As the Canes look to solidify their budget for next season and restructure their defense, they may have found an avenue that will help them do both.
General Manager Jim Rutherford said today that the team will explore the possibility of buying out defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, which would save the team roughly $1.5 million dollars next season.
“He’s a puck moving guy, and we’ve got some of those guys,” said Rutherford. “The only reason he went on waivers last year was to free up that contract. It wasn’t because we didn’t think he could play or help us, and it’s a similar situation this year. If the right guy comes along and we can change the make up of our defense, we may do it.”
Kaberle is scheduled to make $2.2 million next season - the final year of the four-year contract he signed following the Stanley Cup championship in 2006. If the Hurricanes were to buy him out, they would have to pay two-thirds of that contract over the next two seasons, meaning they would owe the 35-year-old Czech blueliner just under $750,000 a year.
As the Hurricanes aim to set next year’s budget at around $50 million dollars (purely in cash, not in terms of their cap hit, which would be about three million higher), the extra money would help quite a bit if it came to bringing in a free agent or adding some salary in a trade.
The possibility of the buyout, along with the fact that Rutherford does not expect to have Anton Babchuk back in the fold next season, means that the Hurricanes could be looking for two more players to fill out the defensive corps.
“We may be looking for one that can play in the top four spot that [Babchuk] was playing at times last year and then we may still look at making our defense a little more physical,” he said. “If that player is there, we may consider buying Frank out, and if not, he’s still a useful player.”
Rutherford said that there had been no progress in his talks with Babchuk’s camp, and that the player would likely either return to Russia or be traded to a team that would meet his demands. So far, no team has stepped forward.
If Babchuk were to return to Russia, the Hurricanes would retain his rights similar to when this situation last occurred in the summer of 2007. That decision cost Babchuk his arbitration rights, which he still would not receive if he returned to the NHL after the coming season.
“If he hadn’t have gone to Russia for the one year, he would have arbitration rights this year,” said Rutherford. “From my point of view, you can’t have it both ways.”