Jim Rutherford's greatest hits
Posted April 28
Updated April 29
As we celebrate the 20-year career of Carolina Hurricanes President Jim Rutherford, here are the ten greatest trades Rutherford engineered after the franchise relocated to North Carolina.
10) July 18, 2006 -- Scott Walker from the Nashville Predators for Josef Vasicek.
The Czech Condor, who tragically passed away in a 2011 plane crash, was a very good player for the Hurricanes and played a key role for the club in 2002, especially in the playoffs on a line with Martin Gelinas and Jaroslav Svoboda. He was also a part of the Stanley Cup champion team and played in eight of 23 games that post season, but he'd fallen out of the core group. Walker was the opposite of Vasicek. A sturdy, gritty, grinder of a player who never put up big numbers for the Hurricanes but epitomized what playoff hockey was all about. Maybe his signature moment came in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals with the Hurricanes trailing 4-0. Walker came to the defense of teammate Matt Cullen and dropped Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward with a punch that heightened the hostilities of a series that had already grown testy. Walker was originally suspended for a game, but that was rescinded after a league review. Carolina would go on to defeat the Bruins in Game 7 in overtime -- in Boston -- with Walker scoring the decisive goal in advancing the Hurricanes to the conference finals.
9) January 3, 1998 -- Martin Gelinas and Kirk McLean from Vancouver for Sean Burke, Geoff Sanderson and Enrico Ciccone.
This trade was more about intangibles than anything else. The truth is that the Canes probably lost the talent battle here, with Burke still having some good years in net front of him and Sanderson -- an original Whaler who scored 189 goals in Hartford -- was far from done as a productive player. But, this was about Gelinas, a one-time star-in-the-making with Edmonton and Vancouver. Marty brought a half dozen years of playoff experience to Carolina, anchoring the team's third line with the aforementioned Vasicek and Svoboda, and sent the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals with his overtime goal in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Toronto.
8) August 29, 2006 -- Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger from Los Angeles for Oleg Tverdovsky and Jack Johnson.
This one was as much about trading away a piece as it was acquiring one. Johnson, the 3rd pick in the 2005 draft, was making it abundantly clear that playing for the Hurricanes was not very high on his list of priorities. So, after turning down the team's contract offer to join the team and experience the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs -- at the very least as a bystander -- Rutherford made the decision to move him and his potential. The return was Gleason, who played 491 rough and tumble games on the blue line for the Hurricanes providing the team with a physical presence and toughness that all good hockey teams need to survive in the NHL. Tim was an important part of the leadership group of the Hurricanes until this year when he was dealt to Toronto in a change-of-scenery move for John Michael Liles.
7) January 30, 2006 -- Doug Weight and Erkki Rajamaki from St. Louis for Jesse Boulerice, Mike Zigomanis, the rights to Magnus Kahnberg, a first round draft pick (30th overall) and two fourth round picks.
Weight scored just 4 of his 278 career goals for the Hurricanes, but he totaled 16 points in 23 playoff games and has his name on the Stanley Cup. You can do what you want with the rest of the names in that trade. Though Boulerice lives locally and is a frequent part of many local Hurricanes charitable events.
6) July 9, 2001 -- Aaron Ward from Detroit for a second round draft pick (58th overall, that became Jiri Hudler).
Hudler was a nice player. Ward was a huge part of both the 2002 eastern conference championship squad and the team that won the Stanley Cup four years later. Ward would play 336 games on defense for the Hurricanes and might be most remembered for scoring the game's first goal in the Canes cup-clinching win over the Edmonton Oilers. The three-time Stanley Cup champ (two with Detroit) still calls Cary his home and has overcome the previously-mentioned incident with Scott Walker, though it was touch and go for a while.
5) July 18, 2004 -- Martin Gerber from Anaheim for Tomas Malec.
Gerber, whose name is forever engraved on the Stanley Cup, went 38-14-6 and received votes for the Vezina Trophy before giving way to Cam Ward in the post season. However, there was that out-of-nowhere, Game 4 shutout of the Sabres, in Buffalo, that evened the series at 2-2 and shifted momentum back to the Hurricanes. It was probably the greatest managerial move in the Peter Laviolette era. See, Malec wasn't just an afterthought in the Hedican-Adams deal with Florida.
4) March 9, 2006 -- Mark Recchi from Pittsburgh for Niklas Norgdren, Krys Kolanos and a second round pick (41st overall).
With Erik Cole done for the year (at least, so we thought) after suffering a broken neck after a questionable hit from Brooks Orpik of the Penguins, Jim Rutherford needed more offensive reinforcement. Recchi had 110 playoff games under his belt and that's where his impact was felt the most. The Wreckin Ball was a critical part of the Hurricanes Cup-winning team, scoring seven goals and registering 16 points in 25 post season games that spring. He was also part of the most leadership-laden locker room in franchise history and I'd argue among the best the league has ever seen.
3) January 20, 2004 -- Justin Williams from Philadelphia for Danny Markov.
Williams, was an incredibly young veteran when Rutherford pried him away from the Flyers in the winter prior to the work-stoppage. A good-skating, solid forward who was already into his fourth NHL season at age 22, Williams had dealt with injuries and -- maybe -- the high expectations of playing in Philly. For whatever reasons the Flyers had for swapping Williams for Markov, who was a good, but not great, player for Carolina the bottom line was a huge win for Rutherford and company as Williams was a stalwart player alongside Rod Brind'Amour on the right side of the Canes' second line and famously scored the empty-netter that sealed the Cup for Carolina.
2) January 16, 2002 -- Bret Hedican, Kevyn Adams and Tomas Malec from Florida for Sandis Ozolinsh and Byron Ritchie.
In retrospect, kind of hard to believe this ever happened, but at the time, Ozolinsh was one of those sexy, alluring defensemen that get general managers fired. Slick-skating, offensive-minded blue-liners are always in high demand and Ozolinsh was no different. Coming off his 6th 50-plus point season in eight years, Ozolinsh arrived prior to the 2000-01 season. While Carolina didn't mind the 44 points, they clearly didn't love the minus-25. Somehow, Rutherford was able to turn THAT and a fourth line forward into a pair of the best leaders the Hurricanes franchise have ever had. Hedican and Adams were hard-working, team-oriented players who helped lead Carolina to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, with Adams -- a fourth line center/penalty killing specialist -- wearing an "A" as an alternate captain during the 2006 dream season. Brind'Amour actually called this the best trade in the Rutherford era.
1) January 23, 2000 -- Rod Brind'Amour and Jean-Marc Pelletier from Philadelphia for Keith Primeau and a fifth round pick.
Hey, let's not kid ourselves, Primeau was a very good player. He was the best player in a Carolina sweater not to mention the team's captain heading into the 1999-2000 season. And, with the team moving into their new building, Rutherford wanted Primeau to be the starring attraction. A holdout and a few unfiltered Peter Karmanos moments later, Rutherford had seen and heard enough and engineered the single greatest deal in the 20 years he spent in charge of the Whalers/Hurricanes. Simply put, Brind'Amour is the greatest player to ever wear the Hurricanes crest. Selfless, reliable, intense, rugged and oh so clutch.
Game 3, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Carolina trailing Montreal 2-0 in the series and 1-0 in the 3rd period before Brind'Amour slipped one between the pads of Christobal Huet to tie the game with 8:33 left in regulation. Two nights later, he broke a 2-all tie with a 3rd period goal and Carolina was able to come back to Raleigh 2-2 in the series en route to closing it out in six games. Brind'Amour also scored the decisive goal in a 4-2 Game 7 victory over the Sabres that pushed the Canes into the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in four seasons.
He then followed that up with a two-goal opener against the Oilers. But, it wasn't just any routine 2-goal night. Brind'Amour scored the Hurricanes first of the night, cutting into a 3-0 Edmonton lead and sparking a 4-goal outburst that actually had Carolina in front in the third. Then, after the Oilers had tied it up, and with the teams staring at overtime, the Captain picked up a misplayed puck by Edmonton goaltender Ty Conklin and stuffed it into the net for a 5-4 Canes win in a series they were destined to win in seven games.
Brind'Amour played in 1,484 games -- 694 of them for Carolina -- and scored 452 goals, but he was hardly a goal-scorer. He was simply a great player and a better captain. That Rutherford was able to bring him to Raleigh was a stroke of genius. If we ever have a better player wear that uniform they'll retire whatever number is on its back. To borrow a phrase from television voice John Forslund, when it comes to "Brindy", there was "none better".