RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell has had two top-of-the-list issues during this NHL season — add more firepower and figure out what to do with pending unrestricted free agent Micheal Ferland.
A move made Thursday afternoon may have touched on both.
The Hurricanes acquired winger Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for center Victor Rask, adding a three-time 20-goal scorer in exchange for a player who had dipped to Carolina’s fourth line.
The Swiss-born Niederreiter, 26, was the fifth overall pick by the Islanders in the 2010 NHL Draft — two picks before Carolina selected Jeff Skinner — and has 112 goals, 119 assists and 231 points in 498 games. His best season was in 2016-17 when he posted career highs in goals (25), assists (32) and points (57) for the Wild.
“We’re excited to welcome a proven goal-scorer and veteran presence in Nino Niederreiter,” Waddell said in a press release announcing the trade. “We wish Victor the best moving forward and thank him for his efforts on the ice and in the community during his time in Raleigh.”
The Hurricanes take on more payroll in the deal — both players have contracts that expire in 2022, but Niederreiter’s cap hit is $5.25 million to Rask’s $4 million. Niederreiter makes $6.075 million this season, the most expensive on his five-year deal, and he will make an average of nearly $5.2 million the three following years. He does not have any movement clauses attached to his contract, according to CapFriendly.com.
Rask, who will turn 26 on March 1, had fallen out of favor in Carolina after regressing from the 21-goal, 48-point season he had in 2015-16 that earned him his six-year extension. He has a limited no-trade clause in his contract that kicks in for the final two years of his deal.
“I think Victor Rask is going to be a guy that rebounds here,” Wild GM Paul Fenton said during a conference call, according to The Score’s John Matisz. “In my mind, he’s a guy that needed a change of scenery.”
The move adds another big winger for Carolina’s top six — a role that has similarly been filled by Ferland since he was acquired in the offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Flames.
While Ferland has been a perfect fit alongside top-liners Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, the pending UFA and the team are seemingly at an impasse in negotiations.
The Hurricanes offer is believed to be in the five-year, $25 million range, while multiple sources have told North State Journal that Ferland is asking for a contract worth nearly twice that — something similar to the seven-year, $49 million contract Evander Kane signed with the San Jose Sharks.
Enter Niederreiter, who is slightly younger than Ferland (also drafted in 2010, Ferland will be 27 in April), been more durable, and brings a similar frame and style of play. While Ferland is surely a more intimidating presence — both on the forecheck and with his pugilistic skills — Niederreiter is a similarly big-bodied winger who can create space and win battles in the corners.
For now, coach Rod Brind’Amour will have both. Like Rask, Niederreiter has had a couple of down seasons — he had 18 goals and 32 points in 63 games last year, and had nine goals and 23 points in 46 games with the Wild before the trade — and was seemingly in need of a change of scenery.
Rask — picked 42nd overall by Carolina in the 2011 draft — has one goal and five assists in 26 games this year. Coming off of shoulder surgery, he missed the start of this season after severely cutting his hand cutting a sweet potato. He registering 14 goals and 17 assists in 71 games last season — a 14-point dip from the year before.