While Tim Gleason, Joe Corvo and newcomer Joni Pitkanen are entrenched in the Hurricanes defensive corps, there remains a good deal of uncertainty about who will round out the top six..
There are certainly enough bodies to fill the rest of the unit - too many, actually.
Anton Babchuk, Frank Kaberle, Josef Melichar, Dennis Seidenberg and Niclas Wallin are all on one-way contracts, meaning they can’t be reassigned to Albany without clearing waivers first. Even if they did, the Canes would be on the hook for their full NHL salaries – not exactly good value.
With those five defensemen for only four spots (David Tanabe, still dealing with post-concussion symptoms and on a two-way deal, is excluded), General Manager Jim Rutherford says he wants to trade one of them and save some salary in the process.
”I’d like to move one defenseman more from a budgetary point of view than anything,” he said. “We have one more than we actually need.”
He expects that will happen, but probably not until training camps begin around the league in a few weeks.
“Right now on the trade front things are kind of slow,” said Rutherford. “I think that anytime from now until the start of the season more teams will move players around. There’s a couple of teams that have to spend more money to get up to the floor and there’s some teams that need to shed some money because they’re over the cap There will be quite a bit of movement in the league here in the next six weeks.”
If dumping salary is Rutherford’s main objective, Kaberle makes the most money outside of the top three with a cap hit of $2.2 million for the next two seasons, according to nhlnumbers.com, an unofficial yet great resource for this type of thing. Until recently the Canes best offensive defenseman, the arrival of Corvo, Pitkanen and to a lesser extent Babchuk could also make him expendable.
Next is Wallin with a cap hit of $1.7 million, but he’s refused to waive his no-trade clause in the past. After that, none of the aforementioned blueliners make over $1.2 million.
Atlanta, Los Angeles and Phoenix are the three teams currently under the minimum payroll of $40.7 million, again according to nhlnumbers.com. Any of those teams could probably find use for whatever it is the Canes would offer them.
As far as which defenseman will play where among the Canes eventual top six or seven, Rutherford suggested Gleason and Pitkanen will play together on the top pairing, and the number four defenseman would likely be determined by who fits best with Corvo on the second pairing – probably a stay-at-home type to counteract his offensive skills.
”You have Joe playing his style, and then we want someone there that complements him,” said Rutherford. “Will Nicky Wallin go there? Will Melichar go there? Will Seidenberg go there? That’s really up for grabs. But there are guys who are capable of jumping in there.”