When a player gets drafted into the NHL, the dream is to be able to make a career with one team. But for most, this isn’t the case. When most people think of long-time Carolina Hurricanes players, it’s Cam Ward, Eric Staal, Glen Wesley, and Rod Brind’Amour that come to mind, with the latter two having their numbers retired with the franchise. All of these players had brief stints with other franchises in their careers, even if it was for one season.
In their time, these four men saw many guys come through the lineup. Some stayed for several seasons. Others dawned the Carolina red sweater for a short time. In this series, we are going to look back on players whose short time with a team came with the Hurricanes.
First up, we have a man who had not one but two stints with the Hurricanes. On one such stint, he was able to lift a Cup, the year after lifting it with another team. This player would be Cory Stillman.
Stillman Prior to Raleigh
Stillman, a native of Peterborough, Ontario, started his career with the Window Spitfires, where he spent two seasons before going to his hometown Peterborough Petes for his last Canadian Hockey League season. In 1992, he was drafted sixth overall by the Calgary Flames, where he spent eight seasons, starting out with the Saint John Flames of the American Hockey League before cracking into the NHL in 1994-95.
With the Flames, he was able to build his strength but only saw the playoffs once. That would all change once he was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2000-01. He would go on to see a lacklustre playoff run during his first season with the Blues and subsequent two seasons. At the end of the 2003-04 season, Stillman would get traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a Blues draft pick that the Blues would use to select David Backes.
It was Stillman’s season with the Tampa Bay Lightning where he would really shine. With the Lightning, he had 25 goals and 80 points in 81 games. The Lightning took the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference to their advantage, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Calgary Flames. The Lightning overcame a 3-2 deficit to come back and lift the Cup, allowing Stillman to get his name etched for the first time in his career.
Carolina and Stillman: Part One
The Lightning did not re-sign him, and the following year saw the 2004-05 lockout. After the lockout, the Hurricanes would sign Stillman, the free agent. Stillman’s first season with the Canes was his best, as he played in 72 games and netted 21 goals with 55 assists for 76 points.
In this season, he was on a line that would go on to become a powerhouse, alongside Eric Staal and Erik Cole. It was thanks to Stillman flanking Eric Staal’s left wing that Staal had his most productive season with the Hurricanes. In the remainder of his seasons with the Hurricanes, the team never saw a return to playoff contention.
Ottawa and Florida
On Feb. 11, 2008, general manager Jim Rutherford traded Stillman and defenseman Mike Commodore to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defensemen Joe Corvo and right winger Patrick Eaves. In his first 14 games with the Senators, Stillman capitalized in his new role, tallying 11 points.
“It is the right decision to come here. It’s an opportunity to play, it’s an opportunity to win.”–Cory Stillman after trade
It wasn’t to be, though. Even though Ottawa made it to the 2007-08 playoffs and Carolina didn’t, the Senators were swept in four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the offseason, he signed with the Florida Panthers and went on to play there for two seasons before he was traded back to the Hurricanes for a second time.
Part 2 With the Hurricanes
On Feb. 24, 2011, the Hurricanes reacquired Stillman from the Panthers in exchange for Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick in 2011. When he came back, coach Paul Maurice placed him on his old line alongside Eric Staal and Erik Cole. Coming back into his old stomping grounds came with a relatively small learning curve for Stillman. The biggest change came from having a new coach in Paul Maurice and only a small amount of players left from his time with the Hurricanes.
In his final 21 games with Hurricanes, he tallied five goals and 11 assists. It would go on to be his final season in professional hockey. Even though he had been offered deals during Free Agency, he decided to retire on his own terms.
“I can walk away knowing I wasn’t pushed out the door,” Stillman. I could still play. When I got traded back to Carolina I was reunited with some guys and we had a good run at the end. In the end, I’m not old, but I’m getting a little older, I’ll be 38 in December, and I had a career I’m very happy with. Now it’s time to move on to be with my family.”-Cory Stillman on his retirement.
In his career that dated 1993-2011, Stillman played 1025 games in the NHL. In that time, he had 278 goals, 449 assists, and 727 points.
Stillman: Post Hockey
When he was playing with the Panthers, they had told him that when he retired, they would offer him a role within the organization. It was an offer Stillman took up upon his retirement. He announced his retirement in Sunrise and immediately went on to join the Panthers staff, where he spent one season as the club’s player development assistant.
In June 2012, a year after he retired, the Hurricanes front office added another former Hurricane to their staff in the form of Stillman. In his new role with the Hurricanes, he served as Director of Forwards Development. He would then stay with the Hurricanes for five seasons as a Director of Player Development.
Between 2017-2020, Stillman coached the Sudbury Wolves, where he was able to coach his youngest son, Chase. In his second season, the team went onto the playoffs, and at the time the COVID-19 pandemic ended the CHL season, the Wolves were first in the Central Division.
In December 2020, the Arizona Coyotes hired Stillman as an assistant coach, a position he still holds. The Stillman name is still alive and strong in the NHL, both behind the bench and on the bench in the form of his sons.
Stillman: The Next Generation
The first of Stillman’s sons to be drafted into the NHL was Riley, who was selected 114th overall by the Panthers in 2016. When Riley returned to Sunrise for his first NHL development camp, it was a homecoming of sorts. Riley had lived in Florida between the ages of 10-13 and spent a lot of time in that locker room with his father. Going back to one of the places it began and putting on the Panthers sweater was life coming full-circle for a guy who played for the Junior Panthers when he lived in Florida. On April 8, 2021, Stillman was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he has played 16 games this season and has 3 assists.
The second Stillman to get drafted was Chase Stillman, who was drafted 29th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 Entry Draft. The youngest Stillman will continue to play in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves until he is ready to make his NHL debut.
Cory Stillman may not have had a long career with the Hurricanes, but he is a large part of the reason two teams were able to bring the Stanley Cup home for the first time. For that reason, he will always hold a special place in the hearts of Hurricanes fans.
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On her previous stint with The Hockey Writers, Casey covered the Tampa Bay Lightning, but she has returned to take on the Carolina Hurricanes. Even though she is Steel City born, a former season ticker member with the Lightning, and lives in Orlando, the Canes have always been her favourite team. She started her hockey career as Keeper of Time for the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcan Hockey Club while going to school for Sport Management. She hopes to one day work with Hockey Ministries International as a team chaplain. You can usually find her tweeting about hockey or posting pictures on Instagram.