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Wesley Heads Back to Carolina

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

(TORONTO) -- The Carolina Hurricanes have signed unrestricted free agent defenceman Glen Wesley to a one-year $2.75-million US contract, beating out the Toronto Maple Leafs among other teams for his services.

The Hurricanes acquired a second-round pick in next year's NHL entry draft in exchange for sending the veteran blue-liner to Toronto in March. Then they got him back for nothing on Tuesday.

"It did work out well,'' Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday from Raleigh, N.C. "He tested the free-agent market for a little while. We had made a one-year offer to him which we stuck to. When he initially rejected that offer, I thought that he was probably going somewhere else.

"But this all came back to us last night, they asked us if we were still interested and the answer was yes and we got it done.''

Wesley, 34, had one goal and 10 assists in 70 games with Carolina and Toronto last season and was particularly effective for the Leafs in their first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia, averaging over 27 minutes of ice time a game.

He made $2.5 million last season.

Wesley is a dependable defensive defenceman who makes good decisions with the puck while also helping the transition game. The Leafs had hoped to get him back, especially after Robert Svehla announced his retirement.

The fact that Wesley had played nine seasons with the Hurricanes franchise appears to have been the deciding factor.

"I don't think there's any question of that,'' Rutherford said. "Because he could have stretched us out longer trying to get his long-term deal. But the fact that no one stepped up in free agency on a long-term deal I think he just wanted to get this settled.

"He's been a big part of the community in Raleigh-Durham and he's been a big part of our team for a long time so we're real glad to have him back.''

The looming labour war in September 2004, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires, played a part in Wesley only getting a one-year deal.

"It doesn't mean we only want Wesley for one year but we just don't know what the future holds after next season,'' Rutherford said.

Rutherford feels the re-acquisition of Wesley solidifies a defence corps that also features newcomer Danny Markov.

"Our blue-line looks really good now, and actually in my opinion better than the one that went to the Cup final,'' Rutherford said. "But that still means we have to get Danny Markov signed.''

Markov, whose rights were acquired from Phoenix for David Tanabe at the NHL draft in Nashville earlier this month, is contemplating playing in Russia next season.

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