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With Yelle, Canes Loaded at Center

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes bolstered their depth at center today with the signing of veteran Stephane Yelle, most recently of the Boston Bruins, to a one-year contract.

Paul Branecky
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The 35-year-old Yelle, who is expected to fill a checking line role with the team, brings a number of important intangibles with him to Carolina. He won two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001 and served as an alternate captain at times in his only season with the Bruins last year, giving him plenty of experience and leadership.  

“He knows how to win and he knows his place on the team,” said Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford, who consulted with Aaron Ward, a teammate of Yelle’s in Boston last season, before making the move. “We’re really excited about this signing, which gives us a lot more depth to our forwards.”

The move, which Rutherford believes to be his final signing of the offseason, gives the Hurricanes four solid centers along with Rod Brind’Amour, Matt Cullen and Eric Staal. Additionally, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu can also play there if needed, and first-round pick Brandon Sutter will be just a phone call away in the American Hockey League.

All that amounts to a ton of depth at one of the most important positions in which a team could ask to have it.

“When you look at our team going into last season with where were at center-ice wise, we have so much more depth and experience there now,” said Rutherford.

That includes Brind’Amour, whose exact role may not be determined until training camp, but whom Rutherford thinks can still have a big season.

”Rod Brind’Amour is still a good player,” said Rutherford. “He may be the second-line center. I think with the 12 forwards that we have now, it gives our coaching staff a lot of flexibility over the course of a very long season. I expect and I believe Rod Brind’Amour will play a big role on this team next season.”

The move, if indeed it is the last, caps a busy summer for the Hurricanes, who have signed Yelle, Andrew Alberts and Tom Kostopoulos in addition to bringing back most of their own free agents and trading for Aaron Ward.

Those moves ended up costing a little bit more money than the team had anticipated, but adjustments were made in order to accommodate the formation of what could be a contender in the coming year.

“We’ve moved way up on the cap, higher than we’ve ever been, but we’re also a team that won the Cup a couple of years ago and went to the conference finals last year,” said Rutherford. “Our organization believes that we’ve got a chance to win again.”

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