Despite recently saying that he doesn’t necessarily believe in contracts, Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has committed to his top hockey executive. The team has announced a multi-year extension for GM Don Waddell, keeping him in the organization after he recently interviewed with the Minnesota Wild. Waddell had still been working as the GM of the Hurricanes after his previous contract had expired at the end of June. Dundon released a short statement on the deal:
Don’s leadership and experience are invaluable to our organization and I’m happy we were able reach an extension. Don and I have a great relationship and he is someone I trust. I’m excited to continue to build a championship team with Don.
Waddell took over as GM after Ron Francis left the organization in 2018 and led the team to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The Hurricanes reached the Eastern Conference Final, but unfortunately fell to the Boston Bruins in four games. Waddell’s signature move during the season was acquiring Nino Neiderreiter from the Wild, who promptly put up 30 points in 34 games and found immediate chemistry among the Hurricanes’ best forwards. He also was the GM when the team pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal last summer, sending Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland.
This offseason, Waddell has been hard at working trying to improve the club even further. Though he failed to re-sign Ferland and watched him hit unrestricted free agency, the Hurricanes replaced his offense by adding Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel while also locking up Sebastian Aho to a long-term deal (with a little help from the Montreal Canadiens, who signed Aho to an offer sheet).
Ultimately his offseason plan may hinge on the goaltending position, where Waddell managed to retain Petr Mrazek and acquire more NHL experience in James Reimer and Anton Forsberg. Playing behind such a strong defense corps will help insulate the goalies—who have all proven to be wildly inconsistent in the past—though Calvin de Haan is now gone, leaving a few more minutes for the young options coming up.
Regardless of the outcome, Dundon has obviously found someone he can communicate with and trust to run the hockey operations. The Hurricanes were one of the best stories in the NHL last season and saw skyrocketing fan engagement through things like the “Storm Surge” and “Bunch of Jerks” moniker. For an organization that has struggled at times in the past to carve out their place in the Carolina sports market, the time under Waddell’s leadership has so far been a huge success.