The Carolina Hurricanes had a great year, ruined by “one bad week,” as head coach Rod Brind’Amour put it today. The club won 52 games, cruised through the first two rounds against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, dropping just three games, and seemed poised to compete for the Stanley Cup. Four straight losses to the Florida Panthers turned the good vibes into a concerning tone, and will force them to reconsider what comes next.
Today, speaking with Brind’Amour at the season-ending press conference, general manager Don Waddell explained that the Hurricanes will explore the trade market “pretty heavily” before free agency opens a month from now.
That’s nothing new for the veteran GM.
Since taking over the day-to-day operations in 2018, the list of players Waddell has acquired through trade is extensive—and impressive. Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Martinook, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, James Reimer, Joel Edmundson, Vincent Trocheck, Sami Vatanen, Brady Skjei, Max Domi, Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Shayne Gostisbehere have all been brought in.
They even took a shot at trying to sign Adam Fox, though he would eventually spurn them as well, waiting to get to his preferred New York destination.
While not every member of that group has been successful in Carolina, it’s a testament to the creativity and courage that Waddell has when discussing trades. It also reflects how well their scouting and development system has worked over the years, churning out assets to swap while continuing to produce NHL-quality talent for the roster.
Pacioretty, for instance, was a home run cut that whiffed this year. He was acquired for nothing, as the Vegas Golden Knights needed to clear cap space, and had the potential to be a high-end goal scorer for the club. But two Achilles injuries would limit him to just five games (and three goals).
Waddell admitted today that there is interest in re-signing the pending UFA, but the team has to “make sure [they] don’t get caught counting on something that isn’t there.” It’s unclear when Pacioretty will be ready to play hockey and what kind of impact he can make if he returns.
With significant cap space to use but considerable gaps in the current roster, it should be a wildly entertaining offseason from the Hurricanes. Given the team still carries nine picks in this year’s draft, including their first-rounder, there could be fireworks on the horizon.