Wednesday: While Waddell has interviewed for the Minnesota job, Dundon fully believes that his current general manager will remain with the team. He told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti that he expects Waddell to be Carolina’s GM for a while and that he intends to continue with Waddell not being under any sort of formal contract.
Tuesday: For those who weren’t aware that GM Don Waddell had not yet signed a new contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, especially some Hurricanes fans, it came as a painful revelation this morning when the news broke that Waddell had interviewed for the same role with the Minnesota Wild. The resulting question obviously becomes: why hasn’t a General Manager of the Year candidate, whose team made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Final, been re-signed?
As Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer writes, Waddell’s continued free agency is just one of a series of odd moves – or really non-moves – made by the Hurricanes organization this off-season. In addition to the GM and President operating without a contract, Carolina has also allowed several executives and scouts to depart, as well as Calder Cup-winning AHL coach Mike Vellucci, and goalie coach Mike Bales, who has yet to be replaced. This all comes from what DeCock describes as owner Tom Dundon’s belief that “everyone and everything is replaceable”.
Dundon himself addressed the situation, speaking honestly with DeCock about his mindset when it comes to front office staffing:
Even if [Waddell] had a contract I would let him interview, so what’s the difference? It’s not going to stop somebody from doing whatever’s better for them. If they’re going to pay somebody more money, I’m not going to stop them. I told him he’s got to do what’s best for him… I’m not going to pay what other guys pay GMs, so me having a contract with a GM doesn’t really help me. Don in essence has a contract. I already told Don, ‘I’m not going to fire you. If I did, I’d tell you a year in advance.’ My life’s pretty good. I want people to do what’s best for their life. If this is what’s best for Don, the Hurricanes will be fine.”
It’s a bold strategy by the owner and one that might frighten some fans about in the direction of the franchise. At the same time, Waddell has seemed agreeable to the premise and it could be that this is simply Dundon’s style and many are content to operate as such. DeCock writes that Waddell has continued in a “business as usual” manner ever since his contract expired in June and interviewing with the Wild is the first sign that he may be unhappy with his current at-will status. The GM himself talked to DeCock about the situation, and seemed open to the arrangement though:
Tom doesn’t believe in a lot of contracts. Tom’s told me I have a job for life. But he’s also encouraged me to explore other opportunities to see what the market will pay. We started something here, I love it here, but when the job opened up and Tom said you should explore it, that’s what I’m doing.
It remains to be seen whether, as Waddell mentioned, this interview in Minnesota was more or less a way to gauge the market for use as leverage in eventual contract talks or if the GM really is interested in moving on after such a strong first season in Carolina. It is a very strange and unique situation and this is certainly not the last of this story.