It is certainly a new era in Hurricanes history, and Don Waddell has been a big part of that. Since being named General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, Waddell has orchestrated a lot of change in this organization. Canes fans haven’t seen this much change in what feels like an eternity, and a lot of it is for the better. In this article, I’ll be grading Don Waddell on every move he has made since being named Interim GM of the Hurricanes.
New Staff – A-
Tom Dundon was clear when he said that our staff needed to be filled out a little bit. The Hurricanes added two big pieces to their front office in Paul Krepelka and Rick Dudley. Krepelka had been an agent for many years before becoming the Director of Player Personnel for the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals. The Canes then decided to hire him as Vice President of Hockey Operations. It hasn’t been stated exactly what Krepelka does for this organization, but it’s likely that he works with players on contract negotiations. He’s been an agent before and knows what players want. He was hired to sign players to team-friendly contracts and has done a good job of it so far.
Rick Dudley is a person that’s been in the hockey world for almost 50 years. He played professional hockey from 1970-1982 and then immediately became the GM and head coach of the Carolina Thunderbirds in the ACHL. He’s been in some sort of role with teams ever since. Highlights of his career include being head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, GM of the Senators, GM and VP of hockey operations of the Tampa Bay Lightning, GM of the Florida Panthers, GM of the Thrashers, and finally, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Montreal Canadiens. Dudley has had a very long and successful career in management and is taking on the same role in Carolina that he had in Montreal. Dudley is someone that Waddell can trust to do pretty much anything, which is incredibly important. It’s never a bad thing to have another voice in the room, and Dudley has a lot of experience.
The Canes’ coaching staff had a massive overhaul as well. Rod Brind’Amour replaced Bill Peters as coach, which was a change that needed to happen. To put it nicely, the players seemed to dislike Bill Peters. Brind’Amour is a guy that the Canes players seemed to respect, which should help the team succeed this season. Jeff Daniels and Dean Chynoweth were brought in as assistant coaches as well. Daniels has been with the Hurricanes organization since the 2003-2004 season and has worked in many roles. He’s been an assistant coach in the NHL, a head coach of the Albany River Rats/Charlotte Checkers, and was recently a pro scout and director of professional scouting for the Carolina Hurricanes. He brings a lot of coaching experience to the table and should be a valuable asset. Dean Chynoweth has been a coach at the NHL, AHL, and junior levels and will be another experienced person behind the bench.
Waddell has also brought in two new scouts that we know of this off-season. Grant Sonier has been a scout in the NHL for a long time, and has worked with Waddell before. Our other scout that we brought in, David Burstyn, will be a pro scout for the Hurricanes. He’s worked as a scout in the OHL for a long time and has worked for McKeen’s hockey in the past. The Canes needed a big boost to their pro scouting, and he’ll be a valuable asset. It’s likely that the Canes have hired other scouts, but these are the only ones that have been announced by someone on Twitter.
Waddell gets an A- here because the jury is still out on the coaching staff. The scouting additions as well as the additions in the front office were excellent, but the coaching staff is a bit of an unknown. Will Brind’Amour be able to take this team to the playoffs? Will Daniels and Chynoweth be able to change the Hurricanes’ special teams? These are just two big questions facing the coaching staff, which is why they get that grade.
European Free Agents – A
The Canes signed two European free agents this summer for organizational depth. Saku Maenalanen was the first signing that the Canes made, and out of the two, he’s more likely to make the opening night roster. The 24 year old signed a one year entry-level contract after putting up 46 points in 59 games for Karpat in the Finnish men’s league. His NHL ceiling is a bit limited to a bottom six role, but he’s got a fighting chance to be the Hurricanes’ fourth line center this season. The 6’4 forward can score goals and play with a little bit of an edge. Waddell trusted his Finnish scouts with this signing, and it’ll hopefully pay off.
Michael Fora was the second European player to sign with the Hurricanes. Fora finished up a solid season with HC Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss men’s league. He’s a defensive defenseman that can join in on the rush. It’s good to have size on the back end, and Fora brings a lot of experience. Playing in a key role in a men’s league at 22 is impressive and the Canes took notice of it. He’ll play for the Hurricanes in Traverse City and likely the Charlotte Checkers for the remainder of the season.
The Draft – A+
The lottery worked in the Canes’ favor when they won the second overall pick. Drafting Andrei Svechnikov was huge for the organization. Svechnikov has the ability to be an impact player in the NHL immediately. He could be a 50 point scorer this season while scoring 30 goals. He’ll score, play with an edge, cause turnovers, and be a nightmare to play against. Svechnikov is exactly the player that the Canes were looking for and will make the team without a doubt.
The rest of the draft was solid for the Canes too. Jack Drury is a kid with a higher ceiling than people let on. He’s a character kid that has a lot of great attributes both on and off the ice. He’s a leader, gifted offensively, and a good defender. He could be a middle six forward once he gets quicker. Lenni Killinen is a player that’s dynamic offensively but struggles with consistency. He’s got a ton of upside but will need to play consistently before the Canes offer him a contract. Henman is a lanky kid that needs to add muscle. I like him offensively and think that there’s some potential there, but my goodness does he need to gain some weight. Jesper Sellgren is a 20 year old with bottom pairing potential. He’s defensively responsible and is a good thinker. He’s a player that I could see contending for a third pairing spot in the next three years or so. Jake Kucharski was the last pick, and he’s what you’d expect for a seventh round pick. He didn’t have great numbers last season, but the Canes scouts seemed to like something about him.
Free Agency – B
Letting go of Cam Ward was great, but replacing him with Petr Mrazek doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade. He’s been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career, but the Canes may be hoping that he improves with a better defense in front of him. With all of the work that Darling has put forth this season, one would hope that Mrazek could be the backup.
Signing de Haan was huge. This is a player that the Canes needed. He can play top four minutes and contribute offensively when needed. He’s coming off of some tough injuries but can still be a great replacement for Hanifin. He may not produce as much as Hanifin can, but he’ll make up for it with how good he is defensively.
Outside of this, the Canes didn’t make a whole lot of moves in free agency. It wasn’t a great class, so this is all they needed. They got their goalie, even if he wasn’t a big upgrade over what we had. De Haan was a huge addition, however, which allows for Waddell to receive a B.
Trades – B+
Canes twitter don’t read this…
The Jeff Skinner trade wasn’t a bad trade. He was not going to re-sign with the team no matter what changes were made, so it was best to let go of him now. It was too risky to keep him if the Canes were just going to trade him at the deadline. Either he performs about as well as he normally has and fetches a little bit more or he underperforms and the Canes get pennies on the dollar for him. Was the return great? No, what the Canes got wasn’t good. Still, it was something. The Canes could have lost Skinner for nothing, but instead, they get a good prospect and three picks. Pu is a solid prospect that could be a third line player in a few years. He’s fast and can be a dynamic player in the offensive zone. The Canes have had a lot of success in the draft in recent years, especially in the second round. Having one extra top 50 pick in a deep draft is huge for the Canes. It could either be a trade piece at the deadline or an extra prospect for the Hurricanes. Either way, it’s a good addition. Third and sixth round picks are always decent too.
A lot of people forget about the first trade that Waddel made as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes. Waddell traded Marcus Kruger and a 2018 third round pick to Arizona for Jordan Martinook and a 2018 fourth round pick. Martinook is a good fourth line player and brings a much needed physical presence to the Canes’ roster. While the Canes did move down in the draft, they still might have gotten the better player. Arizona drafted a defenseman with good two way potential, but Carolina was able to select Lenni Killinen. He’s got a high ceiling which is huge for the Hurricanes.
Lastly, the Canes made the biggest move at the draft by sending Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox. Hanifin and Lindholm needed contracts that the Hurricanes just weren’t willing to give them. Lindholm wanted close to $5 million and the Hurricanes just simply weren’t going to pay that. His career high in goals is 17, set back in the 2014-15 season. His career high in points is just 45, which he set in the 2016-17 season. Lindholm seemed to have plateaued for the Hurricanes a little bit, so they decided to trade his rights. Hanifin has a ton of potential but again, the Canes weren’t willing to give him the money he wanted. He’s still an RFA, by the way. Hanifin had a career year in goals (10) and points (32) but his lack of effort in the defensive zone made him expendable. Hanifin struggled to play defense and would cost the Hurricanes a goal on many occasions. The Canes upgraded their team in a major way with this deal. Dougie Hamilton has been a 40+ point defenseman for four seasons now and is consistently one of the top goal scorers on the back end. He outscored Lindholm last season and finished with the same amount of points as well. He’s a right handed defenseman that plays excellent offense, great defense, and can be used on the power play. The Canes will likely use him on the first unit, which might cause his point totals to increase. Hamilton is a huge upgrade over Hanifin. Ferland is a good replacement for Lindholm for the time being. He’s a good forward that can produce while bringing a physical element to the table. He may not produce as much as Lindholm, but he’ll actually hit someone instead of actively avoiding a hit. It’s a small upgrade but an upgrade nonetheless. Fox is a big piece in this deal as well. He’s a blue chip prospect that I’ve had my eye on for years. Not many players can dominate a game like he can. Fox has played in two NCAA seasons for Harvard and has come out a point per game player. It’s likely that he’ll sign with Carolina after this next season and he could contend for a roster spot sooner rather than later. Fox is capable of big numbers in the NHL and will be able to do so with the Hurricanes.
Don Waddell Gets an A grade from me so far. He set out to improve the team and did so in many different ways. I like what he’s done with our front office. His free agency moves in Europe were good and the moves to improve the NHL team in free agency weren’t terrible either. Mrazek is a bit of an unknown but de Haan is a huge piece for the Hurricanes. Waddell continued the Hurricanes’ tradition of drafting well by drafting players with NHL upside. He’s upgraded the team in both big and small ways in trades as well. It stings a bit that Jeff Skinner couldn’t fetch more, but Waddell got what he could for him. Overall, it’s been a good off-season from him. Now it’s up to the players to perform on the ice and get this team back into the playoffs.
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