Two years after trade, Trocheck ‘loves it’ with Hurricanes

Vincent Trocheck, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, has “brought what we thought we were going to get” when the Hurricanes acquired him two years ago. (Derik Hamilton / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Vincent Trocheck seemed surprised to find out Thursday that it was the second anniversary of the trade that brought him to Raleigh.

“It feels longer, honestly,” he said.

Feb. 24, 2020, was a frantic deadline day for the Hurricanes. On top of acquiring Trocheck from Florida for four players — Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie — Carolina traded a first-round pick to the Rangers for defenseman Brady Skjei. The Hurricanes also acquired Sami Vatanen from New Jersey as a playoff rental.

It was as busy a day for Trocheck as it was for the Carolina front office.

“I got a call at 7 a.m.,” he said. “We were in Vegas. The (Florida) GM at the time, Dale Tallon, called me and informed me that I was getting traded here. It was just a long day of travel from Vegas to North Carolina. Played the next night.”

On top of the impact on him, he had plenty going on at home as well.

“My wife was pregnant at the time, and she had (their son) Leo down there in Florida,” he said.

Then COVID-19 intervened.

“On her way up, (the team was) on our way back from New York, and I wasn’t sure if she should come because I didn’t want to get her sick and I didn’t know if I had it or what the whole deal was,” he added. “So it was pretty hectic with everything going on during that time.”

The Trocheck trade will go down as a positive for both the Hurricanes and Panthers. Carolina got a much-needed right-handed center who could ease Jordan Staal’s workload and also provide some grit to a team that had sometimes lacked it.

“I don’t think anybody likes playing against him,” Hurricanes defenseman Jake Gardiner said the day of the trade. “He’s one of those guys, he kind of does it all. … He’s just kind of a pest out there. He finishes his checks, kind of annoying to play against. So he’s a guy who you definitely want on your team.”

In 104 regular season games with Carolina, Trocheck has 32 goals and 48 assists for 80 points. He’s had five points in 17 postseason games after playing just two playoff games in six-plus seasons with Florida.

Both Haula and Wallmark have moved on from the Panthers, and Priskie has been a depth defenseman with four NHL games in Florida.

Luostarinen, the 42nd overall pick by Carolina in 2017, has been the key return for the Panthers. He’s played 91 games for Florida, totaling 11 goals and 23 points in a bottom-six role. He’s also cost-controlled: Luostarinen, 23, is in the final year of his entry-level contract and should get a small pay bump this offseason as an arbitration-eligible RFA.

Trocheck, meanwhile, could be playing his final season in Raleigh.

In the final year of a six-year, $28.5 million contract, Trocheck is set to hit the open market for the first time this offseason two days after his 29th birthday. With new contracts due to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Martin Necas and Ethan Bear, and big decisions on big-ticket players Tony DeAngelo and Nino Niederreiter, Trocheck would likely need to take a team-friendly deal to stay Carolina.

Trocheck and his representation have talked to the Hurricanes about a contract extension, but “nothing too concrete.”

“It’s just a matter of if they can make it happen,” he said.

There’s no doubt he’s been a fit for coach Rod Brind’Amour’s system and been as advertised.

“Pretty much perception was reality,” Brind’Amour said of Trocheck. “We knew the player pretty well, played against him a lot over the years. And the thing that always stood out was just that compete and (he) just wanted to win. And that certainly was the reality when we got him.”

And the grit factor? There were no surprises there either.

“He was always in it when you play against him,” Brind’Amour said. “He was always around it. There’s always something. … He’s brought what we thought we were going to get.”

While Trocheck said a new contract is something he doesn’t want to worry too much about as the team pursues a Stanley Cup, he made it clear he has Carolina on his mind for the long haul.

“I obviously want to stay here,” he said. “I love it here. My family loves it here.”