At the press conference before the game last night, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford explained some of the thought process behind the trade which sent Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos to Calgary for Ian White and Brett Sutter. Apparently, White was on the team's radar for some time and the deal itself had been close to being completed for "awhile". Brett Sutter was a part of the discussion even before the incident last week which many thought put him in the Calgary doghouse.
Today the Hurricanes assigned Sutter to Charlotte, meaning he will now have to clear waivers to play for the Checkers. (He was previously assigned to the minors for a two week conditioning stint, which bypassed the waiver process.)
White is on his way to Pittsburgh and will join the team for the match against the Penguins on Friday night.
Tom Kostopoulos will be missed, not so much for his scoring, but for his attitude and team-first mentality. But for a team on a tight budget, his salary, (950K this year, 1.1M next), was a bit high for a fourth liner who had only scored one goal in 17 games. Obviously the Hurricanes figure that the less expensive, Troy Bodie can replace the gritty winger.
The primary player in this deal that the Hurricanes wanted was White, who had played defense for Paul Maurice while both were in Toronto. White is much more responsible and effective in his own end than Babchuk, who seemed dead set on continually trying to play the puck at his blueline, rather than play the body. Time after time opposing wingers would blow by him as he reached out with his stick in vain, resulting in odd man rushes bearing down on Cam Ward.
While Babchuk is a physically bigger player, he played much smaller than his 6'5 frame. White, at 5'11, was credited with 12 hits in 16 games while the former Carolina defenseman was credited with two. (That is two hits in 17 games). White also only had two giveaways as Babchuk was credited with eight during the same time frame.
White uses his body more in tight situations and should help to shore up the backend. Babchuk's forte was his offense and the team might miss that somewhat, but the newly acquired defenseman can also contribute there. This trade should be a win for the Canes, even if White leaves at the end of the year.
At the end of the press conference, Rutherford was asked if there were anymore changes on the horizon and the general manager answered in the affirmative.
"We still have some things to clean up," he said. "We have too many forwards and some decisions need to be made regarding that. We also have a couple of guys doing very well in Charlotte."
It does not seem like there will be big changes on the top three lines though.
"We need to figure out what makes the most sense on the fourth line," said Rutherford.
One likely candidate to be moved soon is Patrick O`Sullivan. This season's newly signed free agent was pretty much called out by his coach before the last game and it didn''t seem like he responded. Maurice said that he was looking for more "intensity" from the forward, yet O'Sullivan played a team low seven minutes and was pretty much a non-factor as he was not credited with any hits, shots, or takeaways.
The skater could be sent to Charlotte, but he would have to clear waivers first. The team might do this anyway if they can't find a trade partner for him. One problem is that O'Sullivan has never been a fourth line type of player and the coaching staff does not seem to want to move him in the top nine. This marriage seems destined for divorce.
The players in Charlotte Rutherford was probably alluding to are Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, and Drayson Bowman. Each of them have done very well. But the same problem remains, none of them are prototype fourth line players. They need to be playing top nine minutes and in top nine situations.
The Canes have some flexibility as Patrick Dwyer could slide down into a fourth line role. Jiri Tlusty, along with Bodie would fill in the line, and that would leave a spot open on Brandon Sutter's line for one of the rookies. Jon Matsumoto could either be a healthy extra or returned to Charlotte.
Jim Rutherford admitted that there was still work to do regarding his forwards. What do you think should be done?