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Trade Will Help "Stabilize" Defense

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Paul Branecky
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The Hurricanes made a significant move to upgrade their defense on Wednesday, acquiring Ian White from Calgary in a four-player trade.

Carolina sent defenseman Anton Babchuk and forward Tom Kostopoulos in the other direction, and also received center Brett Sutter, cousin of Hurricanes center Brandon, as part of the deal. Neither White nor Sutter, who is on the Canes roster but will begin a conditioning stint in Charlotte, will be available for Wednesday night’s game against Ottawa.

Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford said that he had been pursuing White since the start of the season, but talks did not heat up until Calgary signed defenseman Mark Giordano to a long-term contract extension. He also said that watching his team lose its last two games by a combined score of 15-3 played a factor in the timing.

“Darned right,” said Rutherford. “It’s been on my mind and I would have done it anyway, but the sooner the better. I don’t like the way these last two games went.”

In White, the Hurricanes believe they’re getting a complete defenseman that can play against the opposition’s most dangerous scorers and also move the puck well enough to post points. He had a career high of 38 points with Toronto and Calgary last season, and has 6 in 16 games this season.

“(He’s) a good puck-moving defenseman, all-around a pretty competitive guy that takes bigger minutes now than he ever has,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, who worked with White during their time in the Toronto organization. “I think we look at him as a guy that might fit real well with Joni Pitkanen or Tim Gleason, and he’s played with Jay Harrison before. He’s going to be able to play with anyone in our group and maybe settle us a little bit back there and move the puck well.”

In Brett Sutter, the Hurricanes acquire a player who recently ran into a bit of off-ice trouble in the form of an assault arrest following an incident at an Arizona bar, but Rutherford is convinced it was nothing more than an isolated incident. Rutherford said that Sutter, who is the son of Calgary GM Daryl Sutter and the nephew of coach Brent Sutter, was part of the proposed deal all along.

If Brett Sutter’s listing of 6-0 and 200 pounds is accurate, he’s every bit as stocky as Brandon Sutter is lanky. Rutherford said that he would make a decision on how to handle the 23-year-old, who has played 18 NHL games over the last three seasons, following his conditioning stint.

In trading Kostopoulos, a move both Maurice and Rutherford said was difficult due to the player’s high level of character, an additional spot at forward will now be open for a young player like Brett Sutter.

“I think when you get to the point that we had made the decision that we were going to be a young team this year and going forward, whether it’s the player that we picked up yesterday in (Troy) Bodie or (Zac) Dalpe or (Drayson) Bowman or some of these guys, we’d like to get them to play a little bit more.”

Maurice acknowledged that Babchuk experienced his ups and down during his sometimes tumultuous tenure in Carolina that featured two separate defections to the Russian league.

“Anton had some real good hockey here for us and some times where the game wasn’t easy for him,” he said.

Contractually, the Hurricanes pick up a small amount of salary this year, but could be in line to save some next season. Of the four players traded Wednesday, only Kostopoulos is under contract for 2011-12 at $1.1 million. White makes $3 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent, while Sutter makes the league minimum of $500,000 and will be a restricted free agent. Babchuk will be unrestricted for the first time in his career this summer.

“It helps us a little bit contract-wise the following year,” said Rutherford.

With the Hurricanes temporarily down a defenseman due to the trade, Brett Carson has been recalled from Charlotte and will play against Ottawa. Jiri Tlusty, who was schedule to sit out as a healthy scratch, will take Kostopoulos’ place in the lineup, with Troy Bodie serving as a healthy scratch.

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