While some general managers around the league were busy printing money and signing players to exorbitant contracts, the Carolina Hurricanes went about their business comparatively quietly.
The team made three hockey moves within the opening hours of free agency, signing forward Brad Malone to a two-year contract, re-signing forward Jiri Tlusty to a one-year deal and signing goaltender Drew MacIntyre to a one-year deal.
Malone, 25, will add some size to the Canes’ bottom six, as he is a 6-foot-2, 207-pound depth forward who has played in the Colorado Avalanche’s organization after being drafted by that team in 2007.
“He’s a big guy who skates well and is physical. He got some games up top in Colorado, and he’s a guy that’s up-and-coming, getting that chance to prove himself,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “He should be good for us. He’ll be able to kill penalties and change the look of our fourth line to get more size and physicality.”
Tlusty, one of seven qualified restricted free agents, comes back into the fold for a year at $2.95 million. The 26-year-old forward recorded 16 goals and 14 assists (30 points) in 68 games last season. He led the team with 23 goals in 48 games a year prior.
MacIntyre, 31, is an AHL All-Star goaltender who was was 29-15-3 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 48 regular season games for the Toronto Marlies last season. The signing fills the void for a veteran, depth goaltender within the organization.
The signings didn’t exactly create waves in the sea of free agent frenzy news – but that’s not a bad thing.
“We’re still looking at a few things, but it’s not going to be anything major,” Francis said. “There’s a lot of big money being thrown around today.”
Francis identified a few pieces the Canes could still stand to add, including an additional forward and another defenseman, as well as looking to fill a couple of holes in Charlotte.
“We’re very surprised with how quickly things progressed,” he said of today’s frenzy. “We didn’t think it was necessary to blow everything up. We still think we have a lot of good pieces.”
Among the pieces that Francis and the Canes like is goaltender Cam Ward. After talking to a number of teams about potential trade options, Francis said he elected to retain the 30-year-old who holds a litany of franchise netminding records.
“At the end of the day, we feel Cam Ward is a good goaltender. He’s had a couple of tough years and weird injuries, but we still believe in him,” Francis said. “We thought we were better served having him in our lineup than taking some of the offers that were out there.”
With Justin Peters signing a two-year, one-way deal worth $1.9 million in Washington, the Canes will likely enter training camp with the duo of Ward and Anton Khudobin in the crease.
“The more competition, the better for everybody,” Francis said.
In other personnel news, forward Manny Malhotra signed a one-year deal in Montreal. Francis said the Canes were interested in re-signing the 34-year-old, but he was initially seeking a multi-year deal, despite ultimately accepting a single-year contract in Montreal on Tuesday.
Defenseman Brett Bellemore is exploring his options in the open market, according to Francis.
“We had some negotiations with him earlier. He was looking for a two-year deal at a number we thought was much higher than he should be at,” he said. “He’s testing the free agent market, and we’re looking at other options.”
Finally, forward Andrei Loktionov, who was not issued a qualifying offer, became an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday. Loktionov, 24, was acquired from New Jersey in a trade deadline day deal. Though he injured his shoulder while playing for Russia in the IIHF World Championship, Francis said that didn’t figure much in the decision not to re-sign him, noting there were a few players in Charlotte, including Zach Boychuk, who could assume the same role on the team in the upcoming season.
Waddell Tapped as President of Gale Force Sports & Entertainment
In a non-hockey announcement on Tuesday, Canes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. introduced Don Waddell as the president of Gale Force Sports & Entertainment. The brief news conference can be seen here.
Waddell, 55, comes to Carolina after spending the last three seasons as a professional scout with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has assembled an extensive hockey pedigree, within the NHL, minor leagues and internationally with USA Hockey.
“I really enjoy the business-side of our sport,” Waddell said, adding he will jump head-first into his new position next week. “We want to be able to make sure we can raise the revenue so we have the resources to make our team as good as we possibly can.”
“We are going to work together on the business side of the Hurricanes. I believe the best was to grow a business isn’t by cutting expenses but by growing revenue,” Karmanos said. “We’re going to try to move the Hurricanes forward from a business side.”