3.8.24 Trades

RALEIGH, NC. - The Carolina Hurricanes' leadership, including owner Tom Dundon and President & General Manager Don Waddell, has not been shy in recent years about saying that their goal is to win the Stanley Cup.

Not reach the playoffs. Not play in the Eastern Conference Final. Win the Stanley Cup.

After adding small depth pieces the last two years and coming up short of their ultimate hope, this year they took a different approach at the league's trade deadline. They went for it.

Bringing in not just one star, but two, Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov are expected to add a scoring punch to Carolina's lineup.

"It's an exciting few days," Waddell said as he met with reporters after the 3 p.m. ET deadline on Friday. "Right now we felt that if we could add more goal-scoring to our hockey club, that made the most sense. We were fortunate to land both players."

Guentzel, 29, is a proven goal-scorer who's experienced success during both regular season and postseason play throughout his career.

Drafted by and skating in 503 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he's scored at least 20 goals in each of his seven seasons as a full-time NHLer. He's also netted 40 twice.

"I'm really excited for the opportunity. This is a special team. They've got a lot of high-end players and they're really well-coached," Guentzel said as he met with reporters via Zoom during the afternoon hours.

Expected to meet the team in New Jersey on Saturday, it is anticipated that he'll make his debut with his new club within the next few weeks.

Out since February 14 due to an upper-body injury, the two-time NHL All-Star (2020, 2022) said he'll be evaluated when he gets to Carolina.

“I’ve been skating for the last week or so," the coveted acquisition spoke of his ailment. "I’m not really sure when I’ll be back in the lineup yet, but I’m trending in the right direction."

Jake Guentzel Press Conference

As for Kuznetsov, the day fortuitously began in Charlotte as he prepared to play in the American Hockey League for the first time in his career.

But during morning skate he was informed that a private jet was already on the way and he was headed back to the NHL.

Brought aboard from Washington in exchange for the cheap price of a 2025 third-round pick, the 31-year-old from Chelyabinsk, Russia gets a fresh start.

"I'm happy to be here. It's a new chapter in my life, something I was looking for," Kuznetsov shared after he got off the ice following an abbreviated skate. "It's a perfect match for me."

Landing at RDU just before 1 p.m., the skilled forward made the quick trek from the tarmac to Invisalign Arena, where his new teammates were already on the ice.

A change in scenery after 11 years in Washington, Kuznetsov was somewhat shockingly placed on waivers by the Capitals last Saturday. The news came the same day that he was cleared from the NHL/NHLPA's Players Assistance program, after entering their care on February 5.

In 2019 he was suspended by the NHL for what was deemed "inappropriate conduct."

"I was never running away from the mistakes I made in the past. I never regret those. It's an amazing life-learning point," the veteran said with conviction, understanding his situation. "I learned a lot. This is my last opportunity. This is my last chance."

Now, he'll have an opportunity to return to the form that made him a two-time NHL All-Star and allowed him to produce 32 points in 24 games on the way to a Stanley Cup in 2018.

He'll also be able to do so alongside one of his teammates from that championship run and one of his best friends in hockey, Dmitry Orlov.

"I've known him since I was 16 years old. We've played together, we were roommates, we spent a lot of time, good and bad days together," Kuznetsov shared with a smile. "Our families are tight, our parents are tight. I was meant to be here."

With two players combining for 1,034 points in 1,226 NHL games, you'd have to envision that Rod Brind'Amour is a happy man.

"Yeah, [I'm] pretty excited. You don't really know how these days are going to play out and normally that's not our move to go get these guys. But give the organization credit for stepping up," the head coach chimed in before an afternoon flight to New Jersey. "Now we just have to fit these guys in and get them up to speed."

As for how the guys fit into the lineup, Brind'Amour admitted he hadn't even thought of that just yet.

However, he's going to have to devise a plan soon, as he then went on to say that the plan is for Kuznetsov to make his team debut tomorrow afternoon in Newark against the New Jersey Devils.

"With Guentzel, that's just a top player. Any team would have tried to get him and we were just the ones that were able to do it," Brind'Amour continued. "With Kuznetsov, that's an opportunity there. We know (his) talent and hopefully, we can bring it out of him."

And when it comes to putting a bow on the business, Waddell was perhaps most pleased that the team didn't have to give up a first-round pick to get either player.

There is a stipulation that the 2024 second-round selection that went to Pittsburgh in the deal for Guentzel would become a first if Carolina makes it to the Stanley Cup Final, but as it stands, the pick was not Carolina's own, rather Philadelphia's, the one obtained in a trade for Tony DeAngelo at the 2022 draft.

The Canes were more comfortable parting with some prospects because they felt their cupboards were full going into the deadline.

"We built up a stockpile of prospects. There are "A" prospects" and "B" prospects, and we think we have seven or eight "A" prospects," Waddell said. "We've got a big pool right now and they all can't come in the league at the same time. It's just impossible. That's why we felt we had the flexibility and the availability to put some of those guys in a deal."

Evgeny Kuznetzov Media

With just 20 games to go in the regular season, the Canes hope that the two newcomers will not only have an impact during that stretch but in their games during April and May as well.

While only time will tell how things pan out, one thing is set in stone now - the organization "went for it" at the deadline.

"We want to do things that make our team better, which then in return will make our fans be more proud to be Hurricanes fans," Waddell answered one of the final questions. "Now it's up to us on the ice to continue progressing."