The Carolina Hurricanes are shopping for an experienced, physical, top four defenseman. But who? Jim Rutherford has indicated that the club's intent is to trade a forward, (or maybe more), for the needed player. There has been a lot of conjecture and postulating about who the new defenseman might be and who the Canes might offer up for his services.
Of course, Cory and I have our opinions about this as well:
Would Jim Rutherford bring back yet another Carolina alum for one more go-round with the Hurricanes? Of course he would. Everyone knows that the Carolina GM loves to bring back familiar faces to the organization if the situation warrants it. That time could be approaching once again. Here is a proposed deal that might make sense for both teams.
Aaron Ward, (one year at 2.5 million), to the Hurricanes for Patrick Eaves, (two years at 1.4 and 1.7 million) and a third or later round draft choice.
The deal makes sense for Boston because they have a serious salary cap problem, (presently 58 million?). They are probably losing a valuable forward in Phil Kessel and will need another body to take his place. Eaves has a pretty reasonable salary and might fit in well with the group. He has played with success at Boston College and would probably be an immediate hit with fans. The Canes throw in a draft pick because Eaves is slightly overpaid for his past results. The Bruins would get a serviceable player, a draft pick, and save some money.
The deal makes sense for the Canes because Aaron Ward brings a physical edge that the team needs. He played top four minutes with Boston last year down the stretch and did well. His contract, (2.5 million) would be close to what the team has allocated and it is only for one year, not tying the Canes down to a long term deal. He is familiar with the players and still lives in the area. Patty Eaves is expendable now that the team has signed Tom Kostopoulos.
GM Jim Rutherford has openly discussed the need to acquire a top-four defenseman whose physicality could complement Joni Pitkanen in a big-minute role. Players like this aren't easy to come by. Colorado and San Jose both have a glut of high-paid blueliners, some who match Carolina's needs. But if I were to slip into Rutherford's shoes for a day, it would be a different Western Conference team I'd have on my speed dial: the Calgary Flames.
But don't start the Neon Dion chants just yet, because I'd have my sights set on a cheaper — and more reliable — option. With Jay Bouwmeester and Phaneuf set to earn, on average, more than $6 million a year apiece until the end of the 2013-14 season, that opens the door for the acquisition of 29-year-old Robyn Regehr.
Why would Regehr be attractive to the Canes? Well, there are several reasons. First off, no one fits the bill of what Rutherford is looking for better than Regehr. He's a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman who will punish the opposition and infuse more leadership into the locker room. Secondly, his price tag is reasonable: $3.5 million this season, the second year of a five-year pact. After that, he earns $4 million a year through 2012-13. Having the lowest salary hit this year is a plus. Also, the defensive trio of Joe Corvo, Nic Wallin and, if he's not bought out this offseason, Frank Kaberle will take $6.675 million off the ledger for 2010-11. Ray Whitney ($3.55 million), Matt Cullen ($2.8 million) and Scott Walker ($2.5 million) will also all have their current deals expire, plus Tim Conboy's $500,000 will come off the books. With cheaper options available for most courtesy the team's improved drafting in recent years, Regehr's $4 million won't seem like that big a cost with more than $16 million available to spend due to those expiring contracts. Even if the team re-signed Corvo and Whitney for a total of around $5-6 million, there would still be around $6 million to spend on patching holes not filled by the Albany crew.
It's true, Regehr will never light up the scoresheet — his career-high point total is 26 in 2005-06, with just eight assists last year — but he's been sufficiently durable in his career, playing an average of 74 games over his nine-year stay in Calgary, including 75, 82 and 78 the past three seasons. And he's, plainly put, a bear to play against. He would be a fantastic mentor to like-minded Tim Gleason, and at 29 would not be over the hill during the course of his contract.
Why would the Flames like to ship out Regehr? Well, they probably don't want to, but the team's cap situation was so dire last season that they didn't have the room to even dress enough players when injuries struck. With Bouwmeester and Phaneuf earning so much money and eating up minutes, having Regehr on the payroll is not a necessity. Cory Sarich also makes $10.7 million over the next three seasons, and Mark Giordano, Adam Pardy and John Negrin could all play in the bottom three this year if needed, seeing that the top two blueliners will be on the ice 30 minutes each every night.
Finally, Carolina has a great cookie to dangle to the Flames: Brandon Sutter. Is it too early to send Sutter packing? Well, don't think of it as giving up on Sutter, but rather exchanging value for value. Sutter will never evolve into a top-line, scoring pivot, and with Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe and Philippe Paradis — among others — in the system, losing Sutter wouldn't cripple the organization's front-line depth. GM Darryl Sutter has already shown how much he values family by hiring brother Brent — Brandon's father — to coach in Calgary. Adding Brandon would not only tempt Darryl, but his entry-level contract would help alleviate some of the Flames' cap woes. Throw in either Patrick Eaves or Anton Babchuk — who could take a top-six role in Calgary at a discount to Regehr's contract — and you may have a deal worth doing for both sides.
Final deal: Brandon Sutter ($875K for each of the next two seasons) and Patrick Eaves ($1.4 million this year, $1.7 million in 2010-11) or Anton Babchuk (RFA, seeking $1.5-2 million per season) and a third-round pick for Robyn Regehr (earns $3.5 million this season, $4 million each of the three following seasons).