Anton Babchuk is thinking. Jim Rutherford is stewing. The majority of the Caniac Nation is just confused. What's up with Anton, and why won't he accept his "temporary" assignment to Albany with a little class and dignity? Okay, at this point forget the class and dignity, why is he flat out refusing to go? Let's back track a few days and review the events leading up to this point.
Back on Monday when the team re-activated Frank Kaberle off of the injured reserve list, the Canes were officially over the roster limit. Management had to make a choice, someone presently on the team had to go someplace. It's been rumored all over North America that Jim Rutherford was trying to trade one of the team's 10 defensemen, but JR announced on Tuesday that he turned down 2 offers thinking that they were not benefiting the club enough. Since there was no trade, Rutherford's options were limited. His top 6 defensemen are going nowhere. Bret Hedican, Frank Kaberle, Mike Commodore, Niclas Wallin, Glen Wesley, and Tim Gleason will all be on the ice if healthy. After that things get sketchy. Hutchinson has been a healthy scratch lately and is known for his excellence on the power play but deficiencies on defense. Seidenberg is going to be a project. He also seems to have good intuition on offense, uses his body more than the other borderline defensemen, but seems in a daze out there sometimes and has made numerous mistakes. Tanabe has played well lately, but many Caniacs wonder when the shoe will drop with him. It's tough for this blogger to believe that he will be a steady, trustworthy playoff performer. Finally comes Babchuk who is arguably the most valuable asset of them all, but in recent weeks his play has dropped off and he has been scratched as well.
As I have mentioned before in my trade rumor posts, sometimes contract status is more important than how good or bad a player is. This is the case with Anton. If Rutherford were to re-assign Seidenberg, Hutchinson, or Tanabe to Albany, they would have to clear waivers. That means that any team in the league could claim them by just paying what amounts to a small transfer fee. The Canes would get nothing of value in return. Babchuk on the other hand can be sent to Albany without having to clear waivers. He's younger than the other players and still on his entry level contract. So it's a no brainer, right? Send Anton to the minors and continue to work the phones on trade possibilities. But Babchuk threw a monkey wrench in the plans when he never showed up in Albany.
There are some interesting quotes related to yesterday's drama. The first two are from Rutherford, one much more strongly worded than the other. "In his words, he wants to think about it. In our words, Albany has a game in Norfolk tonight and he should be playing. We want him playing, not sitting home and thinking." Later in the day JR toned down his displeasure. "It's really more of an administrative thing with us right now with our numbers with everyone back healthy. Anton is just kind of set back by it because he played very well. He's just taking a couple of days to think about it. But by league rules, this is something we have to do." It sounds like Rutherford is trying not to devalue his trade bait anymore than Babchuk has already devalued himself.
From Anton's camp, his agent Jay Grossman said that Anton didn't feel that he was a minor league player anymore. He feels that he has played well enough to stay or he wants to be traded. Okay, other than false pride, why would Babchuk refuse the assignment? Money is always a factor in cases like this. If Anton stays in the NHL, his salary is $900,000. If he leaves for Albany it's a fraction of that, possibly as little as $50,000 or as high as $90,000. So depending upon how long he stays in Albany he stands to lose as much as 100-200 thousand dollars or even much more if there is no change on the Canes roster by the deadline. But, if he is suspended, I don't think he makes anything. What he might be trying to do is to force Rutherford into making a trade that Rutherford doesn't want to make. He's playing a losing game there though, Rutherford would rather lose money than be manipulated. If his agent would have done a little research, he would have found out that a little Latvian tried a similar approach with JR a few years back, (play me or trade me) and ended up shipped off to the Siberia of American hockey, the ECHL. Babchuk and his agent are playing a game of chicken with the wrong GM because I guarantee you that Rutherford will not blink first in this duel. It will be interesting to see how the drama unfolds. Hopefully, the Canes can get fair market value for Anton, will trade him,and everyone ends up happy. The odds of that happening now though, are not good. We'll keep an eye on developments and will post anything new as soon we hear about it.
In other news, Cam Ward sported a new mask the other night. I have not found a good close up picture of it yet, but here is a description from Sundheim's blog. Cam Ward will debut a new mask this evening. The new lid is pretty sharp, and features a tribute to the state of North Carolina. The Wright brothers plane, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, USS North Carolina battleship and ocean waves adorn the mostly-red mask. Cam's wife's initials, "CWC," are hidden on a wing of the Wright brothers plane, and his grandfather, Frank, is honored on the back of the mask. The back also features the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes secondary logo over it and the words "HAVE FUN," which Cam often writes on his goalie sticks. As soon as I can find a good picture of this, I will post it. I have seen some game action photos, but it's hard to make out anything specific other than the Canes logo on the top. That looks much better than the previous stripes, or "horns", as they appeared to me. I have nothing against Nickelback, but I prefer this new mask.
The Canes are in Boston for a rematch with the Bruins tonight. Can they play 2 decent games in a row? Can they keep in the playoff hunt? Caniacs have many options how to watch the game tonight. The Canes are sponsoring a "Cool Bars" event at the Carolina Ale House in North Raleigh. The game is also on Fox Sports. As a matter of fact, Fox 50 will start something new tonight, a pregame show which starts at 6:30. The show is called "Hurricanes Live" and is supposed to give viewers a more in depth look at the Canes.
I wish I could get an interview with Babchuk. Wouldn't that be interesting? Time to sign off for now. Go Canes!!