was in the stands at what was then the RBC Center as an 18-year-old. Raleigh was the site of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and Bickell was selected in the second round, 41st overall by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now 30 years old, he’s returning to PNC Arena as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, his first new team in what will be his 10th NHL season.
“It’s kind of neat how it worked out,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Maybe it was meant to be. We’ll find out next year and see how it goes from there.”
The Hurricanes acquired Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen from the Blackhawks on Wednesday in exchange for two draft picks. Bickell, a native of Bowmanville, Ont., brings a much-needed size element and a veteran presence to the Canes’ forward grouping.
“Me and my family are excited. It was a good, long run as a Blackhawk,” he said. “We’re excited to get a fresh start.”
“That’s a big body, something that we’ve talked about getting into our lineup,” said Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “He skates, and he’s got some skill.”
Bickell has tallied 65 goals and 70 assists (135 points) in 384 career NHL regular-season games, and he’s added nearly a regular season’s worth of playoff experience, skating in 75 games and recording 20 goals and 19 assists (39 points). A three-time Stanley Cup Champion, Bickell was a key cog in Chicago’s 2013 title, as he posted nine goals and eight assists (17 points) in 23 games.
“I’m a big power forward who likes to go in the corners and in front of the net and get in the dirty places where you need to create havoc to score goals and open up ice for your linemates,” Bickell said, adding that his size and experience in certain game situations are among his notable attributes. “That’s what kind of recipe I bring to the table.”
Bickell said he had a chance to speak with both Francis and head coach Bill Peters over the phone on Wednesday, and their main message for him was to come into the 2016-17 season ready to contribute.
“I would think that in being in the last year of his deal that he’ll be extremely motivated,” Francis said. “I would think it’s not easy in Chicago playing behind a lot of those talented players to feel like you’re in it, so hopefully he’s excited about the opportunity here and comes in ready to roll.”
Before he established himself as a full-time NHLer, Bickell played under Peters for two seasons in Rockford of the American Hockey League.
“It’s old stomping grounds coming back together,” Bickell said. “Obviously things have changed since he was a coach there, but I’m looking forward to making adjustments and helping out.”
Bickell, in the final year of a four-year, $16 million contract, hopes the change of scenery with the Hurricanes will reinvigorate him after a tumultuous 2015-16 campaign that began with Bickell coping with the lingering effects of a vestibular issue (initially diagnosed as vertigo) that forced him out of the lineup in the 2015 playoffs.
“I was coming off an injury that we didn’t really know what it was, and then we found out at the start of the year what the problem was and getting it figured out,” Bickell said. “Then it was kind of too late. They kind of moved on.”
Compounding the difficulty of his situation was the glut of forwards in Chicago and the Blackhawks’ dwindling cap space. Bickell’s production slowed at the NHL level, and after a couple of trips to the waiver wire, he spent the majority of the season in Rockford, where he tallied 15 goals and 16 assists (31 points) in 47 games.
“I played a lot of good hockey in Rockford and got my game back,” he said.
Now, he’s ready to begin the next act of his career.
“It was a frustrating year, but today was one of the days I was looking forward to,” Bickell said. “I’m excited about getting back in the NHL … and getting another opportunity to show myself.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email