Carolina Hurricanes: Don Waddell in tight spot with Michael Ferland

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Don Waddell attends the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Don Waddell attends the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

As the NHL trade deadline approaches, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell cannot escape the myriad of rumors surrounding feisty winger Micheal Ferland. This is a lose-lose situation for Waddell, but a decision needs to be made – what will that decision be?

Like Ulysses Everett McGill, George Clooney’s fictional character in “O Brother, Where Are Thou?”, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell finds himself in a tight spot. Should he trade in-demand forward Micheal Ferland, or hang on to the talented winger and hope the team continues its push for the franchise’s first playoff berth in 10 years?

Ferland, 26, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Trade rumors have dogged him since mid-December, when the team was in the midst of a 3-8-2 streak and well back in the standings. He is listed at No. 3 on TSN’s Trade Bait Board (Dougie Hamilton is No. 7). His low salary – just $1.75m against the cap – makes him the perfect rental for a contending team looking to bolster its offense for a Stanley Cup push. Whichever team acquires him would not only be adding a fantastic contributor and competitor, but would also have a four-month window to negotiate a contract extension.

TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger said recently the market for Ferland was “strong” and listed Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh as potential landing spots.

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With no public progress reported on a contract extension, it appears that Ferland is intent on testing the free agent market this summer, which is a primary reason why the Carolina Hurricanes should trade him. Demand will push his price high, and the team could potentially extract a first-round pick and a decent prospect for a guy who has played half a season in Raleigh. Not a bad return on investment for certain, and it would potentially make the Hamilton/Ferland/Hanifin/Lindholm trade more palatable for Canes fans.

But the team’s recent hot streak has fans dreaming of the playoffs. Nine wins and an overtime loss in Calgary in the last 13 games have lifted the team into a tie with Buffalo for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, a mere four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the All-Star Game break. The Carolina Hurricane’s anemic offense erupted for 49 goals in this stretch. The power play has come to life. Fans have returned to PNC Arena. Things are going really, really well.

Trading Ferland, who has 13 goals and 12 assists so far this season, could disrupt all this momentum and would send a terrible message to a fan base starved for the postseason. It would also risk upsetting the team’s vaunted locker room chemistry. The Canes seem to have jelled nicely under rookie head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who has worked a stable of newcomers into the lineup.

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The recent acquisition of Nino Niederreiter (four goals in four games), the call-ups of Saku Maenalanen (six points in 13 games) and journeyman Gregg McKegg (six points in 11 games) and the continued development of Warren Foegele (four points in his last 12 games) have replaced unproductive players like Victor Rask (traded) , Phil Di Guiseppe and Valentin Zykov (waived), and Clark Bishop (returned to Charlotte).

The latter quartet combined for three goals and 13 assists in the equivalent of a full season (80 games). Niederreiter, Maenalanen, McKegg and Foegele have exceeded that production with a combined 13 goals and seven assists in their last 40 games. Maenalenen and Foegele, in particular, have helped give the team a fourth line capable of doing more than giving the top three lines an extended rest once or twice a period.

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After the All-Star Game break the Carolina Hurricanes have 12 games before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. The slate begins with home games against Vegas and Calgary, followed by road games at Pittsburgh and Buffalo. After that, the remaining games are with teams they are ahead of in the standings.

These dozen games will decide whether Ferland stays or goes. If the team drops out of contention, keeping him makes no sense, especially if the demand continues to be high. Waddell’s conundrum will be if the Canes continue to hover on the edges of a playoff spot – that’s where the decision becomes lose-lose. If he trades Ferland, it will likely reduce the team’s firepower and make fans unhappy; if he keeps him and the team fails to make the playoffs, that’s wasted assets if Ferland walks to free agency.

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If the Carolina Hurricanes remain within shouting distance of the playoffs, I suspect Don Waddell will stick with Micheal Ferland. If Ferland can be the missing ingredient for another team, he can be the same for Carolina, and the GM knows that Canes fans are tired of building for a future that has yet to arrive.