The Carolina Hurricanes traded defenseman Ethan Bear and forward Lane Pederson to the Vancouver Canucks last Friday, in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2023. The Hurricanes also retained $400,000 from Bear’s $2.2 million cap hit for the season.
Bear had been with the Hurricanes since last summer, after being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Warren Foegele. The trade with Vancouver didn't really come as much of a surprise, given Bear had been a healthy scratch for every game of the season so far. That said, it’s still quite the turn of events for the defenseman in the span of only about a year.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, Bear seemed poised to take on a top-four role with the team, following the departure of Dougie Hamilton. He got off to a pretty strong start as well and looked good with the Hurricanes initially, but then ended up testing positive for COVID and upon returning, didn’t fully find his game again. His role was then reduced pretty quickly and he found himself as a healthy scratch at times throughout the year.
I still maintain that Bear losing a spot in the lineup probably had more to do with Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith playing well than it did Bear playing poorly. That said, it was still a disappointing season for the defenseman.
Then this year, Bear essentially became the team’s eighth defenseman. The top-four was solidified, and with Jalen Chatfield, Dylan Coghlan and Calvin de Haan all being slotted in ahead of Bear, there was no spot for him.
In terms of the deal itself, getting back a fifth-round pick despite retaining salary doesn’t look great. If there was so little confidence in Bear finding a spot in the lineup, re-signing him to a $2.2 million contract seems like an odd move.
The Hurricanes did want to shed Lane Pederson’s contract given how much money he was making at the AHL level, according to Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts Podcast. Obviously, that’s not something that actually affects the team but it seems as though it was an incentive in the trade and helps to explain that from Carolina’s perspective, they were also moving out an unwanted contract in the deal, in addition to getting a pick back.
Bear is still just 25 years old and I think there’s absolutely a chance he ends up having a lengthy NHL career. He has a lot of the tools, it’ll just be about putting it all together consistently.
It’s disappointing to see him go but at the same time, the Hurricanes cleared cap space and got back a pick for a defenseman who probably wasn’t going to play much this season. Carolina’s top-four group is completely set and there are other defensemen on the team capable of providing an impact on the bottom pairing.
It’s still surprising the Hurricanes weren’t able to get back a better pick but the reality is, the move probably isn’t going to negatively affect the team.