Hurricanes President, GM Don Waddell steps down to focus on ‘next chapter’ of his career

The Carolina Hurricanes are moving into one of their most significant offseasons in franchise history, and will do so without the executive who has helped shape the past six seasons of playoff success.

After rumors surfaced Thursday that Canes president and general manager Don Waddell was granted permission to seek opportunities and interviews outside the organization, the team and Waddell jointly confirmed Friday that he is stepping away from the franchise after six years as its GM.

“This morning, I spoke with Tom and informed him that I have come to the decision that now is the time for me to move to the next chapter of my career,” Waddell said in a news release. “I have loved my experiences in the Triangle over the past 10 years, and together with a strong team, on and off the ice, we have accomplished many great victories. I am grateful for the support I have received from so many loyal Caniacs. This organization is in strong, capable hands and well-positioned for the future.”

Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said in a team release Friday that Eric Tulsky has been named interim general manager, and a full search has begun for a permanent general manager. Darren Yorke, longtime Hurricanes assistant GM, will support Tulsky with managerial duties while continuing in his role as assistant general manager.

Waddell joined the Hurricanes as president in 2014 and oversaw team business operations for each of the past 10 seasons. He was then named the ninth general manager in franchise history in 2018, and Carolina won at least one round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during each of his six seasons in charge of hockey operations.

Another big piece of Waddell’s legacy with the Hurricanes won’t be visible for another few years: He was instrumental in working alongside owner Tom Dundon as the “boots on the ground” in dealing with the Centennial Authority on extending the Canes’ lease agreement with PNC Arena and also on the upcoming face-lift to the arena and the surrounding area.

“The Hurricanes franchise inspires fierce loyalty from the most enthusiastic fan base in professional hockey,” Centennial Authority Chairman Phil Isley said in a statement Friday. “That doesn’t just happen — the team’s ownership and leadership has poured its soul into this team, this city, and this arena, and Don Waddell has been an integral part of that work. On behalf of the Centennial Authority, I thank Don for the intensity, excitement, and success he has brought to PNC Arena through Hurricanes hockey, and I wish him all the best.”

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.

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.

Waddell, a Detroit native, previously served as general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers from 1998-2010 and won the Stanley Cup as an assistant general manager with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98.

Tulsky has spent 10 seasons with the Hurricanes, originally joining the organization as a consultant in 2014, then becoming a hockey analyst in 2015. He was named manager of hockey analytics in 2017, before being promoted to vice president of hockey management and strategy in 2018. Since being named assistant general manager in 2020, Tulsky has been involved in all player personnel decisions, overseen pro scouting and the team’s hockey information department, and assisted with player contract negotiations, salary cap compliance, and other hockey-related matters.

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 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.