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Canes Treating Pause With Offseason Mindset

Waddell: 'I'm busier now than I feel like I've ever been'

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

"Busy" is a little different now for Don Waddell.

There are no late nights at PNC Arena, and his travel schedule is, well, nonexistent.

Yet, the president and general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes said he feels like he is busier now than he has ever been.

"I think last week I had 17 different conference calls between the league, the hockey side, the vice presidents' calls, ticket calls," Waddell said in yet another phone call earlier this week.

The uncertainty of it all - everything from the when to the what to the where - creates copious scenarios, all for which the Canes want to be prepared.


There's the 2020 NHL Draft. That's happening. It won't be hosted in Montreal in late June, as was originally planned. It will likely proceed remotely, but when is the hotly debated question.

"We've talked a lot about it," Waddell said. "The league is looking at what's fair to everybody."

There's ongoing discussion of staging the lottery and draft in early June, prior to some sort of resolution to the 2019-20 season. That option, in itself, spawns various other questions, some more problematic than others.

"I don't think you can tell me we're going to do the draft until we know what the format is moving forward," Waddell said. "I think it's a big package between the draft and are we going play regular season games or come back and play playoffs?"

Take the Canes, for instance. At the time of the pause, they had accumulated a 38-25-5 record and 81 points through 68 games. They occupied the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. A draft lottery that assumes the standings as of March 12 would not include the Canes. But, assuming there is some semblance of a conclusion to the regular season, what if, for whatever reason, the Canes fell out of a playoff spot? They would then miss out on both the lottery and the postseason.

Holding the lottery and draft prior to concluding the 2019-20 season would make more sense, however, if the remainder of the regular season is wiped out and playoffs begin immediately. But, even that results in questions of lottery participants, given discussion to expand the playoff field this year.

So many questions, yet few easy answers.

"We have some opinions, of course, and some concerns," Waddell said. "We just want to make sure, at the end of the day, it's fair for all 31 teams. If we can find that common goal, that's in the best interest of the National Hockey League."

Then there's free agency. It's typically a frenzy when the clock strikes noon on July 1. That, like everything else, will probably be a little different this year because no one knows when exactly the "offseason" will fall.

"We're treating it as our offseason now for how we're going to make our team better moving forward. We're going through all the teams in the league to talk about free agents and trades," Waddell said. "Free agency is going to happen. Trades are going to happen. All these things are going to happen. We just don't know the timetable."

Then there's the conclusion to the 2019-20 season. One option being discussed is staging games in hub cities, perhaps one for each division. Raleigh, which has comparatively lower population density and infection rates, could be a viable option.


Not to mention, the Canes' new practice facility remains on target to open this summer.

"Right after the league started talking about it (hub cities), I met with Jeff (Ammons) and talked about the facility and timetable," Waddell said. "I communicated to the league to let them know we'd have a state-of-the-art, two-sheet rink ready to go, and we feel like our venue at PNC Arena is something that could host teams. I know the league has a lot of planning going on. Our job is to just keep them aware of where we are, and we've done that."

Video: Construction update of the Wake Competition Center.

And then there's the 2020-21 season. Even in early April, Waddell said the organization had established an internal task force to analyze various arena capacity scenarios.

The Canes are also set to host the 2021 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series™ at NC State's Carter-Finley Stadium on Feb. 20. Waddell said planning for that is proceeding as scheduled.

Answers to some of these questions will come sooner rather than later - they have to. And the Canes will be ready for whatever is thrown their way.

"We're utilizing our time, I think, very well to make sure we're prepared," Waddell said. "Nobody knows what the future is going to hold yet."

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