Category 5: Revving up for Rangers-Hurricanes

Rod Brind'Amour's contract negotiations look like they're coming to a conclusion

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour talks with an official during Game 5 of Carolina's first round series against the Islanders on Tuesday in Raleigh. (Karl B DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The Hurricanes and Rangers are still awaiting the schedule for their second round series — hopefully that’s solidified after Thursday’s NBA playoff game between the Knicks and 76ers. The series will pit the Presidents’ Trophy winners against the team with the third-best regular season record.

Despite the heavyweight matchup ahead, off-ice rumors took the spotlight as both teams prepared to face their Metropolitan Division rivals.

1. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour is in the final year of his contract, so naturally every team with any connection to the Hurricanes coach is rumored to be offering him first-born children, golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and, of course, loads of cash to leave behind Carolina and come to their city and team.

It started when Buffalo dismissed Don Granato. The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn did a good job of framing the pursuit of Brind’Amour — a teammate of Sabres GM Kevyn Adams on the Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup team — as a pie-in-the-sky scenario. Still, it was Brind’Amour’s photo atop the story.

That rumor was short-lived when Buffalo brought Lindy Ruff back for a second tour of duty.

Then the combination of a vague X post by Kevin Weekes — another former Brind’Amour teammate — and former player Jordan Schmaltz suggesting Seattle GM Ron Francis was ready to back the Brinks truck up to his former teammate further stoked the fires that all wasn’t right in negotiations between Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes.

My take was the same throughout: Everything coming out the way it did — during a break in the action between series and with a post by Darren Dreger that sure felt like an agent had fed him information — made it seem like the sides were doing a little last-minute negotiating in public to move things along so it didn’t become a distraction once the Hurricanes were back to playing.

There was also a lot to unravel in the negotiations. Brind’Amour always likes to make sure the contracts for the team’s assistant coaches and staff are taken care of while he has leverage, and there’s surely pressure from other agents or coaches for him to get as much money as he can in an effort raise all boats.

Still, Brind’Amour indicated everything was fine Thursday when I asked about the rumors surrounding him.

“I had a great conversation yesterday with (GM and president) Don (Waddell) and then again this morning, and I feel really good,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ll figure it out quickly, and I’m not concerned.”

Waddell had said much of the same the day before during a Zoom call with reporters. Dreger jumped into the discussion again late Thursday afternoon to let everyone know things were copacetic.

Carry on.

2. Frederik Andersen was named one of three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy on Thursday. Arizona/Utah goalie Connor Ingram and Calgary defenseman Oliver Kylington are the other two nominees.

The award is given annually “to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” and Andersen was chosen as the Hurricanes’ nominee by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Previous Hurricanes who were finalists are Francis, Jordan Staal and Derek Ryan.

3. After Carolina’s Game 5 win against the Islanders, Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo emerged from the locker room door where the media was waiting with an ice bag on his arm and was joined by a team doctor.

Brind’Amour indicated after the game that DeAngelo — who was injured when forward Pierre Engvall slashed him in the third period — was getting X-rays and that he didn’t have an update. Waddell said Wednesday during his Zoom with reporters that DeAngelo’s X-rays were negative.

DeAngelo didn’t practice Thursday with the team, but Brind’Amour didn’t seem concerned.

“We’ll probably see him next practice,” Brind’Amour said.

DeAngelo was held without a point in the three games he played but performed well, averaging 17:17 on the ice with eight shots on goal and a 62.04 Corsi For percentage while playing alongside Brady Skjei.

4. DeAngelo was in the lineup in Games 3-5 because of a lower-body injury to Brett Pesce. Waddell indicated Wednesday that Pesce was out of a walking boot and that he is “expected to play games this round.”

Brind’Amour, ever the “live in the moment” person, is moving forward as if Pesce won’t be playing.

“Basically I’m just counting him out,” the coach said. “But if we get them in there, that’ll be a big bonus.”

5. In case you were wondering who the next man up might be should Carolina need to dip further into its defensive pool, AHL All-Star Dylan Coghlan — not recently signed rookie Scott Morrow — skated with Skjei during Thursday’s practice. Defensive prospect Ronan Seeley also joined the group for the skate.

The forward lines remained unchanged from the end of the Islanders series, and I’ve included the point totals for each line (in all situations).

Guentzel — Aho — Svechnikov (12)
Teravainen — Staal — Jarvis (11)
Martinook — Drury — Necas (9)
Kotkaniemi — Kuznetsov — Noesen (7)

DeAngelo and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were the only Carolina skaters without points in the first round, but one can’t help but feel Kotkaniemi will break out if he can just get something to break for him — he hit the knob of Semyon Varlamov’s stick in overtime of Game 4, and he also hit the post in Game 5.