Every Tuesday from now until the beginning of the regular season I'll do my best David Letterman impression and put together a unique top ten list about our beloved Canes. Last week I listed the Top Ten Franchise Draft Picks. This week I'll take a crack at breaking down some of the best and most influential trades made by the Hurricanes. Something I have always enjoyed about the Canes is that GM Jim Rutherford always thinks about the long-term ramifications that deals have. Some fans would love to see their team try to acquire the top-ticket rental player every trade deadline, but Caniacs seem contempt with finding the right pieces that will work in both the immediate and long-term future.
Coming up will be the best of the best of midseason transactions, offseason additions and even deadline deals that have helped shape the Carolina Hurricanes past, present and future. As usual, feel free to add more and discuss where I went wrong and which I placed spot on!
10. March 24, 1998: TO CAR - Ray Sheppard; TO FLA Kirk McLean
While Sheppard's career with the Hurricanes was short-lived, he will always be remembered for almost single-handedly winning a playoff series against the Boston Bruins. Kirk McLean was just about fresh off the plane from Vancouver. The Hurricanes had just acquired the veteran from the Canucks before deeming him expendable. McLean played in only eight games with the franchise, notching four wins and an assist. He went on to turn in three and a half more unproductive seasons, never hitting the 10-win mark again.
Sheppard spent only a season and a half with the Canes but he certainly made that time count. In Sheppard's 1998-99 season, he put up 25 goals and 33 assists in 73 games. However, it will be the six-game playoff series against Boston that made him a very attractive free agent that summer. Sheppard scored five goals (six points) in only six games, almost willing the Canes to victory in their first-ever playoff series in team history. He re-signed with Florida the next season, but never found that scoring touch again. That season would prove to be his last in the NHL as he played only one more year with a Swiss team before hanging up the skates for good.
Looking back on things, this seems to be a trade has benefited both clubs. Andrew Ladd was a tough, young player who played with a lot of grit and heart. Tuomo Ruutu was a former top-10 draft pick of the Blackhawks whose career seemed to be stalling in Chicago. The trade seemed to jumpstart Ladd into a leadership role as he helped his Hawks team (being one of the only players with Stanley Cup Finals experience) to a Cup Championship before becoming a victim of the salary cap. Due to money issues, Chicago was forced to trade the winger to Atlanta (now Winnipeg) where he has become the captain of their franchise.
Ruutu became a fan favorite the day of the trade. Hours after the deal went through, the Finnish center was on a place to Raleigh - hoping to be able to play his first game as a Hurricane that night against the New Jersey Devils. Ruutu registered an assist on Carolina's first goal (an eventual 2-1 overtime win), but it was a play late in the third period that will always be remembered in fans' minds. Ruutu was clipped in the face by a Devils player's stick and soon found himself bleeding all of the ice. No penalty was called and the fans found themselves wanting to stick up for a player who had arrived on the bench minutes before the game was scheduled to start.
Unfortunately for "Big Joe" Vasicek, the injury bug hit him hard during the Hurricanes' 2005-06 Championship Season. Vasicek would play in only 23 games that season, making him only a minor contributor to a season that is so etched in the minds of Canes fans (His eight playoff games resulted in minimal ice time and zero points, which didn't help either). After the "Czech Condor" finally got healthy, he struggled with gaining more ice time as the team was on a roll. The players that took his spot were playing so well that they didn't deserve any kind of demotion for Vasicek to take a larger role. During the summer of 2006, the Canes dealt him to the Nashville Predators in exchange for rugged forward Scott Walker (who, at the time, was the captain of the club). Walker turned in a 20-goal, 50-point season his first year in Carolina.
After so much scoring success during his first year with the Canes, Walker slowly began to develop a new role with the team. He became an enforcer who could do time on the third and fourth lines without complaint. Walker was tough as nails and had no trouble sticking up for his teammates no matter who was on the other end of punches (just ask Aaron Ward). The only people that loved Scott Walker more than his teammates were the Canes fans who watched him play. Walker was traded to the Washington Capitals during the trade deadline in 2010 and became loved in DC too. He scored his only two goals with the club in his first game and earned yet another teams respect.
I know, this is complicated and kind of cheating by combining two trades into one but I just couldn't help himself. One has to wonder if Rutherford knew he would come across Cole again later in the season when he dealt him to the Oilers on the first day of free agency in 2008. The Canes first acquired a long-sought after player in Joni Pitkanen. Pitkanen represented a dynamic power play and a puck-moving defenseman - something the Canes had wanted for a long time. It was bittersweet though as he came at the cost of beloved forward Erik Cole. Cole never found his Hurricanes scoring touch with the Oilers and he became trade bait as the season wore on.
The Oilers, long eliminated from playoff contention, needed to shed some salary and they did when the Canes came called less than a year after the Cole-Pitkanen trade. The Canes wanted Edmonton to join them and the Los Angeles Kings in a three-team trade. The trade would give the Kings an All-Star talent in Justin Williams, who seemed to find new body parts to injury every other month. The Oilers would end up with Patrick O'Sullivan who was young, cheap and potentially a grade-A prospect. The Canes would get back a player they were already familiar with and who had given so much to the franchise in Cole.
So in less than a year, the net result would end up giving the Canes Joni Pitkanen and Erik Cole (not to mention a slightly worse second round pick and an extra fifth round pick). The Hurricanes lost a valuable asset in Williams, but the loss was easier to swallow due to his luck with injuries. The trade has become a case in which Hurricanes fans feel great that Williams is playing so well with the Kings and also feel lucky to have a player like Pitkanen and to have experienced a player the caliber of Cole.
6. January 16, 2002: TO CAR Brett Hedican, Tomas Malec, Keyvn Adams, 2nd round pick; TO FLA Sandis Ozolinsh, Byron Ritchie
Originally this looked to be a trade in which the Panthers landed All-Star defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, a player who was supposed to help Florida get back into the playoff talk. In the end Ozolinsh, although he did post good numbers in his two seasons in Florida, would not help the Panthers get any closer to a Stanley Cup title and Byron Ritchie never amounted to an NHL talent.
In Carolina, the Hurricanes were very happy with their return on Ozolinsh. Hedican was a proven veteran defenseman and Malec and Adams were utility prospects. While Malec never developed into an NHL player (except for half a season with the Canes during the influx of rookies that graced the Hurricanes lineup in the forgettable 2002-2003 season and a few games after that), Adams grew into a fixture with the Hurricanes. Both players played keys roles in developing the Canes into a Stanley Cup Championship team. Hedican was routinely matched against some of the top forwards in the league and Adams provided a spark on both the fourth line and the penalty kill. Both players have since moved on, Adams via trade and Hedican via free agency, but they will be forever remembered in the minds of fans and with their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
5. January 20, 2004: TO CAR - Justin Williams; TO PHI - Danny Markov
The Flyers and the Hurricanes have never been afraid to pull the trigger on a deal. Heck, Paul Holmgren (a former Whaler's coach) must be in Jim Rutherford's favorites list on his cell phone.
On this particular deal, Philadelphia wanted an offensive-minded defenseman and Carolina needed some prospective talent to develop around. Both teams got what they wanted. Markov helped the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing in seven games to eventual champion Tampa Bay. He would only stay in Philly for that season, signing a deal with the Nashville Predators the following summer.
Williams played in parts of five seasons with the Hurricanes. He registered back-to-back 30+ goal seasons and created on consistent scoring threat every time he touched the ice. It took Williams no time to find success with his new role in Carolina. Sparingly used in Philadelphia, Williams was counted on to provide ice time and offense with the Hurricanes and that's just what he did. His 31-goal, 45-assist season in 2005-06 is often overlooked due to teammate Eric Staal's 100-point campaign that same year, but it certainly helped the Hurricanes to a 2nd overall seed in the East and home-ice advantage throughout the 2006 playoffs.
As previously noted, Williams began to be hit hard by injuries and never found a consistent scoring touch with jumbled playing time. But when was healthy, he was just as dangerous as any other player on the ice at any time.
This trade marked the point in the year in which Rutherford made it known to the hockey world that his team was serious about contending for a Stanley Cup in 2005-06. Doug Weight was seen as the top trade target this upcoming trade deadline and a lot of teams were getting ready to make their pitches for him, when Rutherford swooped in nabbed the veteran weeks before the deadline. Jesse Boulerice was a one-trick pony. He fought (sometimes not well) and although he was well-liked by the fans, he was expendable to the team. Zigomanis represented a top-notch prospect. He was beginning to show a lot of promise as a third-line center and the Hurricanes, as well as the Blues, thought he could progress from there. Kahnberg never seemed to be ready for the NHL and turned into a lifelong Swedish Elite League player.
Despite giving up a utility player, a NHL prospect, a potential player and a slew of draft picks, the Hurricanes will be viewed as the winner of this trade. Weight came into the team and slowly began to adjust his game to that of then-coach Peter Laviolette's. Weight not only brought his talents to Raleigh, he also brought his experience and professionalism. Weight, viewed by most as a classy, respectful player, brought instant credibility to the team and turned many skeptics into believers. The Hurricanes used Weight's skills to improve upon a great first half of the season to finish on top of the league with a Stanley Cup Championship.
Although Weight lasted only half of a season in Raleigh, his image of lifting the Cup with a separated shoulder will forever be depicted as a symbol of sacrifice and determination.
Many people viewed this move as nothing more than the Hurricanes trying to get a player to help them win more shootouts. While Jokinen has helped in that respect, he has also turned into one of the most dynamic players the franchise has ever seen. Jokinen has the ability to play wing and center, he also serves a chunk of time on the power play.
Josef Melichar was signed before the 2008-09 season to provide some stability to the defense and Wade Brookbank was a sparingly used player who used his fists more than his stick. Melichar turned out to somewhat of a bust and Brookbank was deemed expendable for the same reasons Jesse Boulerice was. The Canes packaged these players along with a draft pick and presented it to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts happily expected the deal as the new coaching staff wasn't particularly found of the Finn. Jokinen's ice time began to go down in Tampa Bay and both he and the coaching staff was ready for him to move on.
The Hurricanes had, apparently, liked Jokinen for a long time at this point. When the situation presented itself that he was available to them, they made no mistake in pouncing on it. Since, arriving in Raleigh, Jokinen has done nothing but score big goals and give his team a chance to win. He has eclipsed the 30-goal mark once and still maintained a certain level of expertise (although not quite as dominantly or flashy) in the shootout. He was viewed as one of the top free agents this past summer, but he chose to take a bit of a hometown discount in signing on for three more years with the Canes.
As the trade deadline approached in 2006, the Hurricanes already looked like a fairly dominant team. They had had a good run and the team looked pretty deep after the acquisition of Doug Weight. Many pundits thought that the Hurricanes would be fairly quiet during the deadline, as they had already made their big splash. The Canes figured to factor in somehow as they had just lost winger Erik Cole for the rest of the season with a serious neck injury. Also, Mark Recchi's name didn't surface in many rumor mills as he had a no-trade clause in his contract. The two didn't seem to be a match made in heaven. But again, Rutherford proved people wrong as the Hurricanes silently snuck into discussions with the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the second time in just over a month, the Carolina Hurricanes had added a highly-sought after free agent without giving up very much in return.
Nordgren, a rookie, had played well with the Canes to that point, but he was not an essential piece to the puzzle. Kolanos was a career minor leaguer and first round bust. The only valuable asset the Canes gave up was a second-round draft pick for the next year's draft.
Recchi seemed to fit in instantly with the Canes. He had won a Stanley Cup Championship before and had even played with current Carolina captain Rod Brind'amour in Philadelphia. Recchi proved to be a dependable scoring threat on a nighty basis. During the playoffs, Recchi notched seven goals in 25 games and helped provide the Hurricanes with scoring depth that seemed to wear down the oppositions defense. He even got on the scoresheet with an assist in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
While Recchi signed with the Penguins again after that magical postseason run, he will always be thought of as Carolina's "Reccing Ball" for a special few months. He has gone on to win another Stanley Cup this past postseason with the Boston Bruins and recently announced his retirement from professional hockey. It seems odd that a player who played for the franchise for a mere three months could be so popular and could leave such an impression, but that's exactly what Recchi did.
1. January 23, 2000: TO CAR - Rod Brind'amour, Jean-Marc Pelletier and a 2nd round pick; TO PHI - Keith Primeau and a 5th round pick
With the signing of a deal, Jim Rutherford had brought hope to the Triangle. Both fans and owners had lost respect and favorability for the captain of the club, Keith Primeau. Primeau was in the middle of a holdout because he was not happy with both his current contract and (in the minds of some fans) playing for a small-market franchise. He wanted a trade out of Carolina which normally brings down a players value in the market. However, Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger on a deal that sent the disgruntled captain out of town and brought in a future captain - a certain win-win for the franchise.
At first Rod Brind'amour wasn't sure what to think of Raleigh, North Carolina or the Carolina Hurricanes for that matter. It was a new team with no solid fan base or tradition; not a very attractive situation for a player who was so loved in... well... the City of Brotherly Love. After a few seasons with the Canes, Brind'amour began to enjoy playing with the team as fans started to latch on to hockey as a North Carolina tradition.
Primeau would go on to have a fairly successful career with the Flyers, scoring 87 goals in 312 games (compared to Brind'amour's 174 goals in 694 games). He would go on to earn the captaincy of the Flyers and even help guide his new team to two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals (losing both times, to New Jersey and Tampa Bay). However, he never really regained the goal-scoring ability he showed in his early days with the Red Wings and Hurricanes (he did score 34 goals in 2000-01).
Brind'amour has been the exact opposite of Keith Primeau. He has welcomed the fans, the team and the area as home. Brind'amour jerseys can be seen sprinkled all though out the RBC Center as he was well loved by the team. After Ron Francis was traded and retired, Brind'amour was granted the captaincy. He embraced his new role with the team, changing the mentality of the group from "just another team hoping to sneak into the playoffs" to "we might be able to win this thing."
Ironically, Primeau retired in the summer of 2006 after sustaining a concussion. As he was announcing his press conference to retire from the game, Brind'amour and the Hurricanes, a team too small and undeserving of his talents, were gearing up to defend their first Stanley Cup title. This trade not only brought in a great player who, hopefully, will be in the NHL Hall of Fame one day, it also disposed of a nuisance that tried to bring the Hurricanes down. A perfect scenario.
So there you are. A list of some of the best trades in Carolina Hurricanes history. Feel free to comment on the trades I didn't mention or which ones aren't ranked as high as they should be. Also, feel free to chirp at me on Twitter @LeePhillips18 (shameless plug). Enjoy the list!