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Aaron Ward returns to Hurricanes

by John McGourty
Yes, you can go home again.

The Carolina Hurricanes re-acquired veteran defenseman Aaron Ward, a key member of the 2006 Stanley Cup championship team, from the Boston Bruins on Friday in exchange for right winger Patrick Eaves and a fourth-round pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.

The Bruins then put Eaves on waivers for the purpose of buying him out.

"With this trade, our defense really takes shape," Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said. "Aaron played very well during his time in Carolina and had maintained that consistency with New York and Boston. We envision him complementing Joni Pitkanen well as a defensive pairing."

Ward, 36, has played 14 NHL seasons and has 43 goals and 95 assists in 762 NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, Rangers, Bruins and Hurricanes. He won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. In his first season with Carolina, in 2001-02, Ward helped the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in five games to Detroit.

The Winnipeg Jets made Ward the fifth pick of the 1991 Entry Draft. He then spent three seasons at the University of Michigan, majoring in communications. Not surprisingly, he's one of the best-spoken players in the NHL and a natural leader. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Ward is a rugged defender and a good skater with excellent puck-moving skills.

Sadly, this may be the end for Eaves, a once highly promising player who has suffered serious head and shoulder injuries. Eaves starred at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep and the United States National Development Program before playing three seasons at Boston College. He was the Hockey East player of the year in 2005 and played only 18 AHL games before being promoted to the Ottawa Senators, who took him with the 29th selection in the 2004 Draft.

Eaves had 20 goals and 29 points as a rookie for Ottawa and then posted career highs with 18 assists and 32 points in his sophomore season. But in the playoffs, Eaves took a crushing hit from Colby Armstrong in Game 3 of the first-round series between Ottawa and Pittsburgh and suffered a concussion.

He sustained a bad shoulder injury early in the 2007-08 season and missed most of the year, playing in only 26 games before Ottawa traded him on Feb. 11, 2008, to the Hurricanes with Joe Corvo for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. Eaves had 6 goals and 8 assists in 74 games last season. He missed games in November, January and April with upper-body injuries.

Eaves is the son of University of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. His brother, Ben, also played at Boston College, where he led Hockey East in scoring in 2003. But Ben Eaves suffered a major head injury the next season. Although he returned to play for BC, he was never the same and retired in 2006 after two minor-league seasons in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Ben Eaves returned to play two seasons for the Espoo Blues in Finland.

The Hurricanes appear to be well-stocked at defense, listing on their roster Pitkanen, Corvo, Anton Babchuk, Tim Gleason, Niclas Wallin, Frantisek Kaberle, Andrew Alberts and Jay Harrison, although Kaberle was benched during last year's playoffs for several games.

Brett Carson, Bryan Rodney and Casey Borer were all promoted from AHL Albany last season for a few games and will compete for jobs at training camp, as will Jamie McBain, the WCHA Player of the Year last season at Wisconsin.

For Boston, the trade might have been anticipated because the Bruins have three minor-league defensemen who will compete for an NHL job this September at training camp, Johnny Boychuk, Jeff Penner and Adam McQuaid.

Boychuk, 25, was named the AHL Defenseman of the Year (Eddie Shore Award) after leading AHL defensemen in scoring with 20 goals and 63 points in 73 games. He was held pointless in one game with the Bruins. Boychuk was the Colorado Avalanche's second-round pick, No. 61 in the 2002 Entry Draft. He played four games for the Avalanche late in the 2007-08 season.

Boychuk added three goals and eight points in 16 Calder Cup Playoff games this past spring.

Penner, 22, and a cousin of Edmonton Oilers forward Dustin Penner, is younger with the same skill set Boychuk exhibited last season. He's been a winner and an All-Star everywhere he has been. He played Junior B hockey in his native Manitoba and was an All-Star, then spent one year with University of Alaska-Anchorage where he finished second among defenseman in scoring.

Penner had 10 goals and 28 points during the regular season and really came up big in the playoffs with five goals and 11 points in 16 games.

McQuaid is a stay-at-home defenseman and a fairly big one at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. He had four goals and 11 assists last season, with 141 penalty minutes. McQuaid was Mark Staal's defensive partner with the Sudbury Wolves and has two years professional experience under his belt. He's a banger, but the Bruins have a similarly sized one in Mark Stuart, so McQuaid is likely to spend another year in Providence.

In a conference call, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli indicated that the team might be in the market for an NHL veteran defenseman, but will also give the Providence defenders every opportunity to make the Boston roster. He said everyone will start even at training camp.

"(Boychuk) is listed on the Bruins' roster solely because we gave him a one-way contract," Chiarelli said. "But we are going to give everyone a chance. (Penner and McQuaid) really did come on at the end of last season. One, McQuaid, is a strength guy and then you have a puck mover in Penner. You will see those guys in the League at some point."

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