Although restricted free agent Anton Babchuk has reportedly signed a contract with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, the Hurricanes don’t feel as though their plans have been dented.
General Manager Jim Rutherford had been attempting to trade the 6-foot-5 defenseman with the cannon shot for a defensive prospect ever since Babchuk unexpectedly declined his qualifying offer in July. Although he’s now ruling out a resolution to the situation until next summer, an already-full NHL roster doesn’t make it an immediate concern for Rutherford.
”This is a good situation for us, as we still retain his rights, his status slides and he still doesn’t have arbitration,” said Rutherford.
If the Canes hadn’t been able to fill out their defense through the signing of Andrew Alberts and the trade for Aaron Ward, things could have been different. As it stands now, there’s even some solid depth beyond the top six, making the acquisition of a prospect more luxury than necessity and precluding the need to “sell low” on last season’s 16-goal scorer.
“Based on talking to three teams I thought there may have been a chance to make a deal for a prospect,” said Rutherford. “We would have got a young defenseman who we liked but would have had no guarantee to end up playing for us. We know Anton can play, so I think the way this played out works out pretty good for the Hurricanes.”
While Rutherford still isn’t able to confirm the reports from Russia that the 25-year-old Babchuk has officially signed with Omsk (his U.S.-based agent, Don Meehan, was also unable to do so in his most recent conversation with the GM), he’s treating them as though they are fact, which effectively ends trade negotiations for the time being. The Canes’ GM is not anticipating that any contract Babchuk may have signed with Omsk has an NHL out clause, meaning that he’ll likely play there for the entire season at the very least. The Hurricanes could still trade his rights at any time, although Rutherford indicated that he would not actively try to do so during the upcoming season.
Expect little to change until the 2010 offseason, when there may be renewed interest in a trade, or potentially even a return to the Carolina lineup. That’s what happened following Babchuk’s previous return to Russia for the 2007-08 season, when the player’s earlier refusal to report to Albany of the AHL for a reassignment wasn’t enough to permanently burn the bridge between player and team.
“He’s still a young guy, and he may very well end up playing here again sometime,” said Rutherford.