Category 5: Hurricanes arrive on the NHL Draft floor

Carolina is set to pick 30th overall in Nashville

The 2023 NHL Draft is being held in Nashville, Tennessee. (Cory Lavalette / North State Journal)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Hurricanes’ decision-makers are in Nashville for the 2023 NHL Draft. I chatted with GM Don Waddell in the final minutes before the draft began, and he answered some of the pressing questions for Carolina this offseason.

1. Only the first of seven rounds will be held Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena, with Rounds 2-7 scheduled for Thursday afternoon. The Hurricanes, who select 30th overall, will have some time to make a decision on their pick, and GM Don Waddell hasn’t ruled out trading it.

“As we sit here right now, I would say we’re probably going to make the pick,” Waddell told me from the draft floor. “But three hours, four hours is a long time. A  lot can happen in the next three or four hours. So, we have some talks going on, but nothing that’s that close to making a deal.”

2. Draft capital is certainly important when making a trade during these two days, but make no mistake: cap space is king, and the Hurricanes are one of the few contending teams with a lot of it.

“We think it is,” Waddell said. “We’ll see. You know, last year right before free agency we were able to pick up (Brent) Burns and (Max) Pacioretty because we had to cap space, and right now, we got lots of cap space. We’ll just see. We keep talking to everybody to see what’s out there.”

3. While many think adding goal-scoring is a priority for the Hurricanes, Waddell mentioned a few other positions that are being targeted.

“I think we feel pretty good about our hockey team,” he said. “We’ve gotta get goaltending figured out. If we don’t do anything with our defense, right now we just have to sign one guy. I think we’re in pretty good shape except maybe add somebody on the fourth line.”

As for the Hurricanes’ pending unrestricted free agents, Shayne Gostisbehere’s agent already said the defenseman will test free agency on July 1. Waddell didn’t shut the door on anyone else re-signing before Saturday.

“There’s still a couple guys that we’re talking to,” he said. “Obviously, (we have over) the next 48 hours to get something done or not. So we’re trying to bring back a couple guys, for sure.”

4. Carolina also has several players who are eligible for contract extensions with one year remaining on their deals. Waddell said there’s no desperation in trying to iron out new contracts with players like Sebastian Aho, Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei. Still, having certainty with your salary cap is always nice.

“We’ve got a whole year,” Waddell said. “Saying that, you’d like to get something done before the season starts. But there’s no timeline because they’re under contract for next year. Before the start of the year we’d like to be able to get them signed, for sure.”

On Aho, Waddell said it’s a “very important priority (to) get him locked up.” Waddell said he’s comfortable with where talks stand with Aho’s representatives.

5. The Hurricanes seemed on the cusp of reacquiring Tony DeAngelo from the Flyers, with Philadelphia poised to retain half of the defenseman’s $5 million salary for 2023-24 with a reported mid-level prospect heading the other way.

The trade was held up because of a CBA provision that says a team can’t reacquire a player with salary retention within a year of having traded him away. It’s a rule meant to keep teams from circumventing the cap, which clearly isn’t the case here. Carolina is more the victim of the fact the draft is more than a week earlier than last year’s, when the Hurricanes traded DeAngelo and a seventh round pick to Philly for three picks (including No. 71 in this year’s this round).

“It’s written in the CBA,” Waddell said. “Last year, the draft got pushed back, so that’s a little bit of our argument. But we don’t make the rules, we obey by the rules.”

The deal could still be completed starting July 8, something that Waddell still hopes will happen.

“There’s things we’ve got to work out, but I still feel good,” Waddell said of the trade. “Obviously, it’s not done until it’s done. But for us, if we’re able to acquire this player, I think it helps us.”