On the opening day of free agency, Carolina Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis
said he’d like to sign an additional depth defenseman.
Two days later, Tim Gleason is back in Raleigh.
The Canes signed the 31-year-old defenseman to a one-year contract worth $1.2 million, solidifying their depth on the blue line.
“We know Tim and we know the kind of player he can be, and he brings an element to our back-end that we felt was necessary,” Francis said, noting Gleason fielded what were likely more lucrative offers from other teams. “He wanted to be back here. He believed in what we were doing and the direction we’re going in.”
“With [Francis] being the new GM and having a new coaching staff, it’s a fresh start for everybody,” Gleason said. “It’s a good opportunity for me. My family loves it there, and there’s not a better place to be and play. I’m excited to be back and have the opportunity to get back at it.”
It’s no secret that Francis has been looking to add size and grit to the organization since ascending to the general manager’s chair. At 6-feet and 217 pounds with a noted edge to his game, Gleason fits that bill.
“I’ve kind of based my career around showing a little sandpaper and bringing some character,” he said. “I think that’s something I can bring and have to bring.”
Gleason, who has played in 491 games with Carolina from 2006 to 2014, also brings an element of character and leadership both on and off the ice.
“I’m not going to change anything that way. I think it’s worked out for me, even with Toronto,” the former Canes alternate captain said. “It’s more or less focusing on my play and playing the way I should be playing and have been playing for a long time except for a little bit here. I’ve got to get back at it. I know my job, and I have to do it consistently, bring it every night and help the team win.”
After being traded to Toronto on New Year’s Day, Gleason skated in 39 games with the Maple Leafs. In the first 17 games, the team posted an 11-5-1 record, including a six-game winning streak in mid-January. Gleason was regularly logging around 20 minutes a night in ice time.
“It was almost refreshing in a way,” Gleason said of playing for a new team for the first time since 2006. “It was a new start for me, and the first couple of months went really well for me. I thought I was back to playing my normal self, my playing time was good and the team was winning.”
“I think he went to Toronto and played extremely well early,” Francis said. “Then the wheels fell off for that whole organization down the stretch.”
Toronto would go 6-14-2 in the last 22 games of the season, missing the playoffs for the eighth time in the last nine years. Gleason’s average playing time dipped to the mid-teens.
“Obviously everyone knows what happened after that,” Gleason said. “At the end of the day, things didn’t work out there. But now I have a chance to start somewhere else again, somewhere we’re familiar with, so I’m excited to be back for sure.”
Gleason, who was a free agent after having the balance of his contract bought out by Toronto, said the decision to return to Carolina was easy when considering his history with the team and area. He also believes the team has the pieces in place to be successful.
“You’ve got a great goalie tandem,” he said. “We’ve got some youth, and we’ve got some veteran leadership, so I think we have a mix of everything. As long as everyone’s healthy, included myself, I think we have a good shot.”
Gleason has yet to speak with new head coach Bill Peters but did have a brief phone conversation with Francis on Wednesday night.
“He welcomed me to the team, and he knows what I can bring,” Gleason said.
Ultimately, Gleason returns to a familiar place that’s different in a lot of ways – and that’s what excites him.
“It’s almost like a new outlook on life type of deal. There’s a clean slate,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for everybody to prove themselves.”