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Hurricanes happy with offseason, GM says

Waddell discusses Aho offer sheet, Williams' future in wide-ranging conversation with NHL.com

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell acknowledges the significance of matching the five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet the Montreal Canadiens gave restricted free agent center Sebastian Aho.

By not hesitating to commit the finances to keep Aho, arguably their most important player and potential future captain, the Hurricanes and owner Tom Dundon demonstrated to the team, their fans and the rest of the NHL their commitment to maintaining the success they had last season.

"Everybody thinks we're not in a big so-called hockey market, but we're fortunate to have an owner that's been very successful in life and the one thing he recognizes is talent and assets," Waddell said. "We certainly weren't going to let this asset get away from us at this point. We got the offer at 2:40 p.m. on that Monday (July 1) and we knew at 2:42, once we both had a chance to read it, that we were going to match it."

 

[RELATED: Team Reset: Carolina Hurricanes]

 

The Hurricanes announced their intention to match the offer sheet July 2 and submitted the paperwork to the NHL on July 7, making it official that Aho, who led the team with an NHL career-high 30 goals and 83 points last season, would stay in Carolina.

Waddell maintains the Canadiens should have known the Hurricanes would match, but he's happy with the end result and believes Aho is, too.

"We talked. He wants to be here," Waddell said. "The agent told him this is a way to get this contract one way or another and not have to go through it (all summer). It's part of the CBA, it's part of the business, and you just have to accept it. I think you put it behind you. Sebastian is a great kid and I know what he's meant to our franchise, so I think everybody at the end of the day is very pleased with the outcome of him being a Hurricane for at least the next five years."

In a wide-ranging interview with NHL.com, Waddell discussed the Hurricanes' offseason, the status of captain Justin Williams, and the expectations for this season:

 

Has your offseason gone as you hoped as far as keeping the players you wanted to keep and the changes you wanted to make?

"For sure. We re-signed everybody we wanted to re-sign. The Aho contract was one we thought would probably go on all summer and it got sped up. That's part of the business and we're fine with it. The only difference in it is we would have liked to get a little longer term, but it's done for five years and we don't have to worry about it for the next five years.

"Other than that, we were able to re-sign the guys off our team from last year and add a few more pieces which we thought we needed."

Video: CAR@BOS, Gm1: Aho tips in Svechnikov's shot for PPG

 

Do you think the team is deeper at forward after acquiring Erik Haula in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights and signing Ryan Dzingel to a two-year, $6.75 million contract?

"I do. I like our forwards, for sure. I think we added another good center in Haula. That was a priority for us. Then Dzingel, we had talked about him at the trade deadline and I talked to him the first day of free agency. At that time, we didn't know where the money was going to end up. We stayed in contact with him, along with the agent, and myself, [Dundon] and (coach) Rod (Brind'Amour) all talked to him and at the end of the day, he wanted to be here and we got it done."

 

Captain Justin Williams, who turns 38 on Oct. 4, has been contemplating retirement after playing 18 NHL seasons. Has he given you any indication if he plans to play this season?

"We're still waiting on it. I truly think he's leaning toward playing, but he hasn't made that final decision yet. We're in good shape now if he decides to retire and if he comes back, it's a bonus for us."

Video: CAR@BOS, Gm2: Williams scores on redirection in 3rd

 

Is there a timetable for his decision?

"Not really. Timetables really don't work. The timetable at this point is sometime in August, but I'm sure it will get sorted out before then."

 

Anything else you're looking to add or are you done for the offseason?

"We're never done because my boss always wants to keep me posted here. We're always talking to teams. You have to see what's out there and if something makes sense. From a free agent standpoint, I would say we're done. We're still short a couple of depth guys in Charlotte (American Hockey League). But other than that, I think it would take a trade or something if we felt it made us better. We're not afraid to make trades, so we'll keep our eye on it."

 

The Hurricanes qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since 2009 and reached the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the Boston Bruins. How challenging will it be to follow that up and not take a step back?

"That's why we felt we needed to add some pieces to our mix this year. We made the playoffs the last week of the season and we had a good run. We were playing at the top of our game since the New Year. The other thing is our team changed when we got (forward Nino) Niederreiter (from the Minnesota Wild). We were three games over .500 (22-19-5) when we traded for him (Jan. 17) and ended [17] games over (46-29-7). So now you have him for a full season. You add Dzingel and Haula in there and (Andrei) Svechnikov has a year under his belt, so we think we're a better team than we were last year."

 

Maybe you took some teams by surprise last season. Will that be harder to do this season?

"It's always tough, but I don't think our mindset will change. The games in October are as important as they are in April. I think with Rod leading the group, we'll be prepared for whatever. The thing about teams taking you lightly, I never buy that anyway. Everybody is trying to get points every night and I think this year won't be much different than we saw last year. It's up to us to take care of our end of the business."

 

Petr Mrazek was re-signed and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers. Is the plan for them to be your two goalies to begin the season?

"No. I look at it differently. You've got Mrazek, who played well for us last year. I think the next job is for one of three guys, whoever wants that job. We're in a spot that we need to win hockey games. We've got to put the best guys out there each night to win hockey games. We proved it last year when we ended up sending (Scott) Darling down, who was making a lot of money in the minors."

Video: CAR@BOS, Gm2: Mrazek turns away Nordstrom

 

So rookie Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg (acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks) will compete with Reimer in training camp for the second goalie job?

"Yeah. All four (goalies) will be in a competition in some ways, but Petr will be here. We all know last year we ended up using three goalies and you need goaltending, so I feel very comfortable where we're at with the four guys we have at this point."

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