The Carolina Hurricanes and general manager Jim Rutherford have known that they needed some defensive help.
They might just have found it in a very well-advised trade today with the Calgary Flames.
Both teams have struggled as of late. The 'Canes have been outscored by a combined score of 15-3 over their last two games and have given up 60 goals on the year, tied for second-most among all Eastern Conference teams. Meanwhile, Calgary has lost six of their last seven games and have quickly fallen nine points behind Northwest Division-leading Vancouver.
However, the trade, in which the Flames sent defenseman Ian White and left winger Brett Sutter to Carolina in exchange for defenseman Anton Babchuk and right winger Tom Kostopoulos, might have positive outcomes for both teams.
Carolina will get a major defensive boost with White. The 26-year-old played three seasons with Toronto going into last year, scoring 73 points with a plus-five rating, fairly good for a bottom-feeder team like the Leafs. After putting up 26 points and a plus-one rating in 56 games last season for Toronto, he was traded to the Flames in a major trade deadline deal that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Maple Leafs.
White was equally impressive in Calgary, scoring 12 points with a plus-seven rating in 27 games to close out the season with the Flames, who barely missed out on the playoffs. However, partially due to his struggles in his first 16 games this year (two goals, four assists, minus-10 rating), he's now headed to Carolina to hopefully take over a role as a top-four defenseman.
Also headed to the Hurricanes organization is Brent Sutter, who is leaving his father Darryl Sutter, GM of the Flames and ironically the person who traded him, but joining his cousin Brandon Sutter, who currently plays on the second line for the 'Canes.
Brett Sutter will come to Carolina still in the system. He has played just four games this season and 14 in his career at the NHL level, where he has one goal, one assist, 12 penalty minutes, and a minus-four rating. He did have 24 points in 66 games for AHL Abbotsford last season.
The 23-year-old is actually over two years older than cousin Brandon, but Brandon has already played a full NHL season, putting up 21 goals and 40 points in 71 games last year for Carolina with only two penalty minutes. Brett will be joining two other Bretts in AHL Charlotte—Brett Carson, who was recalled to fill Babchuk's role tonight, and Brett Bellemore—and should be among the top players there.
On the other hand, Calgary also received what they need. The Flames will earn around $0.9 million in cap space (according to Cap Geek) with the deal, a much-needed move considering they were over $5.5 million over the salary cap before the deal.
Additionally they will receive two experienced NHLers to add to the roster. Babchuk, the bigger acquisition, is only 25 and has already found his blue-line scoring touch.
The Russian had 16 goals, 19 assists and a plus-13 rating in 2008-2009 for Carolina, including nine power-play scores, but then left for a year in the KHL. This season he has just three goals and five assists and a minus-four rating, including a miserable minus-seven in his past five games. He should fit right in in Calgary's varied defensive unit.
Kostopoulos, the only veteran player in the trade at age 31, can also become a reliable fourth-line winger for the Flames. He's never scored more than nine goals or 22 points in a single season, but the gritty forward is certainly not afraid to stand up for teammates and has seemingly become more consistent as the years go by, playing his first full season last year.
In addition to the 82 games played, Kostopoulos added eight goals, 13 assists, a team-leading plus-four rating and 106 PIM for Carolina. With the trade, he will continue his streak of never playing more than 152 games with a single franchise before departing. This is his seventh full season and his fifth team; he was previously with Carolina, Montreal, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
While none of the four exchanged players will play in Carolina's game against Ottawa or Calgary's game against Phoenix tonight, they should make their debuts with their new teams Friday night as the 'Canes play the 'Pens and the Flames take on the 'Hawks—notably the past two Stanley Cup Champions.
Looking deeper, the deal seems to be a good move by both GMs for each of their respective struggling teams. While it's fairly even from a neutral fan's standpoint, there's no reason for fans of either team to feel at all disappointed with the outcome.
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes . In his two years so far with the site, he has written over 235 articles and received over 214,000 total reads.
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