RALEIGH — In terms of pure talent added, the last elite player the Carolina Hurricanes brought in before this weekend was probably Doug Weight, whose midseason arrival helped paved the path to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Unquestionably, Jordan Staal trumps him. His arrival Friday night from the Pittsburgh Penguins to join his brother, Hurricanes captain Eric, is one of the most dramatic moves the franchise has made since moving south.
If the Hartford Whalers years are considered, the disastrous trade that sent Ron Francis to the Pittsburgh Penguins will always be No. 1. Chris Pronger’s departure isn’t far behind. Sticking strictly to the team’s time in North Carolina, this is one of the biggest. But is it the biggest?
History may have a different verdict, but at the moment, the answer has to be no.
Two other trades stand out, both pivotal in the history of the franchise, both leading directly to the Stanley Cup in 2006. In terms of long-term impact, it’s impossible to top Rod Brind’Amour’s arrival, with the disgruntled Keith Primeau going the other way, changing the direction of the franchise for a decade (and beyond, as the attitude and work ethic installed by Brind’Amour lives on).
No trade had a bigger short-term impact than the January 2006 deal when the Hurricanes stole Weight from the rest of the NHL, not only adding the best available rental forward but sending a message to the league that they were serious about contending for the Cup. They wouldn’t have won it without Weight, especially after they lost Erik Cole to a broken neck.
So on this Sunday morning, those two trades still trump the All Staal Haul, but Friday night’s trade slots neatly into the third spot ahead of the second Sandis Ozolinsh trade and the second Danny Markov trade.
Both of those deals shed defensemen the Hurricanes worked hard to get and sold as franchise-changing players, only to deem them expendable not long after – and both deals brought a tremendous return.
In January 2002, the Hurricanes sent Ozolinsh to the Florida Panthers for Bret Hedican and Kevyn Adams, both of whom became critical pieces of the franchise’s foundation going forward. Markov went to the Philadelphia Flyers in January 2004 for Cup-clinching goal-scorer Justin Williams.
Those trades changed the direction of the franchise, so in terms of impact they both top the Staal deal, for the moment at least. But in terms of shock value, Friday is ahead of both.
As excited as Hurricanes fans were about the addition of Jordan Staal, they will spend a long time digesting the loss of Brandon Sutter, whose hard work increasingly made him a local favorite. Savvy fans were looking forward to the NHL debut of big defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who had just signed with the Hurricanes after three award-winning years at Boston College.
And that No. 8 draft pick could have been 6-foot-2 forward Filip Forsberg, a potential top-four pick going into Friday. (Forsberg went to the Washington Capitals at No. 11, so if he turns out to be a star, the Hurricanes will see plenty of him in the years to come.)
What the Hurricanes gave up makes this a big deal as much as what they got back. Only history will tell where that balance lies.
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