With Tony DeAngelo returning, which players had the best second tour with the Hurricanes?

After a lengthy delay, the worst-kept secret in hockey became official when Tony DeAngelo returned to the Hurricanes on Monday after a season playing for the Flyers.

Philadelphia placed the 27-year-old defenseman on waivers this month after a proposed trade between the Flyers and Hurricanes got held up. Instead, DeAngelo became a free agent and signed a $1.675 million contract with Carolina. The Hurricanes had traded him to Philadelphia at last year’s draft for second-, third- and fourth-round picks.

In his first go-around with Carolina, DeAngelo rehabilitated his career with 10 goals and 51 points in 64 games while avoiding the misdeeds that led to controversy earlier in his career.

DeAngelo will certainly have a different role in his second tour of duty. With Brent Burns entrenched alongside Jaccob Slavin on Carolina’s top pairing, the right-handed DeAngelo figures to slot on the Hurricanes’ third pairing.

He should still get power-play time and have the opportunity to contribute offensively in a sheltered role. Will he match what he did in 2021-22? Time will tell, but the Hurricanes have a history of bringing back players for second stints — some with lots of success and some perhaps not.

Several players have come back after their playing days were over for roles in the organization — Rod Brind’Amour, Sergei Samsonov, Tom Barrasso, Patrick Dwyer and Shane Willis come to mind. Others made North Carolina their home after retiring, like Cam Ward, Tim Brent and Patrick Eaves. A couple have even tried to extend their careers by attempting comebacks with the Hurricanes, like Jeff O’Neill and Chad LaRose.

So who are the best recycled players in Hurricanes history? First, some ground rules:

  • The player must have played multiple times in Carolina with the Hurricanes. Sorry, Ron Francis and other former Whalers — you’re not eligible.
  • The player must have played an NHL game with another team in between having played games with Carolina. So Zach Boychuk — whom the Hurricanes put on waivers in 2013 and then bounced from Pittsburgh to Nashville before landing back in Raleigh — counts, but Andrew Poturalski — who played two games with the Hurricanes in 2016-17, then played two years with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate before returning to the Carolina organization, playing two more games with the Hurricanes in 2021-22 — does not qualify.

For each player, I’ll run through their first stint and exit, the circumstances of their return, and how they fared in coming back to the Hurricanes.

I’ll do this in descending order to build the drama.

T-10. Tim Gleason and Aaron Ward

Gleason and Ward have both made the Triangle their home after their careers, and both had long stints with the Hurricanes — Gleason for seven-plus seasons, Ward for four — before leaving and then returning to start their final NHL seasons back in Raleigh.

Ward was gone three seasons, which included his infamous playoff run-in with Scott Walker as a member of the Bruins in the second round of the 2009 playoffs.

You’ll even notice Gleason enter the fray near the end. Ward came back to Carolina the next season in 2009-10 but struggled. Fans were slow to shake off the animosity toward Ward — who opened in the scoring in the Hurricanes’ Cup-winning Game 7 victory over the Oilers in 2006 — in the aftermath of the Walker incident, and he claimed that injuries contributed to his underwhelming play.

After 60 games, he was traded to Anaheim for journeyman goalie Justin Pogge and a fourth-round pick. He played 17 games with the Ducks to end his career.

Gleason had a similar end, though without the drama.

The rough-and-tumble defenseman’s first stay in Raleigh ended when he was traded to the Maple Leafs for John-Michael Liles and Dennis Robertson on New Year’s Day 2014.

He returned that offseason and played 55 games for Carolina before being dealt at the deadline again, this time to Washington. The return was similar to what the Hurricanes got for Ward: defenseman Jack Hillen and a fourth-rounder. He played 17 regular-season games and 14 more in the playoffs for the Capitals. He joined the Hurricanes on a PTO in November 2015 but was released after eight days, ending his playing career.

Gleason is now an assistant coach with the Hurricanes.

9. David Tanabe

Tanabe, the No. 16 overall pick by Carolina in 1999, looked like a star in the making early in his NHL career. After three-plus seasons with the Hurricanes, he was traded to the Coyotes in a deal that brought Danny Markov to Raleigh. Tanabe was then dealt to Boston but suffered two injuries: an oblique strain and then a torn ACL.

The Bruins walked away from Tanabe’s arbitration award that offseason and he became a free agent. He was released from a PTO with the Blues and returned to Carolina. He posted five goals and 17 points in 60 games in 2006-07, but the following season would be his last.

Tanabe suffered a concussion on Dec. 18, 2007, and didn’t play another NHL shift. Things turned ugly at the end, with the Hurricanes attempting to buy him out and Tanabe’s side disputing it because of his ongoing post-concussion issues.

Nearly a year after the injury, the two sides came to an agreement, officially ending Tanabe’s career. He’s now an attorney in Minnesota.

8. Cory Stillman

Stillman was integral to the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup win in 2006 and played 2 1/2 years in Raleigh before being traded to Ottawa with Mike Commodore for the aforementioned Eaves and Joe Corvo (we’ll hear more about him down the list).

Stillman finished up that year with the Senators, scoring twice in the Penguins’ first-round sweep of Ottawa, and then signed with the Panthers in 2008. He returned to Carolina at the deadline of the 2010-11 season — the Hurricanes shipped Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick to Florida — and had 16 points in 21 games.

He announced his retirement that September and is now an assistant coach with the Coyotes.

7. Jeff Daniels

Daniels played just two games with Carolina in 1997-98 before being selected in the expansion draft by the Predators. After just nine games in Nashville that next year, spending most of the season in AHL Milwaukee, he returned to the Hurricanes as a free agent.

Daniels carved out a fourth-line role the next four seasons and played 23 playoff games in Carolina’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002.

He retired in November 2003 and soon joined the Hurricanes’ coaching staff. He was an assistant to Peter Laviolette on the Cup-winning team in 2006, led Carolina’s AHL affiliate as head coach for seven years, served as a scout, and now he is back as an assistant, approaching his sixth season under former teammate Brind’Amour.

6. Glen Wesley

Wesley coming back to the Hurricanes seemed like a done deal as soon as he was traded away at the 2003 deadline.

Wesley started his career in Boston before a blockbuster trade to the Whalers in 1994. He played three years in Hartford and made the move to North Carolina with the franchise, playing five years in Greensboro and Raleigh before he was traded to Toronto for a second-round pick.

Wesley and the Leafs lasted just five games in the playoffs that spring, and the veteran defenseman returned to Carolina that summer — the first of five straight one-year deals he signed with the team.

Known for his offense in his Bruins days, Wesley developed into one of hockey’s best defensive defensemen, anchoring Carolina’s defense and helping the team to the 2006 championship. He retired following the 2007-08 season after 20 years in the league — and he’d surely be higher on the list if he had a longer layover elsewhere.

Wesley is now a development coach with the Blues.

5. Joe Corvo

Corvo was in Carolina, as Montgomery Burns once said, “not once, not twice but thrice.”

Corvo started with the Kings before moving on to the Senators, who traded him to the Hurricanes in the previously mentioned Stillman-Commodore-Eaves trade in February 2008. In 2008-09, his one full season in Raleigh in his first stint, he had 14 goals and 38 points. But he was traded to the Capitals at next year’s deadline for Brian Pothier, Oskar Osala and a second-round pick.

Corvo quickly returned, signing a two-year deal the following offseason, and had a solid 2010-11 with 11 goals and 40 points. He was dealt away again, this time at the 2011 draft to the Bruins for a fourth-round pick, and played the 2011-12 season in Boston.

He came back to Raleigh one more time, in 2012-13, playing just 40 games while totaling six goals and 17 points. He finished out his career the following year, splitting time between the Senators and the AHL.

Corvo now participates in CrossFit competitions.

4. Matt Cullen

Do the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in 2006 without Cullen? Probably not. He was a revelation that season, scoring 25 goals and totaling 49 points after signing a one-year deal with Carolina. On top of that, he was an ace in the newly implemented shootout, converting six of nine attempts that season, and finished fourth on the Hurricanes in scoring during that playoff run.

That led to a big payday — four years totaling $11.5 million from the Rangers in July 2006. After a year in the Big Apple, Cullen was traded back to the Hurricanes during the 2007 offseason for Andrew Hutchinson, Joe Barnes and a third-round pick.

Cullen matched his 49 points from the Cup season that following season and totaled 47 goals and 132 points over the final three years of the deal before moving on to Minnesota.

Cullen then played three seasons with the Wild, two with the Predators and two with the Penguins — winning the Stanley Cup with them in both 2016 and 2017. He returned to Minnesota the next year and then closed out his 21-year career back in Pittsburgh in 2018-19 at age 43.

He is one of just four players, according to Hockey-Reference.com, to have played in 24 or more playoff games in three different seasons. The other three: Sidney Crosby, Patrik Elias and Mark Recchi. Recchi did it with three different teams, including the 2006 Hurricanes.

Cullen is now in player development with the Penguins.

3. Sean Hill

Hill went from scoring zero goals with just 15 assists in his first two seasons with Carolina to exploding for 13 goals and 44 points in 1999-2000.

That led to a four-year, $9 million contract with the Blues the following summer, but Hill’s production dipped back to pre-breakout numbers in St. Louis. After less than a season and a half, Hill was headed back to Raleigh for Steve Halko and a fourth-round pick in December 2001.

Hill picked up where he left off in Carolina, scoring seven times with 30 points in 49 games during the balance of the 2001-02 season. He added four goals and eight points in the Hurricanes’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, and Hill totaled 18 goals and 68 points the following two seasons in Carolina.

He finished his NHL career with consecutive one-year deals with the Panthers, Islanders and Wild. His 38 goals and 157 points in 369 regular-season games with the Hurricanes easily outpaced the 24 goals and 141 points he had in 507 games with seven other teams.

2. Erik Cole

Cole played a key role in both the 2002 Cup Final run and the 2006 title team. His 2005-06 season was derailed when Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik hit him from behind in early March, fracturing two of Cole’s vertebra in the same game he had scored two goals to reach 30 on the season.

After deadline acquisition Doug Weight was knocked out of the Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton with a shoulder injury, Cole returned to the lineup for games 6 and 7 as Carolina won the Stanley Cup.

Just over two years later, he was traded to the Oilers for Joni Pitkanen. His departure was short-lived.

After 63 games in Edmonton, he returned to Raleigh in a three-team trade that sent North Carolina-born Patrick O’Sullivan to the Oilers and a player who is No. 1 on our list to the Kings.

Cole played the rest of that 2008-09 season and two more back with the Hurricanes before signing a four-year, $18 million contract with the Canadiens in the summer of 2011. He played just over 100 games with Montreal before being traded to Dallas, where he played 160 games over three seasons.

His final stop was with the Red Wings, after a deadline trade in 2015 that landed the Stars two players and a second-round pick. He played just 11 games before suffering a spinal contusion, an injury that was related to his neck injury back in 2006. He later attempted to return to the ice, but it was determined there was too much risk of serious injury and he retired.

Cole resides in the Triangle, and the second-rounder sent to the Stars by Detroit lives on as Roope Hintz.

1. Justin Williams

Williams’ path to his famous nickname started in Philadelphia but blossomed and ended with the Hurricanes. He came to Carolina in January 2004 after three-plus seasons with the Flyers, acquired for Markov (see the Tanabe entry above), less than nine months after posting a one-goal, two-assist Game 7 effort against the Maple Leafs in 2003.

With the Hurricanes, he had three points again in the Game 7 win over the Sabres in the 2006 Eastern Conference finals, and he then had the Cup-clinching empty-net goal in Game 7 against the Oilers.

He was traded to the Kings in the three-way trade mentioned above that brought Cole back to Raleigh. He won the Stanley Cup twice in Los Angeles, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2014 and further solidifying his status as “Mr. Game 7” with seven points in four do-or-die games during his run in Hollywood.

A two-year stop in Washington was followed by a return to the Hurricanes. Then-coach Bill Peters didn’t name him captain in 2017-18, instead opting for the bizarre co-captaincy with Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk, but Williams still had 16 goals and 51 points.

When Brind’Amour took over as coach in 2018, his first order of business was naming Williams captain. The then-37-year-old responded with one of his best statistical seasons, scoring 23 goals with 53 points. And he, of course, factored in during a Game 7, setting up Brock McGinn’s double-overtime winner in Round 1 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals to kick off Carolina’s run to the Eastern Conference finals.

He re-signed with Carolina in January 2020, scoring eight goals and 11 points in 20 games before the world shut down for the coronavirus pandemic. He opened the bubble with a fight against Ryan Strome in the Hurricanes’ sweep of the Rangers in the qualifying round, but Carolina bowed out to the Bruins in five games in the first round.

Even without a final Game 7, Williams’ legacy was secured both as one of the most clutch players in NHL history and a Hurricanes icon. He, like many other former Carolina players, made the Triangle his home and serves as a special adviser to Carolina GM Don Waddell.

More than any player, his return to the Hurricanes proved to be not only a success but a turning point for the franchise.

DeAngelo won’t ever be able to match it, but a successful second run with the Hurricanes would certainly make him a candidate for the top 10.

(Photo of Tony DeAngelo: Brian Fluharty / USA Today)

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