The Carolina Hurricanes have made a couple of unpopular moves in recent weeks.
Just last Thursday night, they traded Jeff Skinner to Buffalo for three draft picks and prospect Cliff Pu. At the young age of 26, Skinner leaves as one of the franchise leaders in goals scored, games played, and total points.
He was also the only Calder winner in franchise history.
During the NHL All Star activities in 2011, he was one of the most popular players in the league while often being referred to as the “Justin Bieber of hockey”.
But history does not carry any value for the current regime calling the shots in Carolina.
For the most part, owner Tom Dundon said all the right things during an interview on “99 The Fan” after the trade.
Dundon said that in affect that there was no rush to trade Skinner, he was a solid citizen, a good player, and the Canes could have started the season with him. But what was there about the contents of this trade that screamed, “do it now!”? There does not seem to be anything about the making of the transaction that could not have transpired at any time up to the trade deadline next winter.
The club’s actions said “we must get rid of this guy before the season starts”.
In his interview, Don Waddell admitted that he had been trying to trade Skinner for some time, without success. The talented winger had a NTC which certainly made things more difficult than they could have been.
The decision was reportedly made by the team after the year-end debriefing process. During his post-trade interview, Skinner was quoted as saying,
“It just seemed like they wanted to go in a different direction. I think as a player you want to play where you’re wanted.”
The trade certainly does not seem like it was the winger’s idea.
Now to be sure, Skinner is far from a perfect player. Last season he had a team worst (-27) and was never noted as a defensive stalwart. Although you can say the same thing about other offensive talents around the league.
It was often difficult to find suitable linemates that would mesh with him and he was definitely not known as a play maker.
Skinner’s forte was scoring goals and he usually did that very well.
The team repeatedly said that with the player’s contract coming up the following season, they did not want to lose him for nothing. But was this such a great package that you cannot turn it down at this point in time?
The funny thing is, the Sabres are likely to get a higher return if they try trading him themselves at the trade deadline. Quite often, contending teams are trying to replace injured players and they get a bit more desperate at the deadline than at this time of the year.
Now for the confusing part.
Earlier this offseason, the Canes traded Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to Calgary for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox, an immediate upgrade for Carolina, although the long term results are yet to be determined.
To me, this signified that the rebuild was officially over. This franchise was committed to winning now.
The signing of free agent Calvin de Haan further confirmed this notion.
But now, with the literal dumping of Skinner for futures, it makes one wonder how exactly this move makes the team better for the coming season.
While not having a reputation of playing well in his own end, Skinner did lead the team in takeaways in two of the last three seasons. He was not a total stiff out there.
Last season he had a team-high 93 takeaways. Jaccob Slavin was next closest with 77.
Waddell said that the youngsters could fill the gap. That puts even more pressure on the rookies to perform at a high level if the team is to have success this year.
Time will tell.
I traveled to the west coast and covered the NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles when the Canes drafted Skinner. I also covered the awards show in Las Vegas when he won the Calder Trophy. I covered most of the All Star activities here in Raleigh when Skinner was treated almost like a superstar.
During all the ups and downs in his career, I never saw him refuse an interview or be less than professional at any time. He was always very open and gracious with his time to me as well as others and I appreciate that.
From what I could see, he would always oblige and sign autographs for fans when they asked.
I think he will be missed.
Dundon also mentioned to Adam and Joe on 99.9 The Fan that if the team does not win this season, this would look bad. Yes, yes indeed it will.
In other recent news, Chuck Kaiton was in essence given his walking papers.
This is another perplexing, short-sighted move in my opinion.
Technically, the club did offer Kaiton a contract but according to the Hall of Fame announcer, the offer was at such a discount that it was an indication they did not want him anymore, so he declined it.
Kaiton had been with the franchise for 38 seasons. His name was synonymous with the Hurricanes and did I mention, he is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
One might think that being a member of the Hall of Fame entitles one to a bit more compensation and respect, but the Hurricanes are strictly looking at value added commodities these days and the radio broadcast numbers were down.
Could it be that the number of radio listeners were lower and the broadcast lost money because the team has stunk for 10 years or should this all be blamed on the announcer?
In any event, the decision was made to offer a simulcast of the television broadcast and to eliminate the separate radio broadcast.
Whenever you heard Chuck Kaiton’s voice, you knew who he was and what team he represented. I believe he could have been used in advertising in some way, or in promotion. If they continued his broadcast for just one more “farewell” season, that would have given other teams a chance to recognize him and say goodbye.
It would have given this franchise and Canes fans an opportunity to say thank you and farewell as well.
But for whatever reasons, just one more year was not meant to be.
It also seems to me that this was more of a failure of the franchise, not to be able to figure out a way to make the radio broadcast more of a success, than it was of the announcer.
Back in 2010 when the Canes still had golf outings on Media Day, I was paired up with Kaiton. What an experience that was!
Kaiton was smoking a stogie while driving the cart and telling his stories, both hockey related and golf related. Needless to say it was an experience I will never forget.
The long-time announcer never turned down an interview request and was always friendly and cordial to me. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.