Monday’s NHL trade deadline was far more eventful than many had anticipated and the Carolina Hurricanes were the consensus winners, so to speak, after Don Waddell pulled off three significant trades to bolster his team’s chances at making the playoffs and challenging for the Stanley Cup.
“You always feel good about [deals you make on deadline day] but you also feel nervous too because when you bring in new players this time of the year there’s always an adjustment period and hopefully they get up to speed quickly,” the Hurricanes general manager said Tuesday during an appearance on Hockey Central. “You feel good on the day you do it, now let’s go play the games and find out how we’re going to gel together and help us have success here.”
Waddell and his staff began the day with a big one, acquiring Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers in exchange for package of pending UFA Erik Haula, centre Lucas Wallmark and prospects Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen.
Trocheck, 26, was a player the Carolina front office had been eyeing for quite some time.
“We looked at players more than a year ago from an analytics standpoint and Vincent certainly stuck right at the top there, especially if you break down right-hand-shot centres, so he’s always been a guy we had interest in,” Waddell explained. “I talked to [Panthers GM Dale Tallon] even a year ago at that time and they weren’t in a position to move him, so when his name did become available the analytics certainly supported the eye test, which we all see and felt that getting this player was going to make our hockey club better.”
Trocheck wasn’t having his best season with the Panthers this year – only putting up 10 goals and 26 assists in 55 outings while playing nearly three minutes per game less than he did in 2018-19. But Waddell said he feels the change of scenery will benefit both the player and his new team.
The Hurricanes had been rolling with exclusively left-shot centres and that’s something Waddell wanted to change.
“We’ve been looking for a couple years now for a right-shot centreman and when Vincent Trocheck’s name became available we pursued it hard and we were able to make that deal,” Waddell said.
With Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce both injured, Waddell also wanted to bolster his blue line, so a few hours after the Trocheck deal, he went and got Sami Vatanen as a rental from the New Jersey Devils for relatively cheap.
“Good fit for us,” Waddell said of Skjei. “Even before all the injuries we had talked about adding a defenceman we thought could play minutes, play a hard game, but also contribute offensively. The way we play, the way [Rod Brind’Amour] coaches, our defence are very much involved in the offence and a couple things: you need to skate well to play the puck pressure that we do and you have to also be able to think the game. We think Brady does all those things for us.”
Waddell felt a first-round pick was a fair price to pay for a player who, like Trocheck, has multiple years remaining on his contract.
Skjei, 25, is locked up through 2023-24 at $5.25 million per year and Trocheck has two additional years left at an AAV of $4.75 million.
“When you have players with term that you like that makes it a lot easier to pull that trigger,” Waddell added.
Despite spending a first-rounder to land Skjei, the Hurricanes still have a chance to select a player in the first round in 2020 thanks to the conditional first they acquired in a summer trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If the Maple Leafs were to miss the playoffs this season and the pick ends up being a top-10 selection, the Hurricanes would receive Toronto’s 2021 first instead.
Waddell also provided updates on his injured goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek, saying Reimer (undisclosed) is probably a couple weeks away, while Mrazek (upper-body) is “feeling better and better every day” and expects that he could return as early as next week.
The Hurricanes currently sit two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot and three points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division.