DeCock

Big deal ended up no deal

STAFF COLUMNISTMarch 4, 2010 

Ray Whitney was the one member of the Carolina Hurricanes certain to get moved by Wednesday afternoon's trade deadline. Ask anyone. By the time the deadline passed, however, just about everyone else was shipped off and Whitney was still around.

Five separate trades gutted the roster while bringing in a wealth of draft picks and prospects. The Hurricanes cashed in on all but two of their impending free agents. It just so happened that one still on the roster might have fetched the biggest haul of all.

It's a shame, because the Hurricanes cleaned up when they cleaned house. Getting something for Whitney would have put them over the top.

General manager Jim Rutherford said a handful of teams expressed interest in Whitney, but none was willing to meet his demands.

"He's one of the most popular players on the Hurricanes," Rutherford said. "He's one of our best players. We did not see a deal that makes sense for us. So Ray remains a Hurricane, which will make a lot of people happy, including myself."

As it stands, they can be pretty pleased with Wednesday's dump-a-thon.

Including the earlier deals for Matt Cullen and Niclas Wallin, the Hurricanes traded seven players, one prospect and a fifth-round draft pick for seven draft picks - including three second-rounders - two NHL defensemen (Brian Pothier and Alexandre Picard) and three prospects.

That's a fantastic return for what was essentially a mess of spare parts. All but Andrew Alberts were players in the final years of their contracts for a team that, realistically, had only the smallest chance of leapfrogging the six teams standing between it and a playoff spot.

Even if the Hurricanes don't fall far enough or something goes awry in the draft lottery, the three second-round draft picks they added - two this year, one next year - may give them the ammunition to move into position to take hot-shot forwards Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin by the time the draft comes around.

With six picks in the first three rounds of the draft, the Hurricanes are in prime position to rebuild. One can only imagine the kind of loot the Hurricanes could have stockpiled if Whitney had been traded.

Rutherford confirmed Whitney used his no-trade clause to block a deal last month, with the Los Angeles Kings reportedly offering a second-round pick and a defensive prospect. But on Wednesday, Rutherford maintained the Hurricanes decided to hold onto Whitney rather than take less than the asking price.

"There were offers for him," Rutherford said. "The only offer I took to Ray was back a month ago when we had a deal with a Western Conference team. That didn't go anywhere. But I didn't take any deals to him [Wednesday]. This was the organization's decision."

Perhaps Rutherford thought keeping the popular winger would salve any hurt feelings among the fan base over the dismantling of a team that won Tuesday for the eighth time in 10 games. With 10 home games left, Wednesday's $2 million salary dump won't help sell many tickets.

It's hard to figure, because it seemed like a win-win for everyone. Whitney could try to win another Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes could further stock up for the future. There would be nothing stopping Whitney from re-signing here this summer, and those extra assets might even make the team better when he returned. (Attempts to reach Whitney for comment were unsuccessful.)

On the busiest trade-deadline day in the history of the Hurricanes, the biggest deal was the one that never happened.

luke.decock@ newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947

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