Carolina's Worst Deals of the Decade

In February, 2003 when the Carolina Hurricanes traded fan favorite Sami Kapanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Pavel Brendl, they thought they were getting a promising prospect. (photo by Hyena at Electrichyena.com)

In honor of David Droschak's outstanding "Carolina's Deals of the Decade" article which was published on Carolina Hurricanes.com last week, I thought it might be interesting to post a similar article here on Canes Country, except we will take a look at the subject from a different angle.

While the Hurricanes have enjoyed much success over the past decade, including a Stanley Cup Championship, the franchise has suffered through some tough times as well. 

In 2002-03, the season immediately following a promising run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the team finished dead last in the NHL and scored fewer goals than any other team in the league.  Over the past 10 years, the franchise has had mixed results overall as they made it to the post season four times and failed to make it five times, (and idled through one lockout year with no results).   

Jim Rutherford has been awarded the "NHL Executive of the Year" title twice in the last decade and has made several great trades over that time frame which helped to earn him that title.  But, he's also made a few deals over the years he probably would like to have back.  Let's take a closer look at some of the trades which might be included in that group.

  • February 7, 2003 -- Sami Kapanen and Ryan Bast to Philadelphia for Pavel Brendl and Bruno St. Jacques.  The Canes were looking to dump salary after a horrid start to one of the worst seasons in franchise history.  Kapanen was a previous All Star and was once dubbed "the fastest skater in the NHL" but had just signed a new contract and like everyone else on the club at the time, was having a tough time scoring.  While the franchise succeeded in dumping salary, it seems like they could have gotten more for their All Star winger than Brendl, who was once a junior league dynamo but had already been traded away by the Rangers.  There was also once hope for St. Jacques, but he was eventually traded to Anaheim for fourth liner, Craig Adams after having played 43 uneventful games over a two year span for the franchise.  Brendl played even fewer games (36) and was eventually dealt to Phoenix for minor league player Krys Kolanos.  At the very least, the trade provided fans with joke material for years to come as Brendl, (nick-named "Krispy Kreme"), might have been "the slowest skater in the NHL".     
  • November 1, 2002 --  Marek Malik and Darren Langdon to Vancouver for Jan Hlavac and Harold Druken.  This trade did more to kill chemistry on the team then anything else at the time. Malik was a tall defenseman originally drafted by Hartford who some fans thought made too many mistakes in his own end and did not play physical enough. Management made the trade because they were desperate for scoring, but they might have underestimated Malik's relationship with fellow Czechs, Josef Vasicek and Jaroslav Svoboda, two promising young players who spent a lot of time with Malik's family and even shared home-cooked meals with them.  After having a solid and productive playoffs in 2002, both of the prospects' games went south after the deal and they were eventually traded as they never reached their potential.  Malik had a couple good years with Vancouver, (+23 and +36), then signed a lucrative deal with the Rangers where he had a couple more good years, (+28 and +32).  Langdon was a very popular player in the dressingroom and was sorely missed.  He might have been the franchise's most effective enforcer ever in that he rarely took a bad penalty and usually won his fights.  The high point for Jan Hlavac was when he recorded a hat trick against hated Detroit at home, but he had little success for the team after that.  He was signed by the Rangers the very next season.  Druken turned out to be waiver wire fodder.   He played a total of 14 games for the club without benefit of a goal. 
  • July 24, 2009 -- Patrick Eaves and a 4rth round pick to Boston for Aaron Ward.  Here is a trade that made sense at the time, but is one many fans would like to see annulled.  While the loss of Patrick Eaves was negligible, the Canes absorbed Ward's hefty 2.5 million salary and threw in a draft pick to boot, while in retrospect the Bruins probably would have loved to have gotten rid of the defenseman anyway because they signed Derek Morris immediately afterward.  In the meantime, Ward has one of the worst plus/minus stats in the league.  Was Rutherford duped on this one?
  • June 19, 2008 -- Acquired the rights to Darcy Hordichuk for 5th round draft pick.  This was one of those wacky deals made so that a team can negotiate with a certain player before July 1st, when free agents are available to anyone.  The big question was, why waste a draft pick to negotiate with an enforcer?  This player had scored just two goals over the previous two years for Nashville. To make matters a bit embarrassing, Hordichuk rebuffed the Canes' advances and eventually signed with Vancouver after July 1st.  The good news is that the Canes got a draft pick back, but for the following year's draft, (2010).  If Hordichuk would have signed though, the Canes would have wasted a draft pick to negotiate with a meaningless player that they could have negotiated with 12 days later for free.
  • February 23, 2007 --  Acquired Anson Carter from Columbus for 5th round draft pick.  Carter was the trade deadline acquisition for Carolina that year, but the forward didn't play much for the team.  In the 10 games he did play, he scored one goal and was pretty much a non-factor.  
  • December 29, 2005 -- Traded Radim Vrbata to Chicago for future considerations.  Not only was this a bad trade, but this is an example of the misuse of a player with value, which ended up driving his value down to nothing.  The Canes originally acquired Vrbata from Colorado for another fan favorite, Bates Battaglia.  The Czech native had scored 18 goals in just 52 games in his rookie year for the Avs and looked like a promising sniper. But when Laviolette took over the team, the winger never seemed to fit in the system and his production and playing time dropped off the map.  Management probably got all they could get for him at the time, but he started scoring a bit again for Chicago and they ended up trading him to Phoenix for Kevyn Adams, certainly much more valuable than "future considerations". The Canes had just sent Adams to Phoenix earlier and received Dennis Seidenberg in return, a very serviceable defenseman.  Vrbata went on to score 27 goals for the Coyotes the next year and was rewarded with a huge payday from Tampa Bay the following year in free agency.

In retrospect, Jim Rutherford has certainly made many more good deals than bad, but a couple of the trades above are perfect examples of why the general manager is being more patient this year, before he pulls the trigger.  The franchise does not need anymore Pavel Brendl's in the system, do they? 

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