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Our exit interview with Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold
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May 31, 2023 5:48 pm

Our exit interview with Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold

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May 31, 2023 5:48 pm

Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell joined Adam to share his final comments on this past season. He discussed what he enjoyed watching the most out of this team and what he expects of his roster for next year. He also shared which players he wants to see take their game to another level and which players he wants to make a priority to re-sign. 



Don Waddell, president and general manager of your Carolina Hurricanes. Are you okay? Have you recovered from the sudden end? It's not the fall, it's the sudden stop that gets you.

Are you okay? Yeah, you know, it's always disappointing and frustrating. It takes you a few days to look back at the season. Like I said to my staff yesterday, we've finished the second best record in the NHL. We've had great division championships, five years straight in the playoffs, and the core of our team is still young. So, you know, we're one of four teams still playing. Yes, we're disappointed that we didn't advance, but we also got to look at all the positives that happened this year and build off of that. Give me a positive from maybe off the beaten path.

What was your, what's your, what are your biggest positive that you took? Well, we were faced with some adversity during the year with some of our key players getting injured. And, you know, we hung in there. I think people wrote us off once Andre went down and we battled right to the end to win our division. And we thought that was important for us to get home ice, especially in the first few rounds. And, you know, I give Rod and the coaching staff and the players a lot of credit because it was easy to say, you know what, we lost patch.

Now we lost, uh, Andre, you know, uh, with, you know, it's hard to win now and our guys dug down. I think we went into the first round of the islanders. And I remember a lot of people, uh, the so-called experts picked the islanders to beat us and after that series, and then obviously took care of the devils and ran across a good hockey club.

That's obviously playing the Stanley cup files now, and they scored 10 goals in a series. We scored six and we lost four straight. So that part's frustrated and we couldn't score.

But, uh, like I said, you got to look at the accomplishments. You know, we had the outdoor game this year with 58,000 people, but you know, there's so many positives that happened this year that we can't change the past as far as how, uh, losing in the conference finals. But we've got to continue to look at the positives and build off of that as we move forward to the start of the 23, 24 season. We're going to get to the start of the season in a second.

Um, the business side obviously was good for, uh, for the team. 58,000 people at Carter-Finley stadium, all the attention that brought and the world waking up to the fact that Raleigh, North Carolina, the triangle and the state of North Carolina, because there's hockey fans all across the state, is definitely a hockey market. On top of that, there was only one other crowd at PNC Arena all year where there were less than 18,000 people in the building. That was on Halloween against, incidentally, the Washington Capitals.

So no more Halloween games for you guys. You and I talked, I guess it was right about the time of the deadline, maybe a little bit before it. I think you and I were up at PNC Arena. I was doing the show from there.

I think it was in advance of the Cam Ward night. And I had asked you at that point if the way Jesperi Kotkaniemi was playing changed your mindset in terms of the trade deadline from want, from need to want. And I think we agreed that that was the case. In the end, especially because of the injury to Svechnikov, did you end up a forward short? Well, you can't, you know, we had 12 guys, 12 boards that did a good job for us, but you're not going to replace Svechnikov at that point of season. So, you know, we'd love to, you know, predict what was going to happen, obviously, you know, that his injury happened after the trade deadline. And, you know, we did top the trade deadline, as you know, about trying to acquire a few different players that, you know, as much as you, when you want to do something, sometimes the prices is something you look at and say, you know, you can't get caught up in a short term run for a long term.

For some of your younger players, what they're going to do for you long term. So we, you know, we made some decisions that, you know, we were going to pay a certain price, but there's a point that we were going to stop. And, you know, again, at that time, we're still sitting first place in our team and our league and our division. And so we made decisions to add a couple pieces and felt very good about our hockey club as we went forward and not knowing that we were going to lose Andre 10 days later. But, but again, I think, you know, the guys that had that opportunity, they didn't feel sorry for themselves.

Obviously, we're disappointed. 24 hours, we were all like, how are we going to move forward? And, you know, we did a great job of particularly led by Rod about, you know, we play as a team, we're going to win as a team. And, you know, the guys did a great job to hang in there to battle right to the last game of the season, to win our division, and then get ready for the postseason. And I say that in understanding that it, it sounds like an unfair question, because in the end, and I've argued this before, I understand that the absence of Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty, but with all of the things that that, you know, were unavailable or didn't happen. This team was still a bounce, a crossbar, a post away from winning game one of the series against Florida.

And who knows what happens with the rest of the series, if you get that game in overtime. Because I don't believe that the series was lost because Svechnikov or Pacioretty or others were not there because the opportunities were still there to win. So I recognize that it comes off as an unfair question and revisionist history, but I just, I know that fans are, you know, are thinking about these things.

Well, they should have done this, they should have done that. So let me, let me spin it forward to next year. So Dom Waddell is joining us, President and General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes.

What is your number one priority sitting here today? Well, one thing we have to do is figure out what we're going to do with our goal tenings. Obviously, both Ranta and Anderson are UFAs, both have expressed interest in coming back and we're going to make some of those decisions here in the next coming weeks about what we do there. And then if we could get, you know, Ryan and I have talked about it, get a little bigger, you know, some of our best players are not a big statue. They play very good.

You know, nobody can tell me Jarvis is a soft player or a soft player because they do take hits to make the plays and that's what it's all about. But if we could get a little bigger or a little harder to play against at certain positions, it's certainly something we want to look at as we move forward. And, you know, we've all talked about, you know, our special teams have been, Pelly Kiln has been one of the best in the league over the years and our power play hasn't been that good. So it's something that we've got to focus on and there's some areas that we could be better in. If we could clean up some of that, I think it would help us even be in a better team next year. Do you look at Piotr Kaczatkow as goaltender of the future, as the future number one goaltender? I do.

You know, you just don't know when that's going to happen. Right. You know, that's why this year, you know, the three goalie system kind of worked because, you know, when the guys were healthy, Poots could go down and play in the American League. And when we needed him to come up, he did a good job. You know, our goalies at different times, you know, Anderson had an injury and Rafton played really good. And, you know, we get to the playoffs and Rafton, right, I said, good string there. And then Freddie came in and played great in the playoffs. So, you know, I just said today that we're a team that's probably going to look at a three goalie system of some kind. I think the days of goalies playing 55, 60 games are, you know, there's a few exceptions in the league. But that position, there's a lot of teams that went through the same thing as we had.

It was injured this year. I think you have to have three qualified guys that can go in there and you feel comfortable, can win hockey games for you. Don Waddell is joining us. Let me ask you about Sebastian Aho, because you have a lot of business that some of which you can get to this summer. And it's all due next summer, whether it's Aho or Jarvis or Natchez or Pesci or Shea.

There are so many, Chatfield, Nason as well. There are so many things that are definitely due next year. Do you really want to get Sebastian Aho extension done this summer?

Yes, you would, for a couple reasons. One is, you know, let's take the, you know, thinking that Sebastian would have to play next year not knowing what his future is going to hold. Secondly, we have lots of cap space for this year, so we can do some things this year. But plan long term, you know, we need to know all those guys. You know, are they going to fit into the cap world or not? And, you know, again, we've got this thing, as we know, called the cap that we have to abide by. You know, if we didn't have a cap, it would be a different story because we all know Tom's so passionate and invested. He would spend $100 million. Sure.

He spent $75 million on a football league that doesn't exist anymore. Whatever. I apologize.

I said that, not you. But, you know, so with all your guys that have one year, you know, we have a few guys that get signed right now. You know, the stalls in Boston. Right. Guys there. But the long term guys, you know, you want to be able to get a picture of what they're thinking, what we're thinking. So those conversations are all going to happen next, you know, before July 1st. And then even after, obviously, there's no restriction as far as when they sign.

But it just gives you a clearer path. You know, we always talk, we're always thinking three, four, five years out. You can't just live year by year only because, again, because of the cap. So if we get in a situation where we know where we are, a pretty good idea where we are for the 24-25 season, that may change our thinking in a free agency this year or a trade. You know, right now we're really focused on some trades that players have one year left in their contract because we don't want to put ourselves in a cap situation the following year.

But the sooner you can get to these kinds of contracts and discussions, I think the better for everybody involved. So let me ask you real quick about the Ajo thing because I think he carries even more importance than just a player. He almost seems like, if I could just use the term ringleader, that the presence of Ajo long-term means a lot of other, it's like a magnet that other players would be attracted to that. What kind of risk do you run if you don't get it done this summer with Ajo going into the season?

Is that something that is essentially untenable for the team? Yeah, once we have discussions with Jerry Johanson, his representation, we'll have a better feel for how this is going to, you know, if it's a matter of we're negotiating and we're just as a separation, we'll find a way to get it done. In my post-season meeting with Sebastian, he made it clear that he wants to be here, he wants to sign an eight-year contract.

So that's always a good thing. Now we've got to come to the terms, of course, for both sides, but if an agent said to me with any of our unrestricted guys after next year that they're going to play it out, you know, that may change our thinking a little bit, how we move forward. But so far, the players that you mentioned that we've talked about, they've all certainly have said they want to stay here. Now it's a matter of us coming up with the value and agreeing on a deal with them and their agents. You mentioned kind of in passing Jordan Stahl, Jesper Faust. It seems like it's obvious that you want them both back, at least maybe on a one- or two-year deal.

Yeah, maybe longer. I think both guys are important pieces for our franchise and both guys keep themselves in great condition and they're dedicated. I think he played all 82 games this year. He's a durable player and an important guy and I think Jordan may have missed one or something along the way there. You know, the leader of our hockey club and I think Jordan's got multiple years left in him before you see a decline because of the way he plays and the way he carries himself. So if I was to sign those guys for longer than the one or two years, it wouldn't concern me a whole lot with those particular players.

Just so people know that I'm paying attention, Jesper did miss two games this year. Clearly, he has no work ethic. Final thing for you, Don Waddell. How long are you going to keep this head coach around? He's going to coach his team for as long as he wants to coach his team.

So we all hope that's a long time. Obviously, Rod's done a great job and he's made his home here. He's made it clear that this is where he wants to be and I think he will keep coaching his team.

Sometimes coach may say he's got to step away but I think Rod's totally vested in what we're doing and believes in what we're doing and I believe he'll be our coach for a long time. Very quickly, how complicated is no AHL affiliate right now for you in trying to get stuff done? I know you've signed some minor league players to contract but where will your top AHL affiliate be?

Where will your top farm team be? I got a call coming up right now that we're going to talk about a few options with some NHL teams that have talked with three or four or five players. The other option we have a lot of those guys are European players. They'll let them play in Europe next year which won't hurt their development because they all play in good leagues. The important thing for these young players is they still get an opportunity to play. That's the biggest thing. If they're playing hockey, whether they're playing for our farm team or another team, that's the commitment that we'll get from other NHL teams that they'll play our guys. As long as that happens, we're not going to follow their development.

We'll find it's not ideal not to have your own team but in the short term run, I think we have some good options and solutions. Don Waddell, I thank you very much. I know we'll hear from you as we get closer to the draft and free agency and I will talk to you soon. Thank you very much. Always a pleasure being with you, Adam. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-31 18:30:42 / 2023-05-31 18:37:11 / 6

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