Frederik Andersen, Ritch Winter Spite Carolina Hurricanes One More Time

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Frederik Andersen, Ritch Winter Spite Carolina Hurricanes One More Time
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes ripped off 52 shots on goal Sunday night in Anaheim in a futile attempt to end a 23-day winless drought.

Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen shut the door with 49 stellar saves in a 5-3 win.

Yet Andersen's performance never should have happened—for the Ducks, at least.

On June 26, 2010, it was a red-and-white 'Canes jersey slipping over Andersen's shoulders. After choosing now-franchise cornerstones Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk in the first two rounds, Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford selected 20-year-old Andersen with a seventh-round flier, pick No. 187 overall.

The two seasons following that draft went quite well for Andersen, as he quickly advanced through European professional leagues. The 6'4", 230-pound youngster recorded a .941 save percentage in 39 appearances for prestigious Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League in 2011-12.

Then, well aware of rapidly rising prospect stock, Andersen found a more prominent agent to represent his upcoming contract negotiations. The agent's name was Ritch Winter, a well-known NHL agent who gained fame in the Alan Eagleson investigation and had formerly represented All-Star goaltender Dominik Hasek.

Shortly after, negotiations on an entry-level contract with Carolina fell through. Andersen announced he would re-enter the 2012 draft, citing "too much goaltending depth with Ward and Brian Boucher" (according to News & Observer reporter Luke DeCock).

Rutherford released a fairly standard press statement, save for the final sentence:

We tried to sign Frederik to a contract, and made him aware that we felt there was an opportunity here for him to earn one of our two NHL spots during training camp. We are very disappointed that he chose not to join our organization. Prior to him changing his agent, we had every indication that he was very interested in being a part of the Carolina Hurricanes.

And thus began a personal rivalry between Rutherford and Winter that, while hardly the subject of headlines, has remained rooted in the 'Canes ever since.

Bill Wippert/Getty Images
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.

Winter also represented, according to Bob Wage of Canes Country (h/t to Pamela Cloud for the find), Hurricanes' 2011 fourth-round pick Gregory Hofmann, who failed to sign a contract with the franchise prior to last June's deadline but went undrafted upon re-entering in 2013.

In his press statement, Rutherford noted, "It is disappointing that we were unable to reach an agreement with his agent to keep him in our organization."

Winter works as an agent for international agency firm 4Sports & Entertainment, which currently represents 14 NHL players, including Marian Hossa, Mark Giordano and Brandon Prust.

Update, Mar. 4: This article previously misstated that Winter worked for The Sports Corporation, which he previously founded but has since left.

Not a single one currently plays, or has ever played, for Carolina.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Vancouver GM Mike Gillis.

Winter found himself in the headlines over a different dispute with Vancouver GM Mike Gillis in 2012.

In January, Winter lambasted Vancouver Sun blogger Daniel Wagner for implicating him in then-client Cody Hodgson's ice-time controversy.

One month later, Hodgson was traded to Buffalo for Zach Kassian in a blatantly rip-off deal for the Sabres.

In March, Winter took to Twitter to attempt to clear up the situation, which had evolved into a enormous blame game as the trade's imbalance became evident. Yet he spoke of a player-coach meeting that then-Canucks HC Alain Vigneault denied happened, then deleted and denied the existence of a tweet which contained his cell phone number, then deleted all tweets on the matter altogether.

Winter's Twitter account, @hockeyagentdad, no longer exists.

Winter's conflict-ridden history doesn't end in Raleigh and Vancouver, either.

In November 2011, Winter tweeted that Washington was "quickly becoming a graveyard for good NHL players." In seemingly characteristic fashion, he deleted the tweet abruptly.

In January 2012, Winter ripped then-Edmonton coach Tom Renney for not giving the Oilers' young defensemen enough ice time.

In June 2013, after client Ilya Bryzgalov's tumultuous time with the Flyers ended, Winter called Philadelphia "terrible...for a goaltender," claiming that then-coach Peter Laviolette "doesn't listen to" goalie coach Jeff Reese.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Andersen's spectacular effort in Anaheim's decisive win surely filled the Hurricanes front office's collective mouth with a bitter taste, if only with regret over how close the Danish netminder came to being a 'Cane.

Who is most to blame for Andersen choosing not to sign with Carolina?

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After all, Andersen is a whopping 15-3-0 in his first 19 NHL appearances. He's not yet eligible for the league goaltending leaderboards, but his 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage would rank eighth and fourth, respectively, if he were. 2013-14 is shaping up as a jaw-dropping rookie campaign for the mere 24-year-old.

Two years later, it seems unlikely the public will ever truly hear the full story behind this controversy. 

However, as Rutherford watches his job security slowly decline in tune with Carolina's on-ice struggles, there exists little doubt that the Ritch Winter-Frederik Andersen fiasco is one he won't soon forget or forgive.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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