When he was named captain of the Carolina Hurricanes before the 1998-99 season, Keith Primeau was the physical equivalent of Jordan Staal as a pure power forward type center. At 6-5 and 220 pounds and 26 years of age, he was the young leader and poster child for a Canes team that deep in the category of “big and rugged” He was also an early fan favorite and a big part of the team’s marketing.
Primeau’s stay in North Carolina was a short two years (following one year in Hartford), but he made the most of those two years. He wore the ‘C’ for the 1998-99 team that registered the Hurricanes’ first division title and also first playoff berth. Primeau averaged a forward-leading 21:21 of ice time in 78 games that season and led the team in goals with 30 and points with 62 on the way to bringing NHL playoffs to the NHL for the first time. In his short stay, he was arguably the team’s best player leading the team in goals and points in both of his seasons with the Canes.
Despite the promising play as a young leader, he will ironically be most remembered for his departure from the organization which charted a course to the team’s greatest accomplishments over the next years. After holding out most of the 1999-00 season over contract negotiations, Canes general manager Jim Rutherford somehow managed to trade him to Philadelphia for full value. Rod Brind’Amour was the primary return of a trade with a few other small parts. We all know how that turned out which fairly or unfairly led Keith Primeau to become the answer to the trivia question – “Who did the Hurricanes trade to get Rod Brind’Amour?”
Despite some negativity with the fan base and organization from his contract holdout, you cannot fault Primeau for what did and helped the team accomplish in his two years on the ice before the holdout season which included wearing the C during a couple big Carolina Hurricanes ‘firsts.’