A week ago, Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford had a specific set of goals: draft an elite player and acquire a top-four defenseman.
He ended up doing that – and more.
After selecting forward Elias Lindholm fifth overall and trading for defenseman Andrej Sekera last Saturday in Newark, NJ, the Hurricanes made two moves on the first day of free agency, signing defenseman Mike Komisarek and goaltender Anton Khudobin to one-year deals.
“We had hoped to get an elite player in the draft, which I feel we did in Lindholm. We also got a top-four defenseman in Sekera,” Rutherford said. “And now, we got Komisarek and a real strong back-up goalie. Within a week, I feel pretty good that the Hurricanes have improved their team.”
Even after acquiring Sekera at the 2013 NHL Draft, Rutherford said that he might not be done tinkering with the defense.
He was right, as the Canes inked Komisarek, a veteran American-born blueliner, to a one-year, $700,000 deal in the first 30 minutes of free agency on Friday.
“This is an important piece to our defense group,” Rutherford said. “We’re very pleased to add him to give us a more balanced defense.”
Komisarek joins draft-day addition Sekera as the two new faces among the Hurricanes’ defensive corps. Sekera will likely skate in the top four of the defense, while Rutherford said Komisarek should pair with Jay Harrison as the five-six tandem.
In 519 career regular-season NHL games, Komisarek has recorded 665 penalty minutes and 77 points (14g, 63a). He’s logged 29 career playoff games, all with the Montreal Canadiens.
“Based on our background check, he’s in great shape,” Rutherford said of the 31-year-old defenseman. “He’s really good with younger players, and he will help our locker room.”
The team’s second move of the day came about three hours later. After Dan Ellis signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars, the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the Hurricanes agreed to terms with Khudobin on a one-year, $800,000 contract.
Khudobin, 27, posted a 9-4-1 record, one shutout, a .920 save percentage and a 2.32 goals-against average with the Boston Bruins in 2012-13.
“He played on a very good team with the Bruins, and he had great numbers,” Rutherford said. “We have a scout right in Boston that saw a lot of him. He started talking about him midway through the season.
“He played extremely well, and we feel that he can do that for us.”
In addition to what the scout noted, the Hurricanes can mine data from when Khudobin backstopped the Florida Everbaldes, the organization’s ECHL affiliate, in 2008-09. That season, the Russian-born goaltender posted an 18-10-1 record with four shutouts, a .907 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average.
Bringing Khudobin into the fold, Justin Peters will likely see a majority of his playing time in Charlotte. Peters is on a one-way deal in the second year of his two-year contract, but Rutherford is not looking to move him.
“Peters has given us some good games and taken some time to develop, and he’ll still get some games next year,” he said.
Though perhaps more low-key compared to others, the Komisarek and Khudobin signings – both low-risk, high-reward – were equally important in addressing the identified shortcomings of the Hurricanes.
That's not to say the Canes’ roster is set for training camp. In late July of 2012, the team signed Alexander Semin, who inked a five-year extension this March.
A forward who comes along at the right price, Rutherford said, is always worth the consideration. That said, with the addition of a probable third-line center in Lindholm and the influx of talent from Charlotte vying for depth positions, the door on signing another forward or bringing back Tim Brent or Chad LaRose is closing quickly.
“As far as we’re concerned, today went as we hoped it would go,” Rutherford said.
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