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Droschak: Carolina's Deals of the Decade

by David Droschak / Carolina Hurricanes
Editor’s note: The first in a three-part series highlighting the Carolina Hurricanes’ accomplishments this past decade as seen through the eyes of feature writer David Droschak, who has covered the team since its North Carolina inception.

Droschak takes a look at Carolina’s top 10 best trades, best players and most memorable moments of the last decade. We would love to hear your feedback or some of your favorites over the last 10 years in Raleigh.

Up next: Decade’s top players.   

Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford has had his share of accolades this decade, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, having another final run in ’02 and putting together a trip to the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Dozens of key components have been acquired over the last 10 years, making up the fabric of some of the franchise’s best-ever teams. With the decade coming to a close it’s time to look at the best trades of the decade for the Carolina Hurricanes. NOTE: Free agent signings are not eligible for the rankings.  

  1. Jan. 23, 2000 -- Rod Brind’Amour and Jean-Marc Pelletier from Philadelphia for Keith Primeau. Just 23 days into the decade Rutherford pulled the trigger on one of the biggest moves in franchise history, dumping a disgruntled captain in Primeau for the hard-nosed Brind’Amour and a goalie of the future. While Pelletier never panned out in net, Brind’Amour has played in 650 games this decade with 462 points, and assumed the captain role once Ron Francis retired. Brind’Amour, also one of the league’s best face-off centers, has six game-winning playoff goals for the Canes, including four (one in each series) during the ’06 Cup run. Primeau retired in 2006 after a series of concussions, while Brind’Amour is in his 21st NHL season.  

  2. Jan. 16, 2002 – Bret Hedican, Kevyn Adams and Tomas Malec from Florida for Sandis Ozolinsh and Byron Ritchie. In need of some grit and stability during a late playoff run, the Canes dealt the high-risk Ozolinsh, who became the first Cane to start in an All-Star game in 2001, for the smooth-skating Hedican and a top penalty killer in Adams. The Canes went on to finish 13-9-10 over the final 32 games to win the Southeast Division title and later made a remarkable run to the Cup finals. Hedican and Adams were also integral parts of the ’06 championship team, while Ritchie never panned out at the NHL level and Ozolinsh lasted just 88 games in Florida before being traded to Anaheim. Meanwhile, Ritchie scored just 10 goals in 111 games with Florida and was traded to Calgary.

  3. Jan. 20, 2004 – Justin Williams from Philadelphia for Danny Markov. In one of the first building-block moves to an eventual Cup title, Rutherford dumps a high-salary player in Markov for upside potential in a young Williams during a season in which the club was struggling. Williams played here for five years, piling up 201 points in 265 career games, including two 30-goal seasons. Williams was a top-six forward and power-play asset, with a combined 20 man-advantage goals and 12 game-winners over a two-year period. Williams will be best-known for scoring the empty-net goal that clinched the 2006 Cup, but two years of injuries resulted in a trade. Meanwhile, Markov played just 34 games for Philly before being traded to Nashville because of salary-cap issues. He now plays in Russia.

  4. June 18, 2004 – Martin Gerber from Anaheim for Tomas Malec and third-round pick in the 2004 draft (Kyle Klubertanz). Gerber played just one season for Carolina, but it was a memorable one as he set a team record for wins en route to a 38-14-6 record in his first opportunity as a starting NHL goalie. A rookie by the name of Cam Ward took over in net after Gerber flopped in his first two starts in the 2006 playoffs, and Ward ended up leading the Canes to the Cup while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. However, Gerber gets much of the credit for the best regular season in franchise history as the Canes finished with 52 wins and 112 points. Malec played in just three NHL games after being traded and now plays in the Czech Republic, while Klubertanz spent four seasons at the University of Wisconsin and has never logged a minute in the NHL. The defenseman now plays in Sweden.

  5. March 9, 2006 – Mark Recchi from Pittsburgh for Niklas Nordgren, Krystofer Kolanos and a second-round draft pick. The Recchi move and trade for Doug Weight five weeks earlier are often bunched together because the veterans helped push the Canes over the top to a Cup title, but Carolina gave up much less to acquire the Recchin’ Ball, who many viewed as a player on his last leg. Four years later, Recchi is still in the NHL scoring power-play goals. Recchi had 16 points in 25 playoff games for the Canes, including a game-winner in the Eastern Conference final against Buffalo and the Game 4 winner in the Cup Finals at Edmonton that gave Carolina a 3-1 lead in the series. Nordgren played just 15 games for Pittsburgh without scoring a point and now plays in a Swiss league, while Kolanos has been a career minor-leaguer.

  6. Dec. 5, 2001 – Sean Hill from St. Louis for Steve Halko and a fourth-round pick (Lane Manson). Hill was the team’s leading scorer on defense for three seasons, played the point on the power play and offered a major physical presence along the blue line. His four power-play goals in the 2002 playoffs helped lift the Canes to the Cup Finals. Hill was a popular player with both fans and management as evidenced by Rutherford re-acquiring Hill from the Blues after he played with the franchise from 1997-2000. Halko’s claim to fame is a dubious one. He played 155 NHL games without scoring a goal (the longest such streak in league history) and never played for the Blues after being traded, while the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Manson didn’t play in the NHL. 

  7. March 5, 2002 – Kevin Weekes from Tampa Bay for Chris Dingman and Shane Willis. Weekes had been traded three previous times and had been mostly a career backup when Rutherford added him to the roster for the stretch playoff run in 2002. Weekes played just two regular-season games before sharing time in the postseason with Arturs Irbe, forming a stellar 1-2 punch in net that helped lead the Canes to the Cup Finals against Detroit. Weekes is still the franchise playoff leader with a 1.62 goals against average and .939 save percentage. While the team struggled over the next two seasons, Weekes was one of the few bright spots, playing in 117 games and posting GAA seasons of 2.55 and 2.33 with 11 shutouts. Willis played just 33 games for Tampa Bay and while still in the AHL, hasn’t logged an NHL minute since the 2003-04 season. Meanwhile, Dingman was Carolina’s tough guy and expendable at the time.

  8. Sept. 29, 2006Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger from Los Angeles for Oleg Tverdovsky and the rights to Jack Johnson. The jury is still out on this trade and will be for the next decade, but for now what amounted to a swap of former first-round picks on defense favors the Canes. Gleason has the grit of a champion and appears headed for a long career with Carolina, while Rutherford was unable to come to terms with Johnson after drafting him with the third overall pick in 2005. The Kings bit on Johnson, whose play in the Western Conference has been met with mixed reviews. So far, Johnson has logged 156 NHL games and is a minus-56.

  9. Feb. 26, 2008Tuomo Ruutu from Chicago for Andrew Ladd. In a similar trade to the Gleason-Johnson deal, a swap of previous first-round draft picks. Ruutu added the toughness the Canes had been hoping the rugged Ladd would provide, while working his way to the top line with a heavy shot. Ruutu is viewed as one of the team’s handful of “untouchable” players when trade talks surface. Meanwhile, Ladd is a third-line player for the Blackhawks and logs less than 14 minutes a night.

  10. July 29, 2005 – Mike Commodore from Calgary for third-round draft pick. In what appeared to be a yawner of a move by the Canes heading out of the lockout turned into a brilliant steal for Rutherford. Commodore played on the team’s top defensive unit at times, adding toughness and size en route to the team’s most successful season ever. Commodore also became extremely popular with the fan base while growing out his red hair during the 2006 season, helping sell “Commodore wigs” and white robes at the RBC Center during the playoffs. His value was instrumental in a trade to Ottawa in February 2008 that landed power-play ace Joe Corvo.
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