The Carolina Hurricanes made a flurry of minor moves Sunday, upgrading their goaltending depth and adding grit to the fourth line.
GM Jim Rutherford traded (per TSN's Bob McKenzie) veteran goaltender Brian Boucher, last year's backup to franchise cornerstone Cam Ward, and defensive prospect Mark Alt to the Philadelphia Flyers for minor league forward Luke Pither.
A second-round pick of the Hurricanes in 2010, Alt has struggled this year with the University of Minnesota, scoring only three points in 21 games. At 6'4", 201 pounds, he's the main reason the Flyers made this deal.
Pither is completing his third season bouncing between the AHL and ECHL minor leagues. The 23-year-old, formerly undrafted center will add depth to a banged-up Charlotte Checkers roster.
Boucher, 36, had a terrible campaign for the 'Canes last season, missing several chunks to injury and going 1-6-1 with a .881 save percentage and 3.41 GAA. His removal cleared the backup spot and cap space for a new veteran backup.
“Dan [Ellis] is an experienced netminder who has had good years in the NHL, and played well for Charlotte this season. We feel it is important to have a veteran goalie to partner with Cam [Ward] during the compressed season.”
The 6'1", 192-pound goalie was 8-7-2 with a 2.46 GAA and .922 save percentage for Charlotte and stopped 28 of 29 shots during the Checkers' 3-1 win at Raleigh's PNC Arena earlier in January.
He'll give Ward, who has received little backup support throughout his NHL career, a much-needed safety net and add some journeyman experience to the 'Canes' young roster.
The 'Canes also tacked on a physical fighting presence to their fourth line with the acquisition of former Los Angeles King (and Stanley Cup winner) Kevin Westgarth in exchange for Anthony Stewart, a 2013 fourth-round pick and a 2014 sixth-round selection. Per Rutherford (via the team's website):
“We were looking for a character, team guy who can play a gritty role for our team. Kevin [Westgarth] is a good addition to fill that spot.”
The goods going the other way seem a bit extensive for a 28-year-old with five career NHL points. However, Westgarth will certainly help keep the 'Canes well-muscled for any scraps that come along.
In 81 games for the Kings over the last two seasons, Westgarth scored just one goal and four assists, but also compiled 90 hits and 18 five-minute majors—more than twice the total of any Hurricane during that time span. Per Chip Alexander of The News & Observer:
"Talked with Westgarth often at RCI during the lockout about CBA negotiations. Sharp guy. Canes fans will like him."
The 6'4", 228-pound winger is married to Meagan Cowher, daughter of former NFL coach and Raleigh resident Bill Cowher, and practiced with the 'Canes during the lockout. He was one of the most actively involved players in the fall's CBA negotiations as well.
Stewart, on the other hand, scored nine goals and 20 points in 77 games for Carolina last season and now joins his fourth franchise in as many years.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 450 articles and received over 810,000 reads.