NHL.com is sitting down with newsmakers leading up to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. ET. Today, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell discusses his deadline approach, the status of contract talks with Sebastian Aho and the team's long-term direction.
The Carolina Hurricanes plan to be active before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, but whether they'll be buyers or sellers will probably be determined by how they play in the next two weeks.
The Hurricanes (28-21-6) are 13-4-1 since Dec. 31 and are one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. If that trend continues, general manager Don Waddell would love to add another scoring forward or upgrade the goaltending to help them reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09.
"We're talking to a lot of teams," Waddell said. "We still maintain we have a plethora of defensemen. I feel like with the right player or right package, [moving a defenseman] is something we'd certainly entertain. … It's got to make sense. It's got to help us on the ice today."
But Waddell remains focused on building the Hurricanes for long-term success. That's why he isn't interested in giving up prospects or draft picks to acquire players who aren't signed beyond this season. Instead, he would prefer to do a player-for-player trade similar to the one he made with the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 17, acquiring forward Nino Niederreiter for center Victor Rask.
"We're not in a position where we're going to be mortgaging futures to win today," Waddell said. "We've got a ways to go. You don't want to be giving up assets or draft picks for rental players to try to get in and then you don't get in. It's one thing if you pick up a player or you do a hockey trade and a player's got term left, but I don't see us at all being in the rental market.
"The only difference is we have a few unrestricted free agents. We'll see how the next 10-12 days go."
One of those potential unrestricted free agents is Micheal Ferland, who has 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 46 games this season. The 26-year-old forward would be a valuable addition for a contender that needs more scoring depth.
Video: CBJ@CAR: Ferland one-times Aho's feed for PPG
If the Hurricanes lose touch in the playoff race before the deadline, Waddell would likely trade Ferland, but at the moment, he's considering keeping him.
"Maybe he's our rental player," Waddell said. "You trade him and then you might need someone like that if you're still in the thick of things, so you can look at it the other way and say, 'Well, we like him. We'd love to keep him, so why do we even think about trading him?"
Waddell went more in depth about the state of the Hurricanes in an interview with NHL.com.
On the state of the trade market:
"There's still lot of teams like us who are trying to figure out if they're in or out that are on the cusp, probably more so in the West because of how close it is out there. It's people that feel like one player is going to help them get in vs. you make a trade and give up an asset and don't get in. So, that's why I do think this one is going to go a little further. There might be a few little things happen here in the next little bit, but I think once we get to the middle of the month that's when things will really pick up."
On the potential return for trading a defenseman:
"More scoring. A centerman. We'd look at maybe a goalie for down the road. I think this year both guys [Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney] have done a good job for us to put us in our position, but they are both unrestricted at the end of the year. So you've got to be careful there. I don't know what either one of their plans are, so we've just got to stay in tune with that. And defense, I think we look for the best forward, the best player regardless of the position. If there's a centerman, that would be ideal, but if it's a guy up front who can score, we always know [the importance of] scoring in the National Hockey League."
On whether captain Justin Williams, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, might be traded:
"He's been such a key part for us. We haven't talked to him, nor would I talk to him at this point. If we're in the thick of things, it's not even an option we'd think about. If something happened and we went the other way, then that would be something else we'd talk about."
Video: NSH@CAR: Williams' shot deflects in for a PPG
On where things stand on contract talks with forward Sebastian Aho, who can become a restricted free agent July 1:
"We had said back in November that he didn't want to get into it in the middle of the year and we respected that. Being a restricted free agent it's not as intensive as guys that are UFAs, so once we get through the season we'll figure out where we go with that one."
On how the trade for Niederreiter (six goals, one assist in eight games since trade) has worked out:
"He's what we needed: He's a bigger body (6-foot-2, 218 pounds), he's got a knack for the net, he's really good down low below the face-off dots and he really complements Aho. And he's a great kid in the locker room and everything else, so to date we're very happy with it and I think we'll continue to be moving forward."
On being happy with the direction the Hurricanes are headed in the long term:
"One hundred percent. Nothing against our older players, but if you look at our lineup and our younger player or players that are under contract at forward, that's what we're excited about. You've got Aho, obviously, leading the way, who might be a restricted free agent, but we all know [we intend to sign him]. We locked up [forward] Teuvo Teravainen for another five years and you've got [defenseman] Jaccob Slavin, you've got [rookie forward] Andrei Svechnikov and you go right down and all those guys are signed."
On whether center Jordan Staal, who hasn't played since Dec. 22 because of a concussion, will return this season:
"I think he will. But you know what happens when you get put timelines on it. There could be setbacks and all that. We're just letting him work back into it at his pace, and at some point he'll start to come back and be with the team and be ready to go. But when that happens still is up in the air."