Babchuk is back

Russian returns to Canes with a one-year deal

Staff writerJuly 2, 2010 

As expected, the Carolina Hurricanes signed defenseman Anton Babchuk to a one-year deal shortly after the free-agency signing period opened Thursday.

The Hurricanes retained Babchuk's rights after last season when the two sides couldn't agree on terms. Babchuk, 26, spent the season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

The Hurricanes had made him a qualifying offer at the end of last season, but Babchuk had lost his arbitration rights when he left to play in Russia for the 2007-08 season, and so he went back to Russia.

Babchuk had a career year with the Hurricanes during his last season (2008-09) with the team, scoring 16 goals -- including four game-winners -- and 19 assists.

"I will admit that we missed him," Rutherford said Thursday. "I said at the time, it's going to be hard to replace those 16 goals. We didn't."

Babchuk will make $1.4 million this season. This past season, he played in 49 games with Avangard Omsk, where he scored 9 goals and 22 points and was a plus-17. The Kiev, Ukraine, native also played in the KHL's All-Star Game in Minsk, scoring a goal for Team Yashin.

Rutherford said if Babchuk had stayed with the team last year, he'd probably be in line to make a lot more this season -- more than the Canes could afford.

"We probably wouldn't be able to pay him this year," said Rutherford, who is still looking for a sixth defenseman. He mentioned getting a call from the agent of Joe Corvo, who was sent to Washington before the trade deadline last season.

Rutherford sees these defensive pairings: Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain, Joni Pitkanen and Babchuk, and Jay Harrison with the final defenseman to be determined.

If Rutherford is able to get a higher-end defenseman, which could come between today and a month from now, he said, he could pair him with Gleason and drop McBain down with Harrison.

Matsumoto signed: The Hurricanes also signed forward Jonathan Matsumoto to a two-year, two-way contract that will pay him $500,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 in the minors in the first year. In the second year of the deal, the NHL salary bumps up to $525,000.

Matsumoto, 23, concluded his third professional season, leading the Adirondack Phantoms with 30 goals and 62 points in 80 games. He's an Ottawa, Ontario, native with 81 goals and 92 assists in 251 American Hockey League games.

The 6-foot, 190-pound forward played three seasons at Bowling Green University.

Scouting shakeup: The Hurricanes hired Sheldon Ferguson as an amateur scout on Thursday and did not renew the contracts of scouts Greg Stefan, Phil Horner and Mario Marois.

Though Ferguson most recently was assistant general manager of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, he spent 12 seasons in the Hurricanes organization, ending in 2007.

Conditioning camp set: The Hurricanes also announced the dates of the team's conditioning camp, which will be at the RecZone in Raleigh from July 7-10.

The camp will teach the team's prospects conditioning techniques to help them prepare for a professional hockey career.

Associate head coach Ron Francis, assistant coach Tom Barasso, director of defensemen Glen Wesley and Charlotte Checkers coach Jeff Daniels will lead the sessions.

javier.serna @newsobserver.com or 919-836-4953

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