After racking up 1100 NHL games over 16 seasons, 5-time All-Star Kevin Hatcher joined the Carolina Hurricanes for what would be his final professional season.
This is the fourth installment in an ongoing series focusing on players with short-lived stints with the Carolina Hurricanes. If you missed any of the previous articles, you can find them here:
In an effort to bolster his defense, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford added two established NHL defensemen in Sandis Ozolinsh and Kevin Hatcher. Whereas Ozolinsh was known almost exclusively for his offense, Hatcher was a player who could contribute at both ends of the ice.
A first-round pick back in 1984, Hatcher broke in with the Washington Capitals late in the 84-85 season. By his third full season in 87-88, he had established himself as an all-around threat, posting 14 goals, 41 points, and 137 penalty minutes. He followed his breakout regular season with 12 points in 14 playoff games before his Capitals were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in the second round.
The high point of Hatcher’s career came in the 1992-93 season when he potted 34 goals and 79 points. Unfortunately, he was much less effective in the postseason, managing just 1 assist in 6 games as the Capitals were sent packing by the New York Islanders.
The following season saw Hatcher’s production take a sharp decline. While he did play in 11 fewer games, his point total dropped from 79 to 40. He fared better in the playoffs, netting 3 goals and 7 points in 11 games, though the Capitals were dispatched in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers.
That marked the end of Hatcher’s time in the nation’s capital as, two days before the lockout-shortened 94-95 season began, he was shipped to Dallas Stars. The trade afforded him the opportunity for a fresh start as well as the chance to play on a blueline that featured his younger brother Derian.
Despite two productive seasons from the elder Hatcher, Dallas was struggling to tread water. A losing record in the 48-game 94-95 season still netted them a playoff berth, though they were knocked out in 5 games at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. The 95-96 season saw the Stars finish well outside of the playoffs and marked the end of Kevin’s short time in Dallas when, during the summer of 1996, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
His time with the Penguins served to rejuvenate his career, hitting double digits in goals in each of his 3 seasons there. While his overall performance rounded back into shape, Pittsburgh found the same postseason fate that Hatcher had seen before, failing to progress past the second round during his time there.
With the 1999-2000 season quickly approaching, Hatcher was dealt again, this time landing on Broadway for a short stint with the New York Rangers. Honestly, there’s not a lot to say about this Rangers team from a performance standpoint, so I’ll point out something interesting (well, interesting to me).
This Rangers teams featured one former Hurricane (Kirk McLean) and SIX future Hurricanes (Rob DiMaio, Radek Dvorak, Hatcher, Jan Hlavac, Darren Langdon, and Manny Malhotra). The Rangers missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season and Hatcher hit the free-agent market. On July 31, 2000, Rutherford came calling and Hatcher joined the Carolina Hurricanes.
While a broken hand cost him time, Hatcher was heavily relied on by his new team. In 57 games, the big defender averaged 23:23 minutes per game, the highest total of any skater. Though his offense didn’t rebound, it didn’t drop significantly as it fell by just 5 points from the previous season despite the fact that he played in 17 fewer games.
He was held without a point in six postseason games as the Hurricanes were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in the opening round. This marked the end of Hatcher’s NHL career. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010 along with his brother.
What did you think of Kevin Hatcher’s time with the Carolina Hurricanes? Which short-term player would you like to see featured next?