As is the case with many of his most effective deals, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford was able to kill two birds with one stone.
Having entered the day of the NHL’s trade deadline hoping to add a veteran defenseman and create some room at forward, Rutherford accomplished both in one transaction by acquiring Bryan Allen from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Sergei Samsonov.
“To give up an expendable player, not having to do it with a high draft pick or a younger player, and getting an experienced NHL player (in return) certainly makes sense for us,” said Rutherford.
In Allen, the Hurricanes get a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman with 500 games under his belt. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound blue liner averaged just under 20 minutes of ice time per game with Florida this season. He can also mix it up a bit, having posted 90 or more penalty minutes four times in his six full NHL seasons.
“We like his experience, we like his size and he can play with some grit,” said Rutherford. “With having that big reach, he can kill penalties very well.”
While many players moved at the deadline are little more than rentals of a few months, Allen is under contract through next season at $3.1 million. That’s a fairly significant commitment for the Hurricanes, a team with a plethora of pending free agents, but it’s one they’re comfortable making.
“He’s a real good team guy,” said Rutherford of Allen, who waived his no-trade clause in order to come to Carolina. “We had a couple of good background checks on him, especially with Cory Stillman knowing him really well. He’s the type of player that fits into our team with the kind of character he has.
“I hope he’s right, because he gave him a ringing endorsement.”
Although he missed all but two games of the 2008-09 season with a knee injury, Rutherford said that health would not be a concern for the 30-year-old Allen, who was drafted fourth overall by Vancouver in 1998 before being sent to the Panthers in a multi-player deal involving Roberto Luongo in 2006.
“I asked that question to the Panthers and I asked Bryan himself after the trade was made, and he said this is the best he’s felt in a long time with his overall health,” said Rutherford.
While deadline-day deals often materialize quickly, Rutherford said that he had first acquired about Allen a few weeks ago, but that he was not optimistic about completing the deal until recently.
“I started talking about Bryan Allen a little before we moved Ian White, because we made that decision to give us flexibility to make other moves, and at that time it didn’t seem that there was going to be a way to do it and fit it within our budget,” he said. “Then as time went on and with the addition of Stillman coming in and the position Florida got in and the direction they were going with moving contracts, it gave us a chance to make this deal.”
Rutherford said that the arrival of Stillman, the play of 23-year-old Jerome Samson and the depth of young forwards with the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers all contributed to making Samsonov available. The fact that he has just a few months remaining on a deal that will pay him $2.8 million was also a factor.
“We did have the luxury of moving a forward,” said Rutherford. “Quite frankly when it boils right down do it, he was the guy who was the cleanest fit for us when we tried to match up the contracts, so that played another part in my decision.”
For Rutherford, the only blemish on the day was the loss of defenseman Brett Carson on waivers to Calgary. Rutherford said that he placed Carson on waivers Saturday in order to make room for Allen, but that he hoped the 25-year-old would clear so that he could be assigned to Charlotte.
“If we hadn’t been able to add a defenseman later in the day, I would have been sitting here, telling you and being honest with you, that I would have been devastated about losing (Carson),” said Rutherford. “The fact that we were able to complete what we set out to do, to add another defenseman, I’m OK with it.”
Rutherford added that Carson, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if Calgary doesn’t re-sign him before then, could always be brought back into the fold in the right situation.
As for other trades left on the table, Rutherford said that teams had been inquiring about his defensemen for the last month. That group includes Joni Pitkanen, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“Joni was always in that group of guys that was rumored,” said Rutherford. “He was a guy that teams called and asked about, but it’s pretty hard to replace a guy that plays 27 or 28 minutes a game, even if there are some periods in that game where maybe some of his shortcomings come out. As we sit here now, it ended up the way I had hoped it would.”
Rutherford added that he also shied away from deals that involved giving up prospects or draft picks.
“We would be paying a price that we wouldn’t want to pay,” he said. “It would be a price that we looked back on a year or two from now and wished that we wouldn’t have done it.”
In an interesting twist, both Allen and Samsonov should be in the lineup Tuesday night at the RBC Center against their former teams. It remains to be seen where Allen will fit into the Canes’ defensive corps.
“I think the coaches will be able to play with it and will have more flexibility, especially when we have seven guys,” said Rutherford.