RALEIGH — Heading into Monday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline, the Carolina Hurricanes were part of a four-team bunch battling for three playoff spots and separated by one point.
The Columbus Blue Jackets did more than any team in the league, opting to keep star winger Artemi Panarin and two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky — both set to be unrestricted free agents this summer — while adding top center Matt Duchene and winger Ryan Dzingel from Ottawa, rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid from the Rangers, and even goalie insurance by nabbing Keith Kinkaid from New Jersey.
The Penguins — who made their big move earlier in the month, acquiring Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from Florida on Feb. 1 — attempted to shore up their banged-up defense with Erik Gudbranson and Chris Wideman.
And Montreal restructured their bottom six forwards with three moves throughout the month, highlighted by trades for Dale Weise and Nate Thompson, and culminating with the addition of Jordan Weal from Arizona on deadline day.
The Hurricanes got Nino Niederreiter back in mid-January, but they opted not to gamble on Monday.
Instead, they’re betting on themselves.
“At the end of the day, we went into the day liking our team, and we’re going to end today liking our team just as much because what these guys have been through and what they’ve accomplished this far,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said Monday afternoon after the team’s only move was shipping our prospect Cliff Pu for Tomas Jurco — whose AHL contract prevents him from being recalled.
The biggest thing the Hurricanes did Monday was what they didn’t do — trade pending UFA Micheal Ferland.
History will dictate whether keeping Ferland — who is reportedly asking for $6-7 million annually on a long-term deal — was the wise move, but Wayne Simmonds, a comparable player, landed Philadelphia only bottom-six forward Ryan Hartman and a conditional midround pick.
Given that Carolina was asking for more than that, the team opted to keep Ferland — but the decision went down to the final minutes before the deadline.
“We told teams all along that if there’s a deal we couldn’t say no to, we would talk and look at it,” Waddell said. “But at the end of the day, there was nothing that made sense for us trade Micheal Ferland.”
Ferland’s production has dried up a bit of late — during the team’s torrid 18-6-1 run since Dec. 31 and heading into Tuesday’s home game against the Kings, he has five goals and 13 assists in the last 29 games — but his physical presence is certainly welcome with all three of the aforementioned teams beefing up their toughness ahead of the deadline, as well as Tom Wilson still lurking in Washington.
“But we look at it, if we were going to trade Micheal, that we’d have to go out and replace that player,” Waddell said. “And the rental players that were all out there, we didn’t see that type of player.”
One player they didn’t have to replace — at least not anymore — was Jordan Staal, who got back in the lineup for Sunday’s 3-0 win in Dallas after missing nearly two months due to a concussion.
With Ferland staying, Staal returning and Niederreiter — who has nine goals and 15 points in his first 16 games with Carolina — all in the fold, it made spending assets for an unknown property less of a necessity.
“As important as adding a player is sometimes not; because of that — the chemistry factor,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said following Monday’s morning skate. “This group, as we’ve seen from Day 1, is pretty tight-knit and they play for each other as well as any team. So I think that’s been our strength. And why would you want to mess with that?”
Waddell and the Hurricanes’ brain trust didn’t, and now they’ll wait and see if the season’s final 20 games can end the franchise’s nine-year playoff drought.
“Whenever you’re talking about adding pieces, you want to make sure those pieces can fit in that locker room, but also having pieces you’re taking out of the locker room, how it’s going to affect the guys?” Waddell said. “So we believe in this team, and that’s why we stuck with them. And we’re going to move forward like this.”