Gold: The best five trades in Hurricanes history
Every organization has its highs and lows, not just on the field/court/ice, but in those personnel decisions that shape the future. The Cardinals acquired Lou Brock for someone named Ernie Broglio. The Falcons traded Brett Favre to the Packers for the 19th pick in the 1992 draft. The Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony.
The Carolina Hurricanes, like every other franchise, is a mixed bag of bad and good. But, the five best trades in franchise history all have a tangible impact on this particular iteration of the Canes.
5) January 17, 2019 — Carolina Hurricanes acquire Nino Niederreiter (LW) from the Minnesota Wild for Victor Rask (C).
Two players with three years remaining on healthy contracts that were underperforming for their previous club. Um, turns out all Niederreiter needed was competent line mates. In 46 games with the Wild this season, Nino found himself mired on a fourth line and playing reduced minutes as Minnesota struggled to find traction.
In a Canes uniform, Niederreiter rang up 14 goals and compiled 30 points in 36 games and helped balance out Carolina’s offensive attack. Rod Brind’Amour created a top line of Niederreiter, Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams that helped the Canes to a second half surge into the playoffs for the first time in ten years.
Rask, well, Victor just isn’t the player he was three years ago. Some of that is due to injuries, some due to the game getting a bit too fast for him, but Rask’s production fell to a career low nine points in 49 games for the season.
4) June 22, 2012 — Carolina Hurricanes acquire Jordan Staal (C) from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Brandon Sutter (C), Brian Dumoulin (D) and the 8th pick in the 2012 draft.
At the time, this didn’t appear to be a great trade. Sutter and Staal were each defensive minded centers with some offensive upside. Dumoulin was a rising defensive prospect and that 8th pick in the upcoming draft could have been used to select the likes of Filip Forsberg, Tom Wilson, Teuvo Teravainen or Andrei Vasilevskiy.
That was then. Now…?
Jordan Staal is a workhorse. A defensive star with a knack for scoring big goals and the more you watch him the more you get what (then) General Manager Jim Rutherford was thinking when he swung the deal and then gave Staal a 10-year/$60 million contract. Sutter is a nice player, Dumoulin a solid defenseman, but neither is a player who alters games.
Jordan Staal does.
I’m mad at myself for not realizing this a long time ago. Please accept my apology for criticizing this deal, Mr. Rutherford.
3) January 16, 2002 — Carolina Hurricanes acquired Bret Hedican (D) and Kevyn Adams (C) from the Florida Panthers for Sandis Ozolinsh (D) and Byron Ritchie (C).
A foundational (is that a word) deal as the Hurricanes were putting together the pieces of a team that would eventually go on to win a Stanley Cup. Each was an incredible leader. Hedican is part of the all-time Hurricanes team and Adams — an alternate captain in 2006 — was a face off-winning, penalty-killing, high character player that every championship team employs.
Ozolinsh was an offensively gifted but defensively challenged blue liner who was the object of many team’s affection but, um, well, let’s just say that he wasn’t a great fit for the Hurricanes. So, a year and a half after arriving via trade from the Avalanche, Ozolish was flipped to Florida for a pair of players who would help Carolina reach two Stanley Cup Finals eventually etching their names on the trophy in 2006.
They were two of the best people to ever play for the Hurricanes and helped form the nucleus of the franchise’ identity. One that Rod Brind’Amour has worked tirelessly to uncover over the last year.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. The Hurricanes also got a young defensive prospect in the deal. Tomas Malec. He played 46 NHL games.
2) January 20, 2004 — Carolina Hurricanes acquired Justin Williams (RW) from the Philadelphia Flyers for Danny Markov (D).
Williams was in his 4th NHL season when Jim Rutherford stole him from the Flyers. He was just 22 years old, with 115 points in 226 NHL games and a hockey IQ measured in miles. Markov was a veteran, offensive-minded defenseman who had done stints with the Maple Leafs and Coyotes before arriving in Carolina via trade.
As was the case with Ozolinsh, Markov just wasn’t a good fit for the club and in the middle of his first year in Raleigh, Rutherford turned him into a player who was an integral part of a championship team and who will one day have his name and number hang from the rafters of PNC Arena.
Williams’ head coach calls him the best linemate he’s ever had and his ability to relate to every single player in the dressing room makes him as good a captain as you will ever find.
Oh, and those three Stanley Cups don’t hurt either. Not to mention that he just might see his name pop up on that sucker again.
1) January 23, 2000 — Carolina Hurricanes acquired Rod Brind’Amour (C) from the Philadelphia Flyers for Keith Primeau (C).
Primeau was the Hurricanes’ captain at the time. But, being locked in a contract dispute with the organization while the team had just moved into the brand new Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh was a lethal combination. Primeau, who averaged more than 27 goals per year during his 3-season stint, was roundly criticized by management and fans and the team had no choice but to eventually consider a trade.
Keith Primeau was a very good player. But, he wasn’t anywhere close to Rod Brind’Amour.
Simply put, Brind’Amour is the best player, the best leader, the best person, to ever walk through the doors of PNC Arena. Statistics can’t begin to explain his impact on the Hurricanes. He was everything you’d want in a hockey player. Honest. Reliable. Hard-working. Clutch. All of the above, and many other adjectives easily describe the man who now stands behind the Hurricanes’ bench.
But, the best trait Brind’Amour possesses — then, as a player, now as the head coach — is the fact that he cares, deeply, about the people who play, who work and who root for the Carolina Hurricanes. Brind’Amour loved his teammates, respected the game and all it stood for, and only wants what is best for the organization.
Above all, without it ever being about him, he feels a responsibility to restore your faith — yes, you the fan — in his team. He knew what it was that made the 2002, 2006 and 2009 teams so special. And, he only wanted the opportunity to do what he could to bring it back. To electrify the building, to reinvigorate the community, to restore his franchise to what he feels it could — and should — be.
While the Canes aren’t yet done with this return to glory, Rod Brind’Amour has his team headed in the right direction.
Buckle up those chin straps, Caniacs. This ride is far from over.