RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -The Carolina Hurricanes have traded forward Erik Cole to the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
The deal was one of a series of moves Carolina made Tuesday, the first day of the NHL's free agency period. The Hurricanes picked up a young, offensive-minded defenseman they've long coveted in exchange for their top-line right wing, the third-leading goal-scorer in franchise history.
The 29-year-old Cole had 22 goals and 29 assists in his seventh season with the Hurricanes and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup two years ago, becoming one of the team's most popular players after he returned from a broken neck to skate in Game 6 of the Cup finals. He is entering the final year of a contract that pays him $4 million per season.
The 24-year-old Pitkanen had eight goals and 18 assists in his only season with Edmonton, ranking second among the team's defensemen in scoring after he was picked up in a trade last summer with Philadelphia. He is a restricted free agent who made $2.4 million in 2007-08.
The Hurricanes made upgrading their defense a priority this offseason after they learned two veterans would not return. Glen Wesley retired after 20 NHL seasons and Bret Hedican told the team he would not be back for a seventh season.
The trade was part of a busy Tuesday for both teams. The Oilers also acquired center Gilbert Brule from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Raffi Torres.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes agreed to a deal that will bring back defenseman Anton Babchuk for one year at $1 million. They also reached deals with three of their own free agents: forwards Ryan Bayda and Wade Brookbank, and defenseman Tim Conboy.
Carolina had acquired Babchuk during the 2005-06 season and he split time the following year with the Hurricanes and Albany, the club's American Hockey League affiliate. Last season, the 24-year-old had nine goals and 17 assists in 57 games with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Superliga.
Bayda and Brookbank, both unrestricted free agents, agreed to one-year deals worth $475,000 in 2008-09. Conboy, a restricted free agent, signed a two-year contract that this season will pay him $475,000 at the NHL level or $100,000 if he is sent to the minors, and $500,000 at the NHL level in 2009-10.