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With Alberts, Defense Taking Shape

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes grabbed the bruising defenseman they were looking for on Wednesday, signing 6-foot-5, 218 pound Andrew Alberts to a two-year contract.

Paul Branecky
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A player with a huge body that isn’t afraid to use it, Alberts is exactly the steady, stay-at-home type that the team was hoping to add this offseason. The 28-year-old spent all of last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he led the team in hits, ranked third in blocked shots, posted a +6 plus/minus rating and 61 penalty minutes. For his career, he is a -2 with 292 penalty minutes in 263 games.

“He’s got big range, plays physical and can jump into the top four,” said Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford. He covers a lot of territory in the defensive zone and really plays with that edge.”

Alberts is a continuation of the Hurricanes’ quest to add size and toughness to the lineup. The team signed winger Tom Kostopoulos, another physical type, to a three-year contract one day earlier. Those two have met before, but things will hopefully be more pleasant when they arrive in training camp as teammates in September.

“These are the kinds of players that we were looking for to change our team,” said Rutherford. “This has been a really good couple of days for us.”

The signing crosses another to-do item off the Hurricanes’ summer list, with restricted free agent Tuomo Ruutu yet to be resigned and another defenseman still likely to arrive before the season starts. That defenseman could still be Dennis Seidenberg, who remains on the market as an unrestricted free agent and has resumed negotiations with the team.

However, that need could still be met via trade. Rutherford acknowledged that the addition of Kostopoulos gives the team enough depth to consider moving a forward for a defenseman if the need should arise.

Anton Babchuk is another trade possibility, as the Hurricanes seem resigned to the fact that the restricted free agent will not play for Carolina next season. Rutherford said there has been some interest from his colleagues, but nothing is imminent.

“I had one team call about him 10 days before the draft, but they didn’t want to discuss it at the draft and I have not heard from them since,” said Rutherford.

The two signings over the last two days are likely inching the team closer towards a buyout of Czech blueliner Frantisek Kaberle, which Rutherford said he would consider if the team was able to land another defenseman that better suited their needs on the open market. Alberts seems to be that player.

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