The Carolina Hurricanes made a surprising move Monday, removing veteran Tim Gleason from the trade deadline rumor mill by inking him to a four-year extension worth $16 million. The signing sets the groundwork for several dominoes and answers some burning questions about the course GM Jim Rutherford and the team plan to take.
1. Rutherford Likes The Room: By re-signing Gleason, Rutherford solidified his leadership core. Both captain Eric Staal and Gleason, an alternate, are now signed through 2015-16, while Brandon Sutter — who wear the second "A" — will be a restricted free agent in 2014-15. With his three captains in the fold for the foreseeable future, Rutherford has indicated that leadership is not an issue in the Carolina dressing room.
2. Re-Signing Gleason Increases Value Elsewhere: There's no denying that trading Gleason would have brought the most return of any Carolina defenseman at the trade deadline. But by taking him off the market, Rutherford pulled one of the big names off the "available" pile and moved other names up the list. One of those names? Bryan Allen. Yes, Allen has a no-trade clause, but he is one of the bigger-named, rugged defenseman with an expiring contracts among teams that look like sellers as we enter February. By taking Gleason off the market, Allen becomes that much more coveted. The Canes won't get the return they would have gotten for Gleason, but they may have upped Allen's value a notch and kept a key player in the fold.
3. Either The Defense Is Set For The Future, Or A Big Change Is Coming: Keeping Gleason all but ensures that Allen and Jaroslav Spacek will not be back next season. Justin Faulk has two more years left on his entry-level deal, and Jay Harrison's bargain $700,000-per-year contract goes through next season. First-round pick Ryan Murphy could be ready as soon as next year, and Boston College's Brian Dumoulin will likely forgo his senior season and turn pro after this season. Jamie McBain is an RFA after this season, and Joni Pitkanen is in the first year of a three-year extension signed this offseason. So things seem set — unless Rutherford has decided that his offense-heavy D can do without Pitkanen, McBain ... or both. With Derek Joslin signed for another year and Checkers blueliner Bobby Sanguinetti playing the best hockey of his career right now, would Rutherford consider parting with Pitkanen and/or McBain if it meant getting back a top-flight winger or freeing up money to do so this summer? TSN's Darren Dreger thinks it could happen.
4. Carolina Continues To Be Family Friendly: Gleason told the N&O's Chip Alexander that if it had just been him heading into free agency, he would have had a "whatever" attitude about where he landed. But when you're deciding for four — Gleason and his wife are expecting their second child, plus he has a step-daughter — off-the-ice considerations play a big part. And for the umpteenth time, the Triangle has again proven itself as a place people want to raise their children. Former Canes Ron Francis, Rod Brind'Amour, Glen Wesley, Aaron Ward, Jesse Boulerice and others have made the Triangle home after their playing days. The Triangle doesn't have the hockey history of Montreal or the big city glamour of New York City, but it has beautiful weather, the whole beach and mountains thing, and is a great place to settle down.
5. Playoffs Are A Priority: Anyone who watches the Hurricanes knows Gleason hasn't played his best hockey the past season and a half, but the uncertainty of his future is in the rear view mirror and that should allow him to focus strictly on what happens on the ice. But this signing also indicates that Rutherford realizes what Gleason can bring come the postseason. Giving Gleason $4 million a year indicates, to me, that Rutherford is planning not just to make the playoffs, but succeed there — even if it means spending a little extra to keep a player he knows can rise to the occasion.