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Carolina Hurricanes defender uniquely qualified to talk about NHL trade deadline stress

Few players on the Carolina Hurricanes can understand the stress and upheaval of the NHL’s trade deadline quite like Dmitry Orlov.

The defenseman was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2009. He played for the Caps for 11 seasons. He won the Stanley Cup with the Caps in 2018. His family lived in Washington.

“I was comfortable there,” Orlov said.

Then, he was traded to the Boston Bruins.

On Feb. 23, 2023, a few days before the deadline, Orlov was dealt to the Bruins via the Minnesota Wild, which retained part of his salary. One of his Caps teammates, Garnet Hathaway, also was sent to Boston.

“I was driving to the (Caps) game when I got a phone call from my coach Peter Laviolette, and he told me not to come to the locker room because there might be a trade coming up, maybe not,” Orlov said Monday. “So it was really shocking. I drove home right away, talked to my wife, texted my parents to tell them I’m not playing and might be traded.

“The game was at 7 o’clock and I asked the coach if I wasn’t traded, could I come to the locker room and be with the players. He said yes, obviously. So I started to dress again to drive to the game to watch and I got the phone call at 6 o’clock from (general manager ) Brian MacLellan of the Capitals, saying, ‘You were just traded to Boston.’”

Carolina Hurricanes’ Justin Williams (14) and Washington Capitals’ Matt Niskanen (2) struggle in front of Capitals’ Dmitry Orlov (9), of Russia, and goalie Braden Holtby (70) while Hurricanes’ Nino Niederreiter (21), of the Czech Republic, skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 28, 2019. Washington won 3-2. Gerry Broome/AP

Handling the news

Orlov said so much flashed through his mind. There were more phone calls to make, immediate plans to make. He would not be going to the Anaheim Ducks game at Capital One Arena. That much he knew. The Bruins were on a four-game Western road swing.

“I just sat at home talking to my wife about what we were going to do, how we were going to handle this,” Orlov said. “It was the first time I had been traded.”

Orlov, 32, was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season. As a pending UFA, he was aware he could be a part of a trade before the March 3 deadline. He didn’t want to be moved by the Caps and hoped to sign a new contract with Washington after the season, but knew it was a possibility he could be moved.

The day before the trade, he said his agent, Mark Gandler, called to say the Bruins had been inquiring about him.

“But it was one conversation. You never know if it will happen,” Orlov said.

And then, it did.

Mar 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov (81) checks Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Bob DeChiara/Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov (81) checks Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Bob DeChiara/Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

‘It was crazy’

Everything was rushed. He packed up and flew out, joining the Bruins in Vancouver. He was in the lineup for the Feb. 25 game, a 3-1 Boston victory that improved its record to 45-8-5 in what would be a record-breaking season.

“No morning skate or anything,” Orlov said. “It was like meet the boys in the locker room. It was like ‘What’s going on?’ with the time difference, the trade, new system, having to play right away. It was crazy.

“You can’t sleep, you can’t eat. I didn’t have my normal appetite for like two weeks. A lot of things in your mind is going on. You have to play hockey and focus. But sometimes after games I was so exhausted I didn’t go eat dinner but just go to my room and stare at the walls and try to figure out what’s going on.”

Such is the “business of hockey,” which can sound so simple unless you’re the one caught up in the middle of it.

Orlov did make a good, quick impression. He had two assists in the Bruins’ next game, a win over Edmonton, then two goals as Boston beat the Calgary Flames in overtime. He had eight points in his first four games with his new team.

“All I could do was focus on playing every game like it was my last game,” Orlov said.

For Orlov and the Bruins, their last game would be a shocker. They were dispatched in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Florida Panthers. Everything seemed in place for a deep run in the playoffs for a team that was the Presidents’ Trophy winner for most points in the season.

Then, it wasn’t.

Dec 19, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dmitry Orlov (7) defends against Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson (71) during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports James Guillory/James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dmitry Orlov (7) defends against Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson (71) during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports James Guillory/James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

‘There’s always speculation’

Orlov, as a free agent, signed a two-year deal with the Hurricanes on July 1 that pays him $7.75 million a year. Adapting to the Canes’ system and Rod Brind’Amour’s ways of doing things took longer than expected, especially being used on the third defensive pairing, but Orlov has been playing some of his best hockey of late.

In 61 games, the 5-11, 214-pound D-man has three goals and 15 assists. His sharp-angle shot and goal in the final minute of regulation was the winner against the Arizona Coyotes in the Jan. 27 game.

It hard to say how stressful this week will be for the Hurricanes players leading up to Friday’s NHL trade deadline. There’s always social-media scuttlebutt but Don Waddell, the team president and GM, said last week said he did not expect any major moves to be made.

“I don’t know. I think it’s what you make of it,” Brind’Amour said Monday. “They all understand it’s that time of year and there’s always speculation and 99.9% of it never happens.

“It’s just part of the business. Is it stressful? Maybe, but they understand this time of the year that’s what’s going to happen.”

The players do have extra time to think about it — Carolina’s next game is Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens at PNC Arena. With a game in New Jersey on Saturday, the Canes are scheduled to be in the air on the team charter Friday when the 3 p.m. deadline hits.