Carolina Hurricanes President, GM Don Waddell exploring outside options, reports say

The Carolina Hurricanes may be moving into one of their most significant offseasons in franchise history without the executive who has helped shape the past six seasons of playoff success.

Canes President and General Manager Don Waddell’s contract is due to expire this summer, and reports published Thursday suggest Waddell has been granted permission to speak to other NHL clubs about his services.

According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Waddell, who has been the Hurricanes’ GM since 2018, interviewed Thursday for the open GM position with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Majority owner Tom Dundon, left, looks on as Don Waddell speaks to reporters after it was announced he would be the team’s new general manager, a position he has held in the interim since Ron Francis’ departure several weeks ago, during a press conference held at PNC Arena in Raleigh on May 9, 2018. It was also announced that former star player and assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour would be the team’s new head coach.

Waddell was hired as GM (he was already the team’s president) in May 2018 along with head coach Rod Brind’Amour. Waddell succeeded Ron Francis, now the GM of the Seattle Kraken, and Brind’Amour succeeded Bill Peters. Brind’Amour’s contract was also up after this past season, but he and the Canes’ assistant coaches signed contract extensions over the weekend.

During his first year at the helm in Carolina, Waddell was a finalist for NHL GM of the Year, and he signed a three-year contract extension in 2019 after flirting with an offer from the Minnesota Wild. The team’s most recently reported contract with Waddell was in 2022, which is now expiring.

Some of the Hurricanes’ roster mainstays — Andrei Svechnikov, Jack Drury, Pyotr Kochetkov, Seth Jarvis — have been drafted under Waddell’s watch. Waddell has also engineered trades that included the additions of Brady Skjei, Vincent Trocheck, Max Domi, Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty and, most recently, Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Some of the bigger free agent signings under Waddell have included Dmitry Orlov, Michael Bunting, Jalen Chatfield and Frederik Andersen.

The Hurricanes are coming off a disappointing end to a promising season during which they were the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup, but fell to the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. The Canes have reached the playoffs in each of their six seasons under Waddell and Brind’Amour — and won at least one series each season — but have not yet won a game in the conference final round.

The coming offseason presents the Hurricanes with a crossroads. They have nine unrestricted free agents and another six restricted free agents with whom they must deal — or not. The Hurricanes are projected to have more than $30 million in salary cap space, per CapFriendly. They currently show 17 players under contract for the 2024-25 season, but only 11 of those, including two goalies, saw any significant NHL playing time last season.

The Hurricanes also have a full complement of picks in the 2024 NHL Draft, with each of their original seven selections, in addition to extra sixth-round picks from the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs.