The Hurricanes have turned to a familiar face to round out their roster for next season.
Defenseman Aaron Ward, whose most recent act in a Carolina jersey was lifting the Stanley Cup in 2006, has been acquired from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Patrick Eaves and a fourth-round pick in 2010.
With the move, the Canes bring in the top-four defenseman they were looking for at the expense of a depth forward made expendable by the signings of Tom Kostopoulos and a handful of the team’s in-house free agents. Ward, 36, has one year remaining on his contract at $2.5 million.
Ward is the latest in a large number of players and staff who have returned to Carolina in recent years, joining Erik Cole, Matt Cullen and Head Coach Paul Maurice in the current setup. Cullen originally left the team at the same time Ward did and for the same destination, signing a free-agent contract with the New York Rangers in the summer of 2006.
Most will think back to some harsh words exchanged between Ward and the Hurricanes organization during last year’s playoff series in Boston, during which Ward was punched by Scott Walker. We’ll get more reaction from Ward at a scheduled 3 p.m. press conference today, but early indications are that the defenseman, who has kept his regular home in Raleigh since his initial departure, is thrilled to be back.
Not counting another potential trade involving restricted free agent Anton Babchuk, the Hurricanes roster for 2009-10 should now be intact. With the additions of Kostopoulos, Ward and Andrew Alberts complementing the return of Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, it’s hard to argue that next year’s roster won’t be an improvement over the one that made the Eastern Conference Finals.
The team’s stated goal following that playoff run was to keep the core of the team intact, which it has accomplished and then some. When one factors in the increased organizational depth that comes with players like Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and Jamie McBain turning professional, it’s a solid roster indeed.
More reaction coming soon from Jim Rutherford, and we’ll have video of Ward’s press conference.