Carolina Hurricanes forward Micheal Ferland was packing up his hockey gear Wednesday at Raleigh Center Ice, preparing for road games against the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars.
The last thing he wants is to be packing up again Monday, preparing to join a new team.
“I’ve made it clear I want to be here,” Ferland said.
Whether the Canes want to keep Ferland or trade him still remains to be seen. The NHL trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. and Ferland’s name is the one most mentioned as a player the team might look to move.
Ferland, 26, will become an unrestricted free agent July 1 if not given a new contract by the Canes -- or another team, if traded. His combination of skill and toughness makes him desirable for teams gearing up for playoff runs.
The Canes, in playoff position in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, could decide to keep him and try and resolve the contract issues after the season and before July 1. Or move him.
“Anything can happen,” Ferland said Wednesday. “I’m ready for both. It’s tough not to think about. It’s always in the back of your mind.”
The Canes have remained noncommittal on how active they will be at the deadline. Owner Tom Dundon said Tuesday that all options remain open, including a decision on Ferland, saying, “We’re pretty happy with where we are but we’re always listening.”
Dundon’s comments were made before the three games leading up to the deadline -- a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers at PNC Arena, then the road wins over the Panthers and Stars. They were made before center Jordan Staal returned from a concussion, playing Saturday in the 3-0 win over the Stars after missing 32 of the past 34 games.
Dundon’s comments also came before the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the teams the Canes are fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, made a few splashy moves.. The Blue Jackets first reeled in center Matt Duchene, a two-time NHL All-Star, in a deal Friday with the Ottawa Senators. On Saturday, Columbus obtained forward Ryan Dzingel from the Senators.
Through Sunday’s games, the Canes (33-23-6) held the second wild-card playoff position in the Eastern Conference with 72 points. The Blue Jackets are one point ahead of the Canes, in third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Montreal Canadiens also have 73 points to hold the first wild-card spot.
The Canes have been surging since New Year’s Eve, going 18-6-1. They’re 9-3-0 in February. Why change?
Dundon said Tuesday that Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour was “pretty happy” with the team he had, adding, “It would take somebody really good to be better than what we’ve got.”
Ferland has 16 goals -- six on the power play -- and 17 assists and has scored the game-winning goal three times. He has missed some games because of a concussion and later a lower-body issue but has played in the 12 games since the All-Star game/bye week break.
Brind’Amour, asked what he believes the team needs, said Staal’s return might be the best addition — the physical center who can match up against the other team’s best forwards and is tough in the faceoff circle.
“Once he gets back I like our group,” Brind’Amour said before the road trip.
As much as he wants his team focused on the next game, the next practice, Brind’Amour is aware the outside noise will continue until Monday at 3.
“We’re just trying to win games,” Brind’Amour said. “I think everybody is pretty understanding of what’s going on. It’s that time of year. It will be nice when it’s all over.”
The Canes have been heavily scouted in recent weeks by NHL teams. At the same time, general manager Don Waddell has said there has not been a big influx of calls from other GMs.
Waddell already has pulled off arguably the best in-season trade of the year, getting forward Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild for center Victor Rask. Niederreiter was quickly plugged into the Canes top line with center Sebastian Aho and winger Justin Williams and had an immediate impact.
Joining a new team during the season is rarely easy. Canes goalie Petr Mrazek went through that experience a year ago, being traded before the deadline to the Philadelphia Flyers from the Detroit Red Wings.
“I think I was ready for it for almost a month,” Mrazek said. “But when it happens you realize you’re losing everybody, all your friends, and you’re going to a new city and a new team. It’s very emotional.”
As for a player handling the anxiety leading up to the deadline, Mrazek said: “For now, you just have to focus on the things you can control and things that matter. Whatever happens, I always say, is supposed to happen.”