Carolina Hurricanes: Don Waddell, the Franchise’s Mastermind

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 18: Don Waddell of the Carolina Hurricanes attends the 2019 NHL Awards Nominee Media Availability at the Encore Las Vegas on June 18, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 18: Don Waddell of the Carolina Hurricanes attends the 2019 NHL Awards Nominee Media Availability at the Encore Las Vegas on June 18, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Ever since Don Waddell was named the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, he has done nothing but great things for the future of the franchise. We take a look at how Waddell helped jumpstart the Hurricanes into the playoffs and how, other than Sebastian Aho, might be the teams most important asset.

Let’s start with the 2018 NHL entry draft. The Carolina Hurricanes were big winners of the NHL draft lottery in 2018 and that led to the selection of Andrei Svechnikov at second overall. The Hurricanes were presented this opportunity of selecting a franchise altering player and Waddell successfully did that. Svechnikov proved his dangerous shot can be lethal at the NHL level, scoring 20 goals in his first season.

Waddell also made waves with the trade on day two of the 2018 NHL entry draft. That is when the Hurricanes acquired Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and the rights to Adam Fox from the Calgary Flames for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin.

Despite his early struggles, Hamilton was a key player of the Hurricanes resurgence during the second half of the season. Ferland, when healthy, had impact on offense and in terms of his physical style of play.

Waddell then turned the signing rights of Adam Fox, who wouldn’t have signed with the Hurricanes, into potentially two second round picks. The 2019 second round pick acquired from the Rangers was than used in a move to acquire more picks in the 2019 NHL entry draft. There is a condition on the 2020 third round pick they received, which can turn into a second if Fox plays 30 games in the 2019-20 NHL season.

Waddell’s biggest move was made in season in January. Don Waddell absolutely fleeced the Minnesota Wild when acquiring Nino Niederreiter for just Victor Rask. Rask was a detriment to the Hurricanes and needed to be moved away and Waddell struck gold when doing so. Niederreiter stepped right in and was an offensive force for the Hurricanes. Although not at the deadline, this was the key in season addition.

That’s a huge part of the reason why Waddell decided to remain quiet on trade deadline day, another smart move. Other than a small AHL move, acquiring Tomas Jurco, Waddell felt the need to keep this team together as he felt they had something special with their group. He didn’t want to mess with what the Hurricanes had going at that paid dividends.

He was also able to secure one of the Hurricanes key pieces for the future in season last year when he inked Teuvo Teravainen to a five-year contract extension. This is one of the many moves that were made to help solidify the future of this organization as a playoff contender.

Don Waddell was also able to do something that hasn’t been done in a long time for the franchise. He was able to get the Hurricanes a goaltending duo that was good, if not great. He signed Petr Mrazek to a one-year prove it contract and claimed Curtis McElhinney off of waivers, days before the season started due to a Scott Darling injury.

Mrazek and McElhinney proved to be key pieces in a Hurricanes season that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals. McElhinney held his own early in the season and Mrazek turned his play on later in the season, but both were keys to the Hurricanes getting to the playoffs and in the playoffs. McElhinney was a solid option in the playoffs, filling in with no problems when Mrazek left injured in round two against the Islanders.

Mrazek, in return of a successful 2018-19 season, was re-signed to a two-year deal on July 1, worth $6.25 million. The Hurricanes found their number one goalie, thanks to Waddell believing that Mrazek still had something to prove, despite struggles in his previous seasons.

The Hurricanes lost Curtis McElhinney to the Tampa Bay Lightning in free agency, but that is when Waddell pulled off a move that seemed impossible.

Waddell somehow got rid of Scott Darling’s dreadful contract. He did so in a trade with the Florida Panthers that netted James Reimer. The Hurricanes gave up Darling and a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NHL entry draft. The Panthers bought out Darling in a corresponding move.

The Hurricanes likely route was buying Darling out themselves, but were able to trade him, make another team buyout his contract, and find a potential backup goalie in Reimer.

Let’s go to the 2019 NHL entry draft, where the Hurricanes had a very successful two days. Headlined by first round pick Ryan Suzuki, this draft class has a lot of potential. Waddell took Suzuki twenty-eighth overall, which is a steal at that spot, especially since the Hurricanes have a need for true center.

The Hurricanes may have also found a potential franchise goalie with the second-round selection of Pyotr Kochetkov. Waddell was also able to get some high upside picks, with lower risk in the later rounds in the draft.

Don Waddell never wavered when it came to the Sebastian Aho offer sheet situation. He made it known that the Carolina Hurricanes would match any offer sheet given to Aho. Montreal signed him to an offer sheet and a day later the Hurricanes matched with Waddell noting that Aho never wanted to leave Raleigh. He always wanted to be a Hurricane. Waddell was able to get his centerpiece for a deal he thought would be more.

Waddell was most known for his time in Atlanta as GM, which wasn’t really successful. But in his time with Carolina, he has proved that he can be a very capable GM in the NHL. He did something nobody thought would happen in at least another few years. He accelerated the Hurricanes breakthrough into contention.

Ron Francis laid out the foundation for the Carolina Hurricanes, but in terms of big moves that where Waddell and Francis are different. Waddell would pull the trigger on franchise altering moves in order to see the team in a better spot and Francis would keep trying to extend the rebuild a few more years. Don Waddell has truly been something special for the Hurricanes and it is something the franchise desperately needed.

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Question for CC Readers: Which move has been Don Waddell’s best as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes?