As unexpected as it was to those that follow the team, the Hurricanes didn’t necessarily see it coming either.
Just days after saying he was happy with his defense amid significant turnover among the forward ranks, General Manager Jim Rutherford pulled the simultaneous trigger on the signing of free agent defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the trade of defenseman Joe Corvo to Boston in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.
After locking up Joni Pitkanen to a new deal prior to the start of the July 1 free agent period, Rutherford didn’t seem to be in the market for a puck moving, power-play specialist along the lines of Kaberle, whose 25 assists on the man advantage ranked fifth among all NHL players last season. However, a weekend trade request by Corvo created a spot.
“Once we talked about moving Joe, it moved us back into the free agent market,” said Rutherford. “We feel (Kaberle) is one of the top puck-moving defenseman in the league.”
The Hurricanes’ GM said that he did not feel as though his hands were tied by Corvo’s request, but rather that he felt it was the best outcome for all parties given the circumstances.
“It wasn’t a demanding request,” said Rutherford. “It was more of a general analysis of where he’s at and where he fit in. I think it was a little bit about where he was in his career and his contract status.”
Corvo, who recently turned 34, has one year left on a deal that will pay him $2.5 million next season. Kaberle’s contract, a three-year pact that will pay him an average of $4.25 million, presents a budgetary increase for the Canes, but one they could afford with the recent departure of Erik Cole to Montreal.
Previoulsy, Rutherford had mentioned potentially using that space to trade for a forward to help replace Cole. That could still happen down the line, but it would appear that the recent signings of Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart, as well as the possible ascension of a handful of the team’s forward prospects, have put such a move on hold for the time being.
“We’ll see when the time comes around,” said Rutherford. “With some of our young guys and the addition of Anthony Stewart, this was not something I was going to rush. We may wait until the season starts and then see if we need to make a move then.”
Kaberle, whose brother Frantisek was a member of the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup team, is one of several former Toronto Maple Leafs now in the organization, joining Ponikarovsky, Tim Brent, Jay Harrison and Jiri Tlusty. With the exception of Brent, all played for Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice during their time in Toronto.
“(Maurice) obviously has a comfort level with Tomas and they really get along well,” said Rutherford.
The day’s moves leave the Hurricanes with seven defensemen that are expected to be under one-way contracts next season. Rutherford said that the only one of those currently without a deal in hand, restricted free agent Derek Joslin, filed for arbitration on Tuesday but that he did not predict that would be a major stumbling block in getting a deal done.
“He’s our player now,” said Rutherford. “It’s just a matter of if we settle or pay him what the arbitrator says.”