RALEIGH, N.C.- It was the first day of NHL free agency, and it was a busy one at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
There were a lot of options, quality players available to improve the Carolina Hurricanes roster for next season – a tweak here, a tweak there would have been good to do just that.
After all, three straight trips to the postseason didn’t require a complete overhaul, did it?
With head coach Rod Brind’Amour recently signed to a three-year deal, he could continue making progress in preparing one of the league’s fastest-skating teams – one with a dedicated and consistent work ethic displayed throughout the roster.
However, facing contract issues for a number of restricted and unrestricted free agents, what was previously set as a functional and solid foundation of personnel, was picked apart and repatched.
By the end of the day, a substantial portion of the roster was stripped down.
Seven new players to replace seven departed.
Coming in were goaltenders Frederik Andersen and Annti Raanta, defensemen lan Cole, Ethan Bear, and Tony DeAngelo, along with forwards Josh Leivo and CJ Smith.
Going out were homegrown favorites Alex Nedeljkovic (G) and Brock McGinn (F) who signed deals with Detroit and Pittsburgh, respectively, while Warren Foegele (F) was traded in the deal with Edmonton to get Bear.
Unable to sign deals to stay in Carolina, goaltenders Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, forward Cedric Paquette, and defenseman Dougie Hamilton found their pots of gold in Toronto, San Jose, Montreal, and New Jersey, respectively.
Forward and assistant captain Jordan Martinook was the only rostered mainstay who signed a new three-year deal to stay.
Check engine light is on
What would have been an easy handing over of the keys to Brind’Amour to get to work on revving up the Canes engine was delayed – GM Don Waddell had a major issue to deal with first, and it was one he expected.
The signing of DeAngelo was a controversial one that had the Hurricanes fan base incensed due to the 25-year old defenseman’s documented history of suspensions in junior hockey, altercations with a teammate in New York, and social media behavior that only added more tarnish to a problematic reputation that preceded him.
The former first-round pick was such a problem that the Rangers bought out the remainder of his contract.
So why would Carolina take him on?
“We did our research on who this person is beyond the perception of him,” Waddell said on a Zoom media call later in the day.
“There’s no doubt he has made mistakes. We acknowledge that and more importantly he recognizes that he’s made mistakes, and he knows he’s got to continue to work and grow as a person. We talked to his teammates, coaches, support staff. We have guys who played with him. And everybody who has worked with him, the common thread, the message, was that they support this player.
“Did we know there was going to be some people not happy about this? 100 percent. Did we make sure we checked all our boxes from an organizational standpoint and that we felt comfortable moving forward? 100 percent.
Again, time will tell, but we really feel this is headed in a good direction.”
So with that, Brind’Amour now has the task of retooling and re-synching all the replacement parts, keeping the drive towards winning a Stanley Cup in gear, and with no loss in momentum.
A task that’s now become harder than it seemed days ago.
The coach can only work with what he’s given.
What was a pretty smooth ride in Raleigh has all-of-a-sudden become a stressful and uncomfortable one.
Buckle up and hang on.
Peter Koutroumpis – 401-323-8960, @pksport