Tom Dundon

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Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon remains a bit of a mystery

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Carolina Hurricanes.

We simply don’t see NHL teams without GMs into August, yet that’s where the Minnesota Wild are at. It’s highly unusual that the Minnesota Wild are looking for a GM as late as August 6. Technically, they’re not the only NHL team without an official GM, though, largely thanks to the way Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon operates.

Making a strange occurrence even stranger, acting Hurricanes GM Don Waddell has been interviewing for that Wild GM position, according to The Athletic’s Michael Russo (sub required). He can interview for that gig because, simply put, Waddell isn’t under contract with the Hurricanes.

Hurricanes fans don’t necessarily need to panic, particularly with what seems to be a strong and beneficial analytics influence coming from Eric Tulsky. This situation does underscore another notion, though: this team’s outlook hinges on Dundon’s own.

Now, that’s true with just about every NHL team. After all, the owner writes the checks, arranges arena deals, and hires the GMs who do the rest. Even by those standards, Dundon stands out as an owner to watch.

[MORE: Three Questions | 2018-19 in review | Hurricanes under pressure]

At the moment, it seems like the NHL is still testing out how much of an X-factor Dundon might be.

By most standards, the Canadiens’ offer sheet to Sebastian Aho was almost comically weak. Indeed, Aho at $8.454M is such a steal that it’s already listed as one of the best contracts in the league.

While I believe the offer sheet was as much Habs GM Marc Bergevin doing some PR work, the structure including a $21M signing bonus served as a test. After Dundon’s curious investment in the failed AAF, would he balk at paying Aho a bunch of money up front?

The Hurricanes ended up answering that question by emphatically matching the Aho offer sheet, and even sending out a sassy tweet or two.

It doesn’t totally erase doubts, though: what happens when the Hurricanes are asked to spend money on less-obvious players than a true, young star like Aho?

After all, they might be pinching pennies with Waddell, seemed to do so in allowing reigning Calder Cup-winning AHL coach Mike Vellucci to walk, and may have even skimped marginal dollars with their former radio announcer.

Crucially, none of those decisions guarantee major losses for the Hurricanes. Really, the Hurricanes might as well name analytics darling Eric Tulsky their GM at this point, and it’s possible that strong prospects drove the success of the Charlotte Checkers as much as any schemes or speeches from Vellucci. The Hurricanes have spent money to get an edge, too, including going off the beaten path by buying out Patrick Marleau to gain Toronto’s first-rounder.

So we’ll need to wait and see if Dundon spends at key times.

With Justin Faulk entering a contract year and Dougie Hamilton two years away from a new deal, will Carolina be able to maintain its sterling surplus on defense, which was the biggest factor in their 2018-19 success? If Petr Mrazek and James Reimer don’t get it done as their goalies over the next two years, will the Hurricanes make bolder investments in net? What happens if Andrei Svechnikov ends up proving he’s at an Aho-like level after playing out the next two years of his rookie contract?

The Hurricanes are off to a strong start with Dundon as owner, and there are factors that point to that continuing. Still, it remains to be seen how this team — and its intriguing owner — ends up weathering the inevitable storms that come in both hockey and sports.

MORE:
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hurricanes will match offer sheet for Sebastian Aho

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Sebastian Aho will not become a member of the Montreal Canadiens. At least for the next year.

On Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they would be matching the offer sheet that Aho signed with the Canadiens on the opening day of NHL free agency. The team had seven days to make a decision, and they only needed one.

“This was an easy decision,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell in a statement. “Sebastian is one of the best players in the league and the centerpiece of what we’re building here. We’ve spoken to him throughout this process and he’s made it clear that he wants to be in Raleigh and be a part of this organization.

“It’s our job to manage our cap space as our players develop and hit free agency. There was no concern at any point that we would not be able to match this contract. Once again, the Carolina Hurricanes should not be underestimated. We have a plan and all the resources to win a Stanley Cup.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The five-year deal carrying an $8.454 million average annual value was designed creatively in hopes that the Hurricanes would not match. According to Pierre LeBrun, Aho, who will become an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires, is due $21.87 million in signing bonuses over the next year with a salary of $700,000 in the first two seasons and $750,000 in the final three. Per the terms of an offer sheet, he’s not eligible to be dealt for 12 months.

Had the Hurricanes not matched the offer, the Canadiens would have sent them a first-round pick, second-round pick and third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft as compensation.

“We’re surprised. We love the player and we’re happy to have this done. And surprised someone would have thought this would work,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon told the News and Observer. “We were never going to let him go. He didn’t want to go. This is just part of the business of getting the deal done. I said the day I bought the team and nothing has changed, he’s one of if not the most important part of our future and we’re lucky to have him.”

Waddell, who said on Monday he was surprised the offer sheet wasn’t larger, played coy a bit when asked how long he’d take to decide. While the Hurricanes’ release announced their “intention” to match, they could still take the full period to officially do so and hand over that signing bonus to Aho. This at least allows Bergevin and the Canadiens to know that the cap space they were saving for Aho is now free to be spent. They cannot, however, attempt another offer sheet until this matter is officially resolved.

By the way, the Canadiens visit the Hurricanes on Oct. 3 in Raleigh.

MORE: What should Habs do if they don’t get Aho?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report

Sportsnet
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The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

“Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon content with hands-on approach

Raleigh News
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Tom Dundon was quite clear when he bought the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I’m not patient. It’s not going to work for me to be patient,” Dundon told reporters upon the announcement that he has acquired the team.

And while he also said he wasn’t just going to come in and expect to know more than then-general manager Ron Francis, his lack of patience got the better of him on Wednesday when he removed Francis from his post. 

Dundon ‘promoted’ Francis to the president of hockey operations, while saying that whatever new GM was hired would report directly to Dundon himself, bypassing Francis in his new role.

Dundon has his hands in all of the cookie jars at the moment, something he seems to be quite happy with.

“I think it’s appropriate right now that I challenge and question everything we do, so we can get a process that everyone buys into and we’re comfortable with,” Dundon told NHL.com’s Tom Gulliti on Thursday. “Once we do, I would be less likely to be involved with things that I think are working properly.”

On Thursday, Dundon entertained several calls from the media, including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Friedman said that during his conversation with Dundon, it became apparent that while Dundon and Francis both agreed the team needed to improve, the route in which that improvement was to go was a matter of differing opinions.

“I want to use Ron’s experience and knowledge with a different style and structure,” Dundon told Friedman on Thursday. “He is a valuable resource. But our styles couldn’t be any different. It is no more complicated than that.”

Despite his very hands-on approach thus far for the Hurricanes, Dundon told Friedman that he wants doesn’t want to make the decisions from a GM standpoint.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other,” Dundon said. “That’s the most important thing. I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

Friedman had a thought on one line in particular in that quote:

One thing stands out from that answer: “I don’t want to make decisions.” In the aftermath of Francis’s redistribution, the sense was 100 percent opposite, that Dundon did want final say.

Who Carolina’s new GM will be is up in the air, but Dundon told Gulitti that it likely won’t be an analytics-first guy.

“Because I don’t think that works,” Dundon said. “I think you need a hockey guy that can work with the analytics people to challenge their thoughts. ‘Hey, I think this. Can you show me something that proves or disproves or makes me or less comfortable with what I’ve done?’”

And what of head coach Bill Peters?

https://twitter.com/TomGulittiNHL/status/971877187824640000


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Sheary leads Penguins to Metro summit; Monahan notches 30th

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Players of the Night:

Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh Penguins: Sheary scored twice to help Penguins come from a 2-1 deficit to win 5-2 and move atop the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have won three straight, Evgeni Malkin moved into a tie for second in goal scoring with his 38th, and Sidney Crosby recorded his 1,100th NHL point.

Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames: Boring Sean scored his 30th goal of the season (which you will see below), the second time in his career that he’s hit the mark. Monahan is now four points shy of matching his career-best 63 points. Barring injury or a massive slump, it looks like Monahan will set a new career high in goals and points.

Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes: Each had a goal and an assist in the game. Stepan scored with 58 seconds left in regulation to secure a 2-1 win for the Coyotes, who are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games. The Coyotes are tied with the Buffalo Sabres in the race for the worst record in the NHL this season.

Highlights of the Night:

Tic, tac, goal:

Crosby’s 1,100th point came off an awkward, and impressive, one-timer from Sheary:

Johnny Hockey to Boring Sean:

Factoids of the Night:

Make it 49 games:

News of the Night:

The Carolina Hurricanes removed GM Ron Francis from his job, promoted him to the president of hockey operations, and then said that the new GM would bypass Francis and report directly to owner Tom Dundon.

Mike Babcock and Toronto Maple Leafs fans may think it needs to change now, but NHL insider Darren Dreger says the goaltender interference rule is likely not going anywhere before the playoffs, no matter how loud Babcock whines:

Scores:

Flames 5, Buffalo 1

Penguins 5, Flyers 2

Coyotes 2, Canucks 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck