After a dismal first season in Greensboro, the Carolina Hurricanes managed a 12-point bump in Year Two. All-in-all, it was a year that featured drama, success, and tragedy.
This is the second installment in my “Revisiting the Past” series. You can check out the first installment here.
Once the dust settled on the Carolina Hurricanes inaugural season, one thing was painfully clear: the team needed more offense. General Manager Jim Rutherford added Martin Gelinas and Ray Sheppard during that first season to add some depth, though neither could right the ship for the first-year team.
In February of 1998, with the Hurricanes floundering, Rutherford made a surprising move (and one that hits close to home after the events of this summer): he prepared an offer sheet. The GM, following the “Go Big or Go Home” credo, targeted disgruntled Russian superstar Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov had a 1996-97 that was, by his standards, subpar, putting up 30 goals and 63 points. This was following a monster 1995-96 that saw the Detroit center notch 39 goals and 107 points.
The offer sheet, which was initially rejected by the NHL, was eventually matched by the Red Wings. Fedorov ended his holdout and suited up for the final 21 games, scoring 17 points. In the playoffs, he matched his previous years’ 20 points en route to Detroit winning their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes had swung for the fences and come up short.
As the NHL free-agent period opened in the summer of 1998 Rutherford looked to make amends. This time, he knocked it out of the park. Coming off of an 87 point season, Ron Francis hit the open market. Despite being 35 and having his best years firmly in the rearview, Francis was a sought after commodity.
Thankfully for the Hurricanes, he decided to return to the franchise that he had begun his career with, a team that he never should have been traded from. Not only did the Francis signing give the Hurricanes a respected, veteran playmaker but it served to put them on the map as a viable free-agent destination.
With Francis on board, Rutherford set about adding another goaltender to split time with Trevor Kidd. While Kidd had been the best of the 5 goalies to see ice time for the Hurricanes during their first season, support was needed. This search dragged on until the middle of September when veteran netminder Arturs Irbe was signed.
Irbe, coming off a solid season with the Vancouver Canucks, proved to be a godsend (more on that later).
Key Offseason Additions:
- C Ron Francis (FA from PIT)
- G Arturs Irbe (FA from VAN)
So let’s take a look at how the offense, defense, and goaltending fared for the 1998-99 Carolina Hurricanes.