Revisiting the Hurricanes’ Keith Primeau for Rod Brind’Amour Trade

This article was originally published in September, 2014.

This piece will revisit a trade from 2000 that saw two prominent centers trading places between Eastern Conference rivals. The players would play significant roles in postseason glory, but only one lifted the Stanley Cup. Let’s take a look at the Keith Primeau for Rod Brind’Amour deal.

Primeau for Brind’Amour: What Could Have Been

Carolina struggled with finding a new deal for their scoring star. Primeau held out for the majority of the 1999-00 campaign, the same move that got him traded from the Red Wings to the Whalers after the 1996 season. He was looking for $4.5 million a year. Carolina made some offers, as much as $20 million over four years, but Primeau didn’t budge.

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The list of suitors was impressive. Initial talks were between the Hurricanes and Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix was willing to part with Keith Tkachuk for the 30-goal scorer, but Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, who held the responsibility of signing the deal before making the trade, refused to pull the trigger. His concern? Primeau getting the deal he wanted.

Keith Primeau Philadelphia Flyers
Keith Primeau, Philadelphia Flyers, 2033 (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

The Coyotes were determined to make this deal and brought in the New York Rangers. This three-way dance mushroomed into a potential blockbuster in January 2000. Primeau would go to Phoenix, who would ship Tkachuk to Broadway and receive 19-year-old Manny Malhotra and a first-round pick from either Eastern Conference team. The Hurricanes would receive Petr Nedved from the Rangers. Again, Karmanos turned down the transaction, after Primeau’s agent Don Reynolds demanded a five-year deal for over $21 million, as the New York Times reported in January 2000. (from ‘HOCKEY; Primeau’s Long Fight Ends With Trade to Flyers,’ New York Times, 01/24/00)

Can you imagine the reverberations had that gone through? Phoenix was trying to move Tkachuk before his deal ballooned for $4.2 million to $8.3 million. He would later be dealt to the St. Louis Blues and produced 70+ points in three of the next four seasons. Nedved was the target of trade speculation before joining fellow Czechs Jan Havlac and Radek Dvorak. The combination spurred the Rangers to a winning streak in January.

Nedved followed up 68 points in 2000 and 78 in the following campaign, a number he wouldn’t come near for the rest of his career. Malhotra was held out of the super deal that would’ve sent Pavel Bure to NYC, a deal that also withered. He would be dealt to Dallas a year later, following unsatisfactory offensive progress.

Primeau for Brind’amour: The Canes Get Their Man

January 24, two days after the Rangers deal was reported and nothing happened, Karmanos found the trade he wanted with the Philadelphia Flyers. General manager Bob Clarke had previously denied interest in Primeau and imposed a moratorium on trades while then-coach Roger Nielsen received bone marrow transplants. However, Clarke knew Primeau as he was on the 1998 Canadian Olympic team that Clarke was charged to form. Perhaps the involvement of archrival New York pushed him over the edge.

Rod Brind’Amour was a franchise mainstay throughout the 1990s, there in good times and bad. When the Spectrum hosted the All-Star game in 1992, Brind’Amour was the team’s lone representative. He was a scorer on a team full of them, but he endeared himself to Flyers faithful with his work ethic and love of the game. He was sort of the opposite of team superstar Eric Lindros, the uber-athlete who never seemed joyful on the ice.

Rod Brind'Amour
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes (THW Archives)

The season in question saw Brind’Amour miss 34 games with a foot injury. As the Flyers got bigger, some wondered if there was room for the 6-foot, 200-pound alternate captain. Flyers owner Ed Snider loves big guys and couldn’t pass up the chance to get the 6-foot-4 Primeau as another battleship on skates. Primeau got $22.75 million over five years, and the Hurricanes got a two-way forward and face-off ace, along with a second-round pick and goaltending prospect in Jean-Marc Pelletier. Philly also got Carolina’s fifth-round pick in the draft.

Primeau for Brind’amour: Fallout

primeau for brind'amour
Rod Brind’Amour (THW Archives)

So who won in this deal? As history tells us, both teams did well, as did the players in their new homes. Pelletier spent his career in the AHL before playing a few years in Germany. Primeau scored the famous game-winner in the fifth overtime of Game 4 of the Flyers-Penguins 2000 Eastern Conference semifinal series. He also dominated in 2004 as the Flyers came one game short of the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay.

The Hurricanes probably won the Primeau for Brind’Amour trade with the long-term productivity of Brind’Amour. The veteran was an integral part of the 2002 Eastern Conference Champions and lifted the Cup in 2006, his face a mix of pent-up joy and exhaustion from the life’s work completed. His 17 hangs in the rafters in Raleigh and he coached the team to the Eastern Conference Final in 2019 with a rag-tag bunch of players who bought into his legendary work ethic. As his coaching tenure extends, the value of this trade for the Hurricanes will only increase, especially if he leads them to the Stanley Cup promised land again.