncertain at this very moment. I still think bringing in Halpern or someone similar to him would be a good insurance policy if Brent or another fourth liner struggles. 

I can't say that the Hurricanes will sign Halpern and I don't know how high he is on Rutherford's radar but I am willing to bet that at least one team is interested in acquiring him.

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Questions Unanswered: Joni Pitkanen's health

After signing Joe Corvo and missing out on the Ryan Suter sweepstakes, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford stated that he likes where the team's defense is right now and doesn't plan to make any other signings this off-season. Some might say that this is preposterous because of how poor the team's defense was last season and that entering the year with roughly the same defense...

Caps re-sign Perreault for two years

The Washington Capitals have re-signed restricted free agent Mathieu Perreault to a two-year contract worth $2.1 million. The 24-year-old center set career highs with 16 goals and 14 assists last season. He also had his first career NHL hat trick and made his Capitals playoff debut. Perreault was a sixth-round draft pick by Washington in 2006. He has 27 goals and 26 assists in...

Canucks sign ex-Hurricanes defenseman/forward Derek Joslin to a 2-way contract

Per a tweet from Chip Alexander (Carolina Hurricanes reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer Derek Joslin formerly of the Hurricanes signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver radio station WX1130 is also reporting the news now. The #Canucks have signed defenseman Derek Joslin to a 1 year - 2 way contract. Played 44 games in Carolina last year.— News1130 Sports (@News1130Sports...

Perreault signs extension with Capitals

Center Mathieu Perreault signed a two-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals worth $2.1 million, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Perrault, 24, earned a place on the Capitals' roster out of training camp last season and had 16 goals and 14 assists in 64 regular-season games this past season. However, he was not in uniform for most of the postseason. ...

Capitals re-Sign Jay Beagle

Per a team release, the Washington Capitals have re-signed center Jay Beagle to a three-year, $2.7 million contract.  The deal will count $900,000 towards the salary cap for each of the next three years. Beagle, 26, who was a restricted free agent, set career highs in goals (4), points (5) and games played (41) this past season.  He broke out in the playoffs, where he won almost...

Mathieu Perreault Sings Extension With Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-signed center Mathieu Perreault to a two-year extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Perreault, 24, set career highs in goals (16), assists (14), points (30), games played (64) and plus/minus (+9) in 2011-12. He finished first on Washington in shooting percentage (26.7%) and tied for fourth...

Capitals re-sign Beagle

The Washington Capitals re-signed forward Jay Beagle to a three-year extension worth $2.7 million, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Beagle, 26, had four goals and one assist while playing in 41 games this past season.

There is plenty of hope left for Zac Dalpe

Coming into last season, there were a lot of people (myself included) who felt that Carolina's highly touted forward prospect, Zac Dalpe, would make his mark in the NHL and possibly contend for the Calder Trophy. That obviously didn't happen and it has left a lot of people frustrated with Dalpe's progression and wondering when he will take that next step. There has always...

Capitals Re-Sign Mathieu Perreault

The Washington Capitals announced they have re-signed restricted free agent center Mathieu Perreault to a two-year contract worth $2.1 million.  This contract represents a big raise over his contract last season, a two-way deal worth $525,000 in the NHL and $75,000 in the AHL.  The 5'10, 185-lb Quebec native scored 16 goals and 30 points in 64 games last season, his first full...

Owners vs. Owners

from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province, There are some well informed people around the NHL who feel the massive spend fest over the last few days has an excellent chance to make the new collective bargaining agreement negotiations a lot more difficult…. Take the behaviour of the Carolina Hurricanes for instance. Here was a team that was apparently hot and heavy after Zach...
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.