There were obviously many contributors with the players on the ice being first and foremost, but the Carolina Hurricanes success in 2018-19 very much had Don Waddell’s fingerprints all over it.
A successful round one in 2018-19
Waddell kicked off a busy off-season with what was a ho-hum depth at the time obtaining Jordan Martinook for Marcus Kruger who did not have a future with the Hurricanes after being demoted to the AHL the previous season. Then he pulled off a blockbuster adding Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. Next Waddell signed free agent Calvin de Haan completing a significant makeover of the blue line. Then in a move arguably aimed at culture, Waddell jettisoned Jeff Skinner for a modest return. Combined with three rookies (Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark) stepping into the NHL lineup, the roster was dramatically different. Then during the season, the waiver wire acquisition of Curtis McElhinney and the trade for Nino Niederreiter were also instrumental in the team’s success.
An early look at Waddell’s 2019-20 work
After a successful 2018-19 campaign, one might have figured that the summer would be a quieter one for the Hurricanes, but that was not so much true.
Scott Darling for James Reimer
In a move somewhat reminiscent of the Martinook/Kruger trade the summer before, Waddell managed to get something for for a player who was otherwise destined to be bought out when he traded Scott Darling for James Reimer. The deal would be a sizable win if Reimer was even just barely serviceable as a backup in 2019-20 and could then be traded to cut salary next summer. Thus far, Reimer has been significantly better than serviceable taking on more than an equal share of the tougher starts including a road-heavy slate and posting a solid 7-5 mark.
Justin Faulk for James Edmundson and prospect Dominik Bokk
This trade increasingly looks sneaky smart. The Hurricanes were not going to re-up for a ton of dollars and a ton of years with Faulk who will be 28 years old when his seven-year contract starts. As such, Waddell moved to collect what he could. When the deal happened, it was largely labeled as Faulk for prospect Dominik Bokk, but also coming to Raleigh was veteran defenseman Joel Edmundson. Through 33 games, Edmundson has been more than capable playing in Faulk’s slot next to Pesce. At least through 33 games of the 2019-20 season, I think one could make a decent argument that the trade is a wash from the Canes perspective. Edmundson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, so the risk is that he becomes a short-timer, but in getting a replacement for 2019-20 for Faulk and a prospect to boot or a player who seemed destined to leave for nothing next summer if not traded, Waddell did pretty well.
Nicolas Roy for Erik Haula
Reaching into the deep prospect pool, Waddell managed to trade a good but second-tier prospect with a modest upside to add forward depth in Erik Haula mostly because Vegas was up against the salary cap ceiling and needed to unload a player or two. The risk with Haula coming off a significant knee injury has maybe been realized, but when he has been in the lineup, he has been a tremendous addition. He is the team’s top finisher on the power play and meshed nicely with Martin Necas and Ryan Dzingel in creating a dangerous third line.
Jake Gardiner free agent signing
Related to the Justin Faulk trade, Waddell also dipped into the free agent pool adding defenseman Jake Gardiner for what seemed like a modest $4 million salary. Gardiner brought a more offensive skill set that included the ability to quarterback a power play unit. Through 33 games, this has been Waddell’s only miss. Gardiner has struggled acclimating to the Hurricanes so far. He has been sub-par defensively, and his offensive play has not really clicked. Very important to note is that it is far too early to assign a final grade to this move. As I have noted a couple times, Dougie Hamilton struggled early on adapting to the Canes, so it is very reasonable to hope that Gardiner is just off to a slow start like Hamilton and is on the path to figuring it out.
Calvin de Haan (and Aleksi Saarela) for Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg
Probably trading out of injury risk more than anything, Waddell traded well-liked newcomer Calvin de Haan to Chicago for two AHL/NHL fringe players in Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg. The move was a disappointing one for many because of the meager return. But I think Waddell and company decided to move on from de Haan and his three-year commitment after he had major shoulder surgery in consecutive seasons. That move is an interesting only a couple months into the season. Calvin de Haan is out of the lineup with another shoulder injury, and Aleksi Saarela has already been dealt to Florida after rubbing another organization the wrong way.
Letting free agent Micheal Ferland leave
A non-move that was essentially a move was to also allow free agent Micheal Ferland to leave. Like de Haan, this was at least partly a decision to opt out of significant injury risk. And as with de Haan, that decision has paid off. Less than three months into a four-year contract, Ferland has suffered a concussion and missed significant time.
As I said at the outset, it is far too early to make any kind of final assessment of Waddell’s work last summer, but I think it is fair to say that the early returns are incredibly positive. If you go deal by deal, I would rate five of six deals as favorable so far.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Through 33 games, how would you rate Waddell’s work? More significantly, what do you expect over the long-term?
2) Which deal do you rate as his best?
3) With limited cap space, do you think Don Waddell will be able to pull off another mid-season deal to bolster the lineup like he did with the Nino Niederreiter trade last season?