Gleason's Olympic dream a reality

Wallin trade imminent

Staff writerFebruary 5, 2010 

— While it was a day of exhilaration and celebration for one Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, for another Thursday proved to be a bit suspenseful.

The Canes' Tim Gleason was happy to learn Thursday that he had been selected as a replacement player for Team USA and will compete in the Vancouver Olympics later this month. That will give the Hurricanes four players in the Winter Games - Gleason, Eric Staal of Team Canada, and Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen on Finland's national team.

"It's an awesome thing," Gleason said. "It's something you play for, I guess, other than the Stanley Cup.

"It's always been a goal of mine, a dream of mine and it's finally come true. It's a great opportunity."

Gleason, 27, was named to replace defenseman Mike Komisarek of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who faces season-ending shoulder surgery. Team USA also announced that defenseman Ryan Whitney of the Anaheim Ducks would step in for injured Paul Martin of the New Jersey Devils.

While Gleason got the good news Thursday, defenseman Niclas Wallin spent what may have been his last day with the Hurricanes. General manager Jim Rutherford said a trade involving Wallin likely would be finalized by today as the Hurricanes - well out of the playoff chase and in position to be a "seller" before the NHL's March 3 trade deadline - look to deal some of their veteran players who will be unrestricted free agents after the season.

"We have a pending trade for him," Rutherford said Thursday evening after the team arrived in Buffalo. "He has a no-trade [clause in his contract]. He has to waive that, and I think at this point in time his agent is working through some things with the other team."

Wallin, 34, was a healthy scratch Wednesday in Calgary as the Canes dropped their second straight road game, losing 4-1 to the Flames. Media reports based on unnamed sources had Wallin going to the San Jose Sharks, although Rutherford would not confirm that the trade will be with the Sharks.

Wallin traveled with the Canes to Buffalo and had dinner Thursday night with some of his teammates. Carolina faces the Buffalo Sabres tonight at HSBC Arena.

Rutherford said it would not be easy to part with Wallin, a steady player who is popular with his teammates. Wallin has his name on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Canes' 2006 championship, and he helped the franchise reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2002 and the Eastern Conference finals last season.

"You get attached to these guys, especially the guys who were with us when we won the Cup," Rutherford said. "And in Nic's case, we drafted him [in 2000]. He's been here his whole career. He's such a great guy.

"But at the same time, with the direction we're going to go with our team, he may or may not have been part of that. We have a chance now to get a good, young asset, and that's what we're going to do."

Rutherford said it was hard to say what other trades, if any, would be made before the Olympic break. Many teams, he said, were watching to see how the situation involving forward Ilya Kovalchuk was resolved by the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers sent Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

"Once those teams find out they're not getting him, they're going to turn to other possibilities," Rutherford said.

One player who will not be a part of any trade talks is Gleason. His toughness and ability to match up against the league's best forwards make him invaluable to the Canes and were the traits Team USA sought in selecting him.

"I think he's a guy who will go to war for us and give us exactly what this team needs," said David Poile, associate general manager for Team USA.

Gleason played on U.S. teams in the World Junior Championships in 2001 and 2003. He was on the U.S. team at the 2008 IIHF World Championships. Now, he's an Olympian.

"I'm going to take it for all it's worth and play my heart out," he said. "I don't know any other way."

Notes: The Canes on Thursday reassigned forward Jiri Tlusty to the Albany River Rats of the AHL.

Defenseman Andrew Alberts, who suffered an upper-body injury against Calgary, should play tonight, coach Paul Maurice said.

Ruutu, out with an upper-body injury, may return Saturday against the New York Islanders, Rutherford said.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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