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Canes Add Versteeg, Bolster Forward Depth

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
TRAVERSE CITY – While in Michigan assessing his players of tomorrow, Carolina Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis made a move to improve his team of today, acquiring forwards Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom in addition to a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft from Chicago.

In exchange, the Canes sent north defensive prospects Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie plus a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. It’s a trade that immediately upgrades the Hurricanes’ forward corps and adds depth just a week out from the beginning of training camp.

“With Versteeg, I think we added a lot more skill and leadership. The guy has won the Cup twice, so he brings that experience and talent to your locker room and team,” Francis said. “Joakim is a young player who plays a solid, 200-foot game. He kills penalties. We think he can play in the NHL for a long time. Hopefully he has more upside to his game, as well.”

“I’m super excited,” Versteeg said. “I see the talents and everyone they have on the team, and it makes me really excited to come there and help contribute.”

For a team that ranked 27 in goals scored just a season ago, acquiring a four-time 20-goal scorer in Versteeg, who figures to be a top-six forward for the Canes, is a welcome addition.

“He’s got high-end skill, and he can create and produce a lot of offense,” Francis said. “For a team like ours that struggled to score goals last year, hopefully he can help us in that regard.”

“I hope to help score and help make plays but at the same time try to defend and keep the puck out of my net to the best of my capabilities. I try to play as much of a 200-foot game in whatever role I’m given,” Versteeg said. “I want to help put points up for the team more than myself. You want individual success to help team success. You hope everybody on your team has individual success because that will make your team a lot better.”

Nordstrom, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, split time with Chicago and Rockford of the AHL last season. Francis said the 23-year-old forward will “absolutely” compete for a spot with the big club in training camp.

“As an organization, this trade makes us deeper and makes training camp more competitive,” he said.

The acquisition of the third-round draft pick in 2017 gives Carolina a total of 10 combined picks in the first three rounds of the 2016 and 2017 NHL Drafts.

“We’re trying to build here for the long term,” Francis said.

More immediately, the 29-year-old Versteeg, who is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, brings a wealth of postseason experience to a locker room that has missed the playoffs for six straight seasons.

“I think some of the things we’ve done with him and (James) Wisniewski and (Eddie) Lack, there’s a little personality and experience to those guys. You bring that in, especially with what we’re building here with our young players, and it’s a good fit,” Francis said. “It never hurts to have guys that have been there and been successful to be around your players.”

Though he has 84 games of postseason experience under his belt, Versteeg is no stranger to joining and helping a team return to the playoffs. When Florida acquired him in the summer of 2011, it had been 10 seasons since the Panthers had made the playoffs. That year, Florida won the Southeast Division, ultimately losing to the New Jersey Devils in seven games in the first round.

That was a challenge that team keyed on, Versteeg said, and that will fuel him to do the same with Carolina.

“You take everything as a challenge, and this is another challenge in my career,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to the best of my abilities to help the Carolina Hurricanes. My one goal every time I come to play for any team is to win a Stanley Cup.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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