It was nearly four hours after Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline when the Carolina Hurricanes officially wrapped their business with the National Hockey League.
After a long day of phone calls, emails, negotiations and salary cap finagling, the Canes upgraded their roster for not only the remaining 21 regular-season games and a hopeful playoff run but, even more importantly, the seasons to come.
"We believe in the guys we have here, but we thought needed to strengthen us at certain positions," Canes President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "We come out of this feeling really good about the players we added."
In a trio of headline-grabbing trades on deadline day, the Canes acquired center Vincent Trocheck and defensemen Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen.
News of the Trocheck acquisition broke before the Canes held practice on Monday morning, always a pins-and-needles type of day for the hockey world. The deal itself, though, had been in the works "for a couple weeks," according to Waddell.
For Trocheck, the Canes sent forwards Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and Eetu Luostarinen and defenseman Chase Priskie to Florida.
At first glance, a four-for-one deal might seem a bit one-sided. But, consider Haula is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in almost four months, and Luostarinen and Priskie are, at this point, prospects with an undetermined trajectory. Wallmark is a Swiss Army Knife-type player, an underrated, quiet stud in his role.
Ultimately, that's the price of doing business, especially in order to obtain a right-shooting center who can slot into the Canes' top nine. It's rare that the opportunity to acquire that type of player presents itself, and the Canes were able to finalize the deal.
"That's why we gave up so much," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We gave up a lot to get a player who fits exactly what we're all about and fills a need we definitely had."
Video: Brind'Amour: "It was about our group, how we played"
Trocheck put up career numbers in 2017-18 with 31 goals, 44 assists and 75 points. The 26-year-old, who is under contract through 2021-22, is now in his seventh NHL season and has recorded 36 points (10g, 26a) in 55 games.
"Every time you play the Carolina Hurricanes, you know it's going to be a tough game," Trocheck said in a Monday conference call. "They play a fast-paced game, and I think that's where I fit in. I like to play with speed."
"Really good player, a player with great speed and good hands. Very talented," Jordan Staal said. "That fits right in with our style. He's going to be a really good addition for our team."
Brind'Amour said the Canes are getting a "really good player" in Trocheck, and Trocheck feels the same is true about his new head coach.
"I've heard nothing but great things. I've heard the guys love playing for him," Trocheck said. "The way he played when he played is the style of hockey he would like his players to play. He was an extremely hard-working guy, and they work extremely hard for him. I'm excited to get there and play for him."
With the Trocheck deal finalized in the early business hours of Monday, Waddell and the Canes turned their attention to the team's defense. Dougie Hamilton's injury created a hole. Then, Brett Pesce suffered a shoulder injury in Toronto, and that hole widened to a crater.
The Canes filled that void with a pair of Metropolitan Division defensemen. One has four additional years of term and can be plugged in immediately. The other is currently injured and is a pending unrestricted free agent but was considered to be a top deadline target.
Video: Don Waddell Deadline Press Conference
The acquisition of Skjei was finally made official more than four hours after the deadline had passed. For Skjei, the Canes sent a 2020 first-round draft pick to the New York Rangers; if Carolina has more than one first-round pick (they currently also have Toronto's first-round pick, which is top-10 protected), it will be the later of the two that transfers to New York.
In Skjei, the Canes acquire a 6-foot-3, 210-pound blue-liner who is in his fifth NHL season and totaled 112 points (25g, 87a) in 307 career games with the Rangers.
Waddell said Skjei, who is under contract through the 2023-24 season "checks all the boxes." It's a move that will improve the Canes' defensive corps in the immediate and long-term future.
In a deal that involved more moving pieces, the Canes also acquired Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Janne Kuokkanen, defenseman Fredrik Claesson and a conditional 2020 draft pick.
The conditions of that draft pick are as follows. If Vatanen plays in five regular-season games this season, New Jersey will receive a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. If Vatanen plays in 12 regular-season games or 70 percent of playoff games this season, New Jersey will receive a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Vatanan, who last played on Feb. 1, has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. The Canes expect him to return to the lineup "in early March." The 28-year-old defenseman has registered 23 points (5g, 18a) in 47 games with the Devils this season. In 434 career NHL games with New Jersey and Anaheim, Vatanen has totaled 194 points (45g, 149a).
In order to make these three moves work with respect to the salary cap, the Canes placed Hamilton on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), and New Jersey retained 50 percent of Vatanen's salary.
"It's nice to have an owner willing to spend his money because we spent a lot of money today," Waddell said. "We've also left ourselves some flexibility as we move forward with the cap."
The Canes had one of their most active trade deadline days in recent memory - and, by all accounts, most successful, as well, as they bolster their lineup for the final quarter of the season while locked in a dogfight of a playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
"It's a strong message," Waddell said, "that we're here to win."