RALEIGH — When the Hurricanes traded away defenseman Tony DeAngelo at last week’s NHL Draft, there were howls on social media that Carolina had again been “too cheap” to pony up and pay a player who had 50-plus points.
And when both Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter hit the open market, taking the combined 45 goals they scored for the Hurricanes last season to free agency with them, fans became even more concerned.
The desperate digital screams of the masses became louder when NHL insiders tweeted that rugged Mason Marchment was coming to Raleigh on a four-year deal, only to see the Stars pry the free agent forward out of the Hurricanes’ grasp and to Dallas.
But Carolina GM Don Waddell proved that, even on the most hectic day on the NHL calendar, slow and steady wins the race.
The Hurricanes swung trades for superstars Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty on Wednesday, filling both of their major needs and stunning their fanbase and the league by reinventing themselves as contenders.
Carolina, armed with about $20 million in cap space, targeted one rebuilding team and another in a severe cap crunch to fill their needs.
Carolina acquired Burns, the former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, in a trade with San Jose to replace DeAngelo, sending forward Steven Lorentz, goalie prospect Eetu Makiniemi and a conditional third-round pick to the Sharks in exchange for Burns and 24-year-old center Lane Pederson.
Then the Hurricanes traded with Vegas for six-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty, landing the 33-year-old and defenseman Dylan Coghlan for future considerations — also known as nothing.
Carolina also signed another player it has long coveted, inking Ondrej Kase to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. The Hurricanes nearly acquired Kase for Justin Faulk before the 2019-20 season, but the trade fell apart.
To recap, the final tally is:
Draft picks (2nd, 4th)
Nino Niederreiter (TBD)
Once they saw the big picture, the internet hoards made a lot of noise as well — but the positive kind.
The Hurricanes gambled last offseason that DeAngelo could avoid the off-ice issues that plagued him with the Rangers and beyond. On Wednesday, they gambled that Burns can continue to outrace Father Time.
San Jose will retain 34% of Burns’ cap hit, taking his $8 million charge over the next three seasons down to $5.28 million for Carolina. The conditional third-round pick headed to San Jose will be the lower of the two picks — one of which that was part of the return for DeAngelo — the Hurricanes hold in that round at next year’s draft.
Pederson is a depth forward who can fill a similar role as Lorentz. He has 44 games of NHL experience with five points while playing under 11 minutes a game.
Carolina will have to pay the full ticket on Pacioretty — a $7 million cap hit but $5.25 million in actual cash — but also receive Coghlan. The 24-year-old undrafted defenseman will have a $762,500 cap hit this coming season.
While Coghlan played 59 games for the Knights last season, totaling three goals and 10 assists in just over 14 minutes a night, it’s Pacioretty that’s the prize in the deal.
The 14-year veteran played just 39 games last season for Vegas but scored 19 goals and had 37 points. Pacioretty has 323 career goals, including 77 on the power play.
“Adding offensive firepower and improving our power play were priorities this offseason, and Max certainly checks those boxes,” Waddell said in a press release. “This acquisition gives us an elite scorer and another veteran voice in our dressing room.”
The 37-year-old Burns, a right-handed veteran of 18 NHL seasons, had 10 goals and 54 points for the Sharks last season, playing all 82 games. In fact, Burns has been one of the league’s most durable players — he last missed a game during the 2013-14 season, playing 679 consecutive games. That gives Carolina hope that the 6-foot-5, 230-pound blueliner can continue to play and produce in what Burns called “the back nine” of his career.
“It’s a big man that has played a lot of minutes and been very durable and through his career,” Waddell said. “We think he’s got at least three more real good years as he reaches the age of 40.”
Burns has 227 goals and 777 points in 1,251 career regular season games and has scored 15 or more goals seven times, most recently in 2018-19. Burns’ days as the most dominant offensive defenseman in hockey — he scored 27 and 29 goals in consecutive seasons in 2015-16 and 2016-17 — are in the past, but the Barrie, Ontario, native still ranked 12th in points by defensemen last season.
While Pacioretty leaves one Stanley Cup contender for another, Burns has not been to the postseason since 2019.
“I’m coming to a time where winning and having a chance to win at all is really all that matters right now,” Burns said in a Zoom call following the trade. “I’ve chased the boys in red and black on the ice over a while, and they’ve got a great team.”
Kase had 27 points in 50 games with Toronto last season, but the skilled winger has struggled to stay healthy — including concussion issues — throughout his NHL career.
“Ondrej is an exciting young player and we’re happy to add another goal-scoring winger to our forward group,” Waddell said in a release. “He can play in all situations and we expect him to contribute offensively.”
On the most unpredictable day in hockey, the Hurricanes pulled off the unimaginable. Now they’ll have to wait about a year to see if it was all worth the gamble.