Since losing to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final earlier this year, the Carolina Hurricanes have had an interesting offseason. A time that is usual pretty routine and even boring has been very entertaining for Hurricanes fans. And not necessarily in a completely good way.
Featuring Don Waddell
Rather than be the topic of conversation only on draft weekend, the Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell has been at the center of Hurricanes news. The most recent installment of the Waddell show has him in Minnesota talking with the Wild about their open general manager position.
This is intriguing because Waddell was an NHL GM of the Year finalist this past season and acquired right wing Nino Niederreiter from the Wild at the trade deadline in a deal that netted Minnesota center Victor Rask. One could speculate that Waddell is looking to reunite with Rask and former Hurricanes captain, Eric Staal, but that would border on the absurd.
Featuring Tom Dundon
Meanwhile back home in Raleigh, Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon is downplaying the visit and essentially saying, “It’s all good.” His comments about Waddell’s contract situation have been very casual and lacking in any sense of urgency.
Adam Gold, local radio host wrote at WRALSportsFan.com that the Waddell situation is symptomatic of a larger problem behind the scenes with the Hurricanes. Gold wrote:
We know for a fact that Dundon doesn’t place the same value on the position of general manager as do the rest of the league. That’s why Waddell became the general manager in the first place. Dundon had shown former GM Ron Francis the door and needed a replacement.
We can recall that Dundon interviewed some potential general manager candidates last year and was rumored to be offering significantly lower than typical compensation. At the last minute, Dundon added GM to Waddell’s title of president and that was that. Waddell served as president and general manager last season and his contract run out June 30th.
So here we are a month or so out of prospect tournaments and training camps and the Hurricanes do not have an official general manager under a contract. Apparently, Dundon does not think it is a big deal. Tom Gulitti wrote at NHL.com this past Wednesday that Dundon fully expects Waddell to remain in his role as GM. Gulitti quoted Dundon as saying,
To me, he’s employed by the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s employed and he’s not going anywhere as far as I’m concerned. So the whole contract thing, I don’t understand it.
Dundon went on to say, “I have found this weird since I got into the hockey business that the business people all have contracts. I never had contracts with the people that worked for me. It was just, ‘If you do a good job (and) I like you, you’ll work here, and I’ll treat you fair.'”
Dundon is still somewhat new to the world of hockey. Its nuances and traditions are embedded deep, and he’s butting up against this one that says a general manager needs to have a contract. In fact, the NHL mandates that every team have a general manager under contract by Sept. 1.
So how will this play out? Will Dundon just keep the “casual Friday” approach to employees’ employment seeing no need to give Waddell a contract? Or, will the NHL call him and let him know in so many words that he needs to get a contract in place for Waddell right away? Or, will Waddell bounce, seeing greener pastures under the snow of Minnesota?
Here’s a good question: Is the lack of a contract for Waddell a factor in Justin Williams’ not having signed to play another year with the Hurricanes? Probably not, but he might be watching this story to see how it plays out before committing to another year. It’s possible Waddell could walk and Dundon hire someone that Williams doesn’t like and suddenly he calls it a career.
Waddell said recently that timetables don’t work and that it will likely be in August when Williams makes his decision. It is now Aug. 11. But, it’s all good.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.