The Carolina Hurricanes are set to begin their first back-to-back post season runs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. This iteration of the Hurricanes is universally liked and full of fan favorites. I can’t remember the last time a team had this many liked players without any universally loathed player. But just how was this team created?
There are three different regimes and two different owners that have their fingerprints on the current roster. Jim Rutherford and Ron Francis were general managers under Peter Karmanos Jr, while Don Waddell has been the only GM under current owner Tom Dundon.
At the time of writing this there are 27 real contributors to the team this season. I am not counting Steven Lorentz, Ryan Suzuki, or Max McCormick
The end of Jim Rutherford’s tenure saw some unsuccessful drafts and plenty of trades, many of which did not work out in the Canes’ favor. However, there are still players that he acquired on the current team, all of which play huge roles on the team.
You could argue that the 2012 NHL Draft was the most influential moment for this roster construction. Rutherford traded for the now longest tenured Cane, Jordan Staal. That event also saw Carolina select Brock McGinn and Jaccob Slavin, two everyday players for the Canes. The final piece of the Rutherford pie came a year later when the Canes took Brett Pesce in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
While Rutherford had many of his other acquisitions traded by future general managers, he was still responsible for half of the top four on defense and a long-time, top-nine center.
When Ron Francis was fired, there was a HUGE piling on from many saying that his time as a GM was a failure. That is too harsh of criticism for a GM that was tasked with ending a playoff drought, rebuilding a talent pool and cutting salary every year. Francis was in control of the team for four drafts from 2014-2017, which is where he did most of his work.
He is responsible for nine of the players on the current roster, none bigger than Sebastian Aho. Aho was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft, not normally where you land franchise players. He is also responsible for bringing Teuvo Teravainen to Raleigh. Teravainen has also morphed into one of the top playmakers in the league and a perfect fit with Aho on the top line.
Francis also brought in defensemen Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury, forwards Warren Foegele, Morgan Geekie, and Martin Necas and goaltender Alex Nedelkjovic through the draft. The last piece acquired by Francis was Trevor van Riemsdyk, who they got from the Vegas Golden Knights after the expansion draft for a second-round pick.
Francis was responsible for two thirds of the current top line and stocking the farm system with young talent poised to break into the league in Necas, Geekie, and Bean. His largest impact was acquiring tons of draft picks that got Carolina from the bottom to the top of many farm system rankings before heading into the last two seasons.
This allowed Waddell to buy at the trade deadline without any significant loss and acquire long-term players, not just rentals.
Without a doubt, Don Waddell has been the biggest influence on the current roster. Waddell has overseen just two drafts, so his draft prowess has not come into light yet. However, the Canes did win the second pick in the draft lottery in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, allowing them to select forward Andrei Svechnikov, who came in and made an immediate impact.
Andrei Svechnikov. Gorgeous. Hurricanes take a 3-2 lead over the Canucks in the third period. pic.twitter.com/nOZcBE5xMp— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 2, 2020
Waddell has also been active in the trade market, bringing in Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Martinook, Joel Edmundson, Nino Niederreiter, James Reimer, Brady Skjei, Vincent Trocheck and Sami Vatanen from other teams. Waddell often trades but does it with long term return with only Vatanen, Michael Ferland and Edmundson being on expiring contracts at the time of the trade.
With the addition of a new owner, we saw the Canes shift in their construction model to also include some free agent signings. This includes Ryan Dzingel, Jake Gardiner, and Petr Mrazek. The Dzingel and Gardiner signings were interesting at the time because they were popular targets for other teams.
Dzingel just the season before was a top target at the trade deadline but landed in Carolina just five months later. Gardiner was much like the Calvin de Haan signing, a good defenseman that could have a larger role on another team but decided to come to Carolina.
Waddell was able to round out the top four defensemen with the Skjei and Hamilton additions. He also filled out the top six with Svechnikov. His largest impact on the team wasn’t in the flashy positions, but in the depth that he was able to acquire and put on the roster. The Canes now have four real and dangerous lines.
Been catching up on a lot of hockey things this weekend, felt it was appropriate to reiterate just how great Dougie Hamilton was up until his injury. This was his 14th and final goal in 47 games. Such a massive addition to CAR's lineup, if games are played as scheduled. pic.twitter.com/7XXadw7VKW— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) July 12, 2020
Not only can they roll all four lines in important situations, they have scoring depth that allows players to rotate in and out of the top six when they are hot. They no longer require two-three players to score all their points.
Waddell also made the decision to promote Rod Brind’Amour to head coach, a move that was questionable at the time but has really paid off. Brind’Amour has made the team much more defensively sound and forces players to learn the full system before rewarding them with big minutes or flashy time like power play or top six time.
This depth combined with Brind’Amour’s philosophy are why the Canes can compete night in and night out.
There is one other player that has not been mentioned, Justin Williams. He is the wild card of the group since he was acquired by each general manager over his career. He signed back with the Hurricanes under Ron Francis in the 2017 off-season. After two seasons, he took a break but was re-signed by Don Waddell earlier in this season. We all know about his experiences with Jim Rutherford in winning a cup and being traded shortly after.
lmao— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 9, 2020
Justin Williams with the game-winning shootout goal. He has 3 shootout-winners in 7 games played this season.
The Hurricanes were down 3-1 entering the third period, they win 6-5 in Vegas. pic.twitter.com/411sAMRmXG
Make up of team by GM:
Jim Rutherford: 14.8%
Ron Francis: 33.3%
Don Waddell: 48.2%
Justin Williams: 3.7%
Team Make up by Acquisition
While the general managers have changed for the Canes, has that really changed how they have built the team? The Canes have had tons of draft picks of recent, but it can be tough to remember just how many people were drafted by the Canes and have come up through the organization.
Over the past eight years, the Hurricanes have largely been built by the draft one way or the other. 11 of the 27 players currently on the roster were drafted and developed within the organization. The two players that have been on the team the longest via draft are McGinn and Slavin who were both drafted in 2012. When you look at the core of the team, four of the best six players were draft picks, Aho, Svechnikov, Slavin, and Pesce.
The other main method than the draft is trades. There are two main times they happen, the draft and the deadline. The difference with draft day trades is that they are long term trades that can change organizations for the long term whereas deadline trades are rentals.
Five current players were acquired on draft day through draft day trades. They are Staal, Teravainen, Hamilton, Martinook and van Riemsdyk. These players fit in up and down the lineup, but it shown that the Canes have been able to still make smart moves and round out their core through these types of trades.
Now more recently in the past two years, the Canes have looked for more traditional trades and free agency to fill out the team. The Canes have sparsely traded through the years, but the roster sees a little bit of skew here due to recency bias. The Canes have six players that were acquired via standard trade and all but one of them were acquired during this offseason and current season. Trocheck, Reimer, Edmundson, Skjei, and Vatanen were all acquired within the last year. As we all know, Niederreiter was acquired last season in a one-for-one steal of a trade with the Minnesota Wild. The only two that are not signed for the long term are Vatanen and Edmundson who could walk this offseason.
With much of the long-term core set, this is the best way to fill out the full lineup. There are just four free agent signings that are currently on the team. Williams, Mrazek, Gardiner, and Dzingel signed in the summer, with Williams being the only one being signed before Waddell took over the roster.
The Canes have shifted their construction technique over the years as the team’s position in the division has changed. Looking back, no player was acquired outside of draft day until Justin Williams in 2017. Waddell has also gone away from the draft in the past two seasons with only three of his 12 acquired players coming on draft day.
It just shows as the team outlook changes and with a more aggressive owner, there has been a green light to acquire more players and salary as opposed to bargain short term signings and sticking to the draft to get players.
Acquisition by the Numbers:
Draft Picks: 42.3%
Draft Day Trades: 19.2%
Free Agency: 15.4%