DALLAS — Don Waddell had a goal in mind heading into the 2018 NHL Draft: to make his hockey club better. True to his word, Waddell leaves the draft floor in Dallas with second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov in his back pocket and now an elite offensive defenseman.
The Hurricanes were instrumental in executing the biggest trade of the weekend, sending Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to the Calgary Flames for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, winger Micheal Ferland and defenseman man prospect Adam Fox.
Adding Hamilton is a big gain for the Hurricanes, adding a power-play quarterback the likes of which the Hurricanes haven’t seen since the heyday of Joni Pitkanen. “We all know goal scoring is at a premium in the league so we felt that was a huge addition for us on our blueline,” Waddell said on Sunday. Hamilton has registered at least 40 points in each of his last four seasons, establishing himself as a top-20 defenseman in the league.
Adding Hamilton allows the Hurricanes to make additional moves. With a logjam on the right side of defensive pairings, Waddell hinted that additional moves could be coming. After years of failure, Waddell and the new regime are reiterating that the status quo is unacceptable. “When you’ve gone as long as we have without making the playoffs, the message is we want to be better. We want to compete and we want to win. That’s the only message we’re trying to send with a trade like this,” said Waddell firmly.
Ferland’s career has turned towards an upward trajectory but he may not be expected to be a vital member of the top-six. Waddell wanted a forward that would drive to the net and make plays and allow young stars like Sebastian Aho and Svechnikov to do what they do best: score goals. “We’ve talked all along about that we’ve got a lot of skilled pieces up front and that we needed a little size and muscle up front, and so Ferland - who scored I think 20-21 goals- fit that bill pretty well for us. So that was a big piece also.”
Not to be overlooked was second round selection Jack Drury who will provide additional reinforcements to an already stacked Hurricanes prospect pool. The center scored 65 points in 56 games with Waterloo (USHL) and will now have the opportunity to play with potential future teammate Adam Fox at Harvard University next season. Related to two former NHLers, father Ted and uncle Chris, Drury wants to pave his own path and his path could surely be established with development in the NCAA or AHL after leaving Harvard. While the Hurricanes may not see Drury for a few years, adding another center helps fill a need down the middle.
Waddell and the Hurricanes still have work to do regarding the uncertainty around Jeff Skinner and, to a lesser extent, Justin Faulk. But management was able to navigate its way out of a tricky contract situation with Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Lindholm in particular, with his reported $5 million per year ask, was far too pricey for the Hurricanes’ liking.
And Waddell may have been playing poker a bit with the media in the days leading up to the draft. Admitting that the framework of today’s deal had been discussed for weeks leading up to this weekend, it seemed that while Waddell may have paid lip service to negotiating with the two traded players, in reality the negotiations may have just been to evaluate each player’s self-valuation. When that didn’t match the numbers the Hurricanes had in mind, it was a short walk to the Calgary Flames’ table to put a deal together with Flames GM Brad Treliving.
While Hanifin is a loss as we still haven’t realized his full potential, trades will always come tough for both sides of a deal. “Anytime you make trades, you’re always giving up good players and good people and that’s the hard about our business,” Waddell stated. Hanifin’s ceiling still unknown, the Hurricanes could be on the wrong side of this deal come five years down the road. To a playoff starved team, it makes sense to accelerate a rebuild that has lingered for what feels like an eternity.
In a state where everything is bigger, the Hurricanes proceeded to take big steps on their path back to relevance and left Dallas with a better team than they came in with. From that angle, Waddell’s moves this weekend set the tone for the new era of Hurricanes hockey.