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?
I think the Faulk-Edmondson deal was the one that surprised me the most: not that Faulk was traded, but that the biggest part of the return was a defensemen. Faulk’s defense and play generally had fallen off a bit two years prior to the midpoint of last season, but then he came on strong especially in the playoffs. During the discussions we had around here over trading Faulk, replacing his grit on the Blue Line was a serious concern for almost everyone, so it’s actually not surprising that GMDW saw the same thing and addressed it in the trade. A big win, especially if he re-signs here.
And now with the Adam Fox trade officially yielding a 2nd-round pick, which might be a pick in late 30’s (around where we got Aho), the trade with CGY looks even better – though I think I’d still rather have Fox than the pick. We did well there, too.
As for what’s coming next, there is the JW situation that may factor into things – that doesn’t really qualify as an in-season move even though there will be a new contract to negotiate – but before that, we have to decide what we really need. Lately, the team has really started to play its best hockey of the season and special teams are killing it. Yes, goal-scoring is uneven and inconsistent, but when you look at the games where we haven’t scored, it’s mostly because of the other team’s goalie and not because we’re not generating chances.
I don’t feel the same pressure to make an in-season move like I felt last year, when we were struggling in the standings and had two bad contracts to deal with (Rask, Darling). Neither is true now. I heard Haula rejoined the team and is skating, maybe even now back to day-to-day. I’d like to the see the team again with him in the lineup again. I think we should continue to be patient for now.
After almost half the season, we are who are record says we are: a really good team.
Good call on the Adam Fox trade. Ideal would have been to sign him, but it just was not an option. So dealing from a point of weakness and still netting what became two second-round picks was pretty good work.
1. No home runs Yet), like Nino/Rask and no major turnover (Hanifin/Lindholm) but I would say solid.
You did forget the Marleau trade, which set us against the cap limit.
And based on what I heard at the time I would re-interpret the CdH/Saarela trade as a cap dump. At that time we knew an offer sheet was most likely coming and we needed to be in a position of being able to afford a big number. Saarela was added as the sweetener for CHI and we got back AHL players.
I think long-term is that Waddell is focussed on managing cap in the out years, when Hamilton and Svech come due. He is only taking shorter term on players like Edmondson and Dzingel.
2. The deal he did not do – i.e., re-signing Faulk.
3. A deal this year will be tougher but I expect something will happen to change up the roster.
As you and Surgalt mentioned, I probably should have included the Marleau trade. My focus was on trades that affected the roster, but indirectly the Marleau deal does play into that since the team is up against the salary cap for the first time ever.
Another trade that occurred that can’t be graded yet is the deal to take on Patrick Marleau’s $6.5mm cap hit in return for a first round pick from Toronto. That pick is top 10 protected, meaning the best outcome for the Canes would be for the Leafs not make the playoffs to and finish the season in 11th place in the league. They currently sit 12th in the league and 3 points behind the last wildcard slot in the East. So far so good. The trade pushed the Canes to the salary cap for this season resulting in restraints on other trades that might be considered for this season. On the other hand that 1st pick will be valuable currency should the Canes become buyers before the deadline.
1. He gets a B to B+
The Darling/Reimer trade was an A+.
The Marleau deal is a C for me (we could easily have added Talor Hall to the mix with the extra first round picks and more of the Charlotte prospect pool, the Devils blogger is not happy about it
The Gardner signing is a B- but with a potential to be anywhere from a C to an A depending on how the rest of the season goes for him, he’s been playing better lately for sure.
The Faulk deal was sneaky good, I wasn’t happy but Edmunson has been very good for us, the grading of that trade is also dependent on how Gardner progresses and what steady Eddie is willing to reup for).
The CDH trade to Chicago was nothing special, but I think DW was not aware of the chance of being able to trade Darling at the time, so it made sense to get a backup capable goalie from Chicago.
The Haula trade was good, though it was an injury risk we took at forward (while reducing it on D). Haula is a special player when healthy.
RDZ signing is pretty solid, his scoring could be better but he’s got chemistry with Haula and Necas, when healthy these 3 guys could form a quality scoring third line as we saw in the early going, which would increase the scoring potential.
2. Reimer for Darling was the most impressive to me.
3. The team could’ve pulled of a number of trades but is playing well right now and doesn’t need an extra player yet. I think adding a player later is very much in the cards, most likely in early February (I think, if a team is going to do a playoff addition, that the player needs time to gel with the rest of the group so pulling off such a trade early increases the likelyhood of a home run).
Sven Baerdsi (no idea how to spell it, too lazy to look) is available from the Cannucks for a bag of pucks. He could find chemistry with a fellow Swiss player and he has scoring potential, I haven’t looked seriously but I’m sure there are other deals, but the team doesn’t need anyone at the moment.
My sense is the Devils were going to really try to move Hall out of the Eastern Conference for obvious reasons. It also appears their real commitment to moving Hall wasn’t in place until recently, certainly after the Canes had committed salary elsewhere. I’m not sure I can agree that the move of Hall to the Canes could have ever been done easily.
Sven Baertshi has cleared waivers twice already this season in Vancouver. Thus he has been available to the other 30 teams in the league for free, not once, but twice. Hard not to read something into that fact. This article documents the Canucks quilt in the players failure to stick in the NHL this season. https://www.vancourier.com/pass-it-to-bulis/everyone-is-frustrated-with-the-sven-baertschi-situation-1.24036245
Well, it would’ve been easy to offer the Devils an equivalent package to what Az did if we weren’t so handicapped by the cap. It’s true that is no guarantee of a deal and teams typically prefer to ship their players to the other side so as to not having to face them often.
The next target appears to be Jonathan Drouin.
He’s never really lived up to expectations and he is currently hurt but he can play as a center and actually might have some of the play making ability the Canes might benefit from.
Not that I’m advocating for any trade right now, just having fun with speculations.