Hurricanes’ Waddell Had a Busy June; But Was It Meaningful?

The Carolina Hurricanes were extremely busy during the month of June. General manager Don Waddell made several moves that put the team at the top of the headline list several times. But here at month’s end, what move can be pointed to as meaningful, as genuinely improving the team for next season?

Waddell Drafts Suzuki

One might say that drafting Ryan Suzuki with their 28th overall pick will be meaningful for the Hurricanes’ future. He is touted as being very “hockey smart” and having really good hands. He put on a little show in Saturday’s prospect game, undressing Samuel Harvey who was in goal while Suzuki showed off those hands:

The Hurricanes could definitely use some of that on nights when they are engaged in a shootout. But, for the immediate future, Suzuki will likely find himself off the NHL-level ice and developing his craft even more.

While not a household name, and given that he was available at 28th overall, Suzuki would not be expected to break onto the Hurricanes’ roster this season. Of course, stranger things have happened. Victor Rask showed so much at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament that he could not be denied a spot on the ‘Canes’ roster. If Suzuki can continue to embarrass opposing goaltenders like he did Saturday, his call up might be sooner rather than later.

Waddell’s Big Haul

All in all the Hurricanes netted 12 picks in the draft. The Hurricanes’ haul on Day 2 included seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender. Among the group were three Americans, three Finns, three Canadiens, and two Russians.

Hurricanes Director of Player Personnel Darren Yorke said, “We went in trying to get the best players available. It wasn’t so much about need but more looking at where the game is going. We’re talking about speed, skill and compete.” It will take time – maybe years – to determine if this draft class will be meaningful to the Hurricanes.

Unnecessary Generosity by Waddell or a Strong Move?

One of the moves Waddell made during the draft was to acquire the Toronto Maple Leaf’s first-round pick (conditional) and seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and forward Patrick Marleau in exchange for the Canes’ sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. As far as Marleau is concerned, the idea is not to have him on the Hurricanes’ roster, but to buy out his contract so he can become a free agent hopefully to return to the San Jose Sharks.

Toronto Maple Leafs Patrick Marleau Columbus Blue Jackets David Savard
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Patrick Marleau, left, carries the puck as Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard defends. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Chip Alexander of the Raleigh, N.C. News & Observer reported that the team did, in fact, buy out Marleau’s contract. “Waddell said Thursday the Canes had bought out Marleau, paying the $3 million bonus due him plus $833,333 that will be divided over the next two years. The 21-year veteran will become a UFA on July 1 and many believe he will sign with San Jose — Marleau was with the Sharks for the first 19 years of his career — and retire. The buyout was a condition of Marleau waiving his no-trade clause.” (From After Completing Haula Deal, Hurricanes Buy Out Marleau Contract – Chip Alexander – News & Observer – June 27, 2019).

Is Haula a Haul for Waddell?

Alexander referenced Eric Haula, whom the Hurricanes acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights. Whether or not this is a “haul” in the positive sense for the ‘Canes will rest largely on Haula’s recovery from a knee injury that kept him sidelined most of last season.

Golden Knights left wing Erik Haula
Golden Knights left wing Erik Haula (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Haula had a nice season in 2017-18, scoring 29 goals and notching 26 assists in the Golden Knight’s inaugural season. He only played in 15 games this past season, but Waddell stated that the team is confident Haula will be ready for training camp.

The Hurricanes gave up Nicolas Roy and a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2020. Roy is a prospect who has been growing in the Hurricanes’ system. Again, if Haula is healthy this could be a bright spot in Waddell’s busy June.

Waddell Did What?

The move that rattled many of the Hurricanes’ faithful was Waddell sending defenseman Calvin De Haan to the Chicago Blackhawks along with forward Aleksi Saarela. In exchange, the Hurricanes received goalie Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling.

De Haan largely flew under the radar during his time with the Hurricanes. He simply went about his business and earned the respect of the fans on the ice. Veteran hockey journalist Craig Custance wrote this about De Haan in his analysis of this trade from the Blackhawk’s position:

The issue for de Haan is that there are still three more years on a contract that pays him $4.55 million per season. That’s a bit steep if he’s in your bottom pair, which is where it was headed in Carolina.

From “NHL Trade Grades: What the Calvin de Haan swap means for the Blackhawks and Hurricanes – by Craig Custance – The Athletic – June 24, 2019.

De Haan is recovering from shoulder surgery that could keep him out until November. Nevertheless, it is hard to see what value can be added to the Hurricanes’ side of the ledger on this trade. Custance gave the Blackhawks a “B” for this trade and the Hurricanes a “C.” Losing a solid penalty-killer in De Haan and getting a so-so goalie in Forsberg and a so-so defenseman in Forsling does not really engender good feelings about this trade for the Hurricanes.

Calvin de Haan, Curtis McElhinney, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron
Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron look on as Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney makes a save with defenseman Calvin de Haan defending. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

It could be that it was simply a salary dump, clearing some space for Waddell to try to wheel and deal his way to a starting goaltender and to make sure he has enough to sign Sebastian Aho. Whatever the reason, losing De Haan was not a meaningful upgrade for the Hurricanes.

Waddell Makes a Darling Move

On Sunday, June 30, the Hurricanes traded with the Florida Panthers. They got goaltender James Reimer in exchange for Scott Darling and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 draft. Reimer is perhaps a little better than Forsberg and does not fill the Hurricanes’ need for a starter in goal.

According to the press release Reimer, 31, was 13-12-5 with a 3.09 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in 36 games with Florida in 2018-19. Luke DeCock of the News & Observer reported that Reimer may not be with the Hurricanes for very long:

So we can’t say yet how we feel about the Reimer deal except to say that we are glad to be out from under the Darling experiment. It was an epic disaster and it’s a good thing that the Hurricanes can move on. That being said, Darling has struggled personally and one can only hope that he will be okay.

James Reimer Florida Panthers
Former Panthers goalie James Reimer(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Waddell in July Will Be Must-See Viewing

With the free agency period upon us, it will be must-see viewing when Waddell fires up his next move. Will he lock down Aho? Will he lock down Justin Williams? Who will be the Hurricanes’ starting goaltender? Petr Mrázek? Someone else?

If June was about cleaning house – Darling’s contract, De Haan’s salary dump, etc then July should tell us if the team will add anyone that will significantly raise their chances of returning to the playoffs and perhaps going deeper. It’s easy to look at Waddell’s busy June and struggle to come away with anything overtly meaningful. July will tell the tale of the ‘Canes’ offseason success or failure to improve.