It wasn’t until the final minutes before the NHL trade deadline Monday that the Carolina Hurricanes finally made a decision.
The Canes were not going to trade forward Micheal Ferland. They were not going to make any major moves.
“We believe in this team and that’s why we stuck with them and will move forward like this,” general manager Don Waddell said Monday.
Ferland is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and several teams showed interest in a player who combines physicality with offensive skills. Trade discussions, Waddell said, continued until just before the 3 p.m. deadline.
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“We had lot of conversations,” Waddell said. “We all know what was in play. We talked to every team in the league. The last hour, like every trade deadline day, was the most exciting. We were pursuing multiple things.”
In one depth move made Monday, the Canes acquired left wing Tomas Jurco from the Florida Panthers in exchange for future considerations while trading forward Cliff Pu to the Panthers for future considerations. Jurco will report to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate.
The Canes (33-23-6) held the second wild-card playoff position in the Eastern Conference before Monday’s games. They have been one of the NHL’s best teams since New Year’s Eve, going 18-6-1 in their past 25 games. They’re celebrating wins on home ice -- much to Don Cherry’s chagrin -- and also winning away from home.
“I love our group right now,” team captain Justin Williams said Monday after practice at PNC Arena. “We’ve got a really cohesive unit and got a really good dressing room. We’ve got some great personalities and not everyone is the same. And things are rolling in the right direction for us.
“So, yeah, absolutely I love our group right now and how we’re playing. We’re playing meaningful hockey right now and getting the respect of the rest of the league but we need to keep pushing forward. We’re happy but not satisfied.”
The return of Jordan Staal has been likened to a trade-deadline move by Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour. Staal missed 32 of 34 games dealing with concussion symptoms before rejoining the lineup Saturday for the 3-0 road win over the Dallas Stars.
“He was out, it seemed like, forever so it is a big addition at this time of year,” Brind’Amour said Monday.
Waddell also noted Monday that the Canes made their “one big trade” in January, bringing in forward Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild. The forward has played on the top line and has 15 points in 16 games.
“We really like this team, like the culture that has been built obviously by Rod through the locker room,” Waddell said. “We felt like it was really important, any players we were talking about, either acquiring or deleting, how it was going to fit into the locker room?”
Still, there was the matter of waiting it out Monday until 3 p.m. Adding to the suspense was seeing owner Tom Dundon walking the halls outside the locker room, on the phone.
“Once you find out you’re staying it’s a big relief, assuming you wanted to stay and that’s the case in this dressing room,” Williams said. “It is what it is. Much like the rest of daily life I can’t control what anyone else is going to do, and no one in this room can control what anyone else is going to do. So you live your life and you roll with it. If you’re a believer in things happening for a reason, then you just roll with it. And I am.”
Ferland was the name among the Canes that kept popping up in NHL trade speculation. He wasn’t immune to it and it intensified Monday. Ferland was at a practice Monday that was well-attended -- about 9,000 local elementary school kids were on hand for the “Cool School Field Trip” day at PNC Arena. He went through line rushes with Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen, then power-play drills. The normal stuff.
Waddell said a decision on Ferland was reached about 10 minutes before the deadline. The team will hold contract discussions with him after the season, Waddell said.
“Micheal’s an important part of our hockey club,” Waddell said.
Brind’Amour said he was not concerned with the moves made by other teams. The Columbus Blue Jackets have added forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid.
“I don’t care what they’re doing,” Brind’Amour said. “It doesn’t affect what we do. ... We’re going to give it everything we have. If we have someone new or not, it doesn’t really change what we’re doing. We’re certainly not looking at other teams saying, ‘Oh, they’re getting this or that.’ It doesn’t always make you better. They look good sometimes but it’s been proven it doesn’t always work. We’ll see.”
Pu was a part of the return in the Canes trade that sent forward Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres in August 2018. Jurco, 26, has 201 games of NHL experience with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. In 10 games this season with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL, the Slovakia native has four goals and six assists. Pu, 20, had a goal and five assists in 44 games with the Checkers.