Staal healthy; Canes add defenseman

Carolina makes only one move at the trading deadline - sending wing Sergei Samsonov to Florida for blueliner Bryan Allen - and Eric Staal says he 'should be good to go.'

Staff writerMarch 1, 2011 

— When all was done Monday, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford sat back and said, "We're real pleased with the way the day turned out."

And why not?

Eric Staal was at practice Monday and pronounced himself fit after it. The team captain missed Saturday's game against the Montreal Canadiens with a worrisome upper-body injury but said he planned to be in the lineup tonight against the Florida Panthers.

"I feel good," Staal said. "I should be good to go."

Rutherford was relieved about Staal, the Canes' All-Star center. He also was relieved a few hours later when Carolina obtained defenseman Bryan Allen from the Panthers in exchange for winger Sergei Samsonov - Carolina's only deal on the NHL's trade deadline.

The Hurricanes, who are fighting to stay in playoff position in the NHL's' Eastern Conference, placed defenseman Brett Carson on waivers Saturday with the intent of reassigning him to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. Instead, Carson was claimed Monday by the Calgary Flames, eating into the Canes' depth at the position.

But Rutherford was able to complete the Allen deal, bringing in a rugged 6-foot-5, 226-pound veteran with 500 games of NHL experience. Allen, 30, has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $3.15 million next season.

"If we hadn't been able to add a defenseman later in the day, I'd be sitting here telling you that I would have been devastated about losing him," Rutherford said of Carson. "The fact we were able to complete what we set out to do, to add another defenseman, I'm OK with it."

Allen has averaged more than 19 minutes in ice time this season and has four goals and eight assists in 53 games. He had three assists in Florida's 7-4 win over the Canes on Nov. 5 and scored the overtime winner Jan. 3 as Florida took a 4-3 victory at the RBC Center.

"It's really weird when you sit down and think about it," Allen said Monday night of the trade. "I'm practicing with [the Panthers] one day and then will be playing against them the next day.

"But I'm excited. One of the best things about this opportunity is the chance to get to the playoffs. That's a 180 for me. With the Florida situation now, they're in total reload, so it will be nice to come to a team and be a part of what should be an exciting stretch run."

Allen, who waived a no-trade clause in his contract, joins former Panthers teammate Cory Stillman, a veteran forward traded Thursday to the Canes. Rutherford said Stillman gave Allen a "ringing endorsement."

Rutherford said there were inquiries from other teams about Joni Pitkanen but said the Canes did not want to give up a swift, puck-moving defenseman capable of playing 27-28 minutes a game.

In an unusual twist, Samsonov practiced Monday with the Canes, was traded and didn't have to leave town. Today, he will dress in the visiting locker room at the RBC Center, go through the morning skate with the Panthers, then go up against his old team.

Samsonov, 32, played 250 games for the Canes after being claimed off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks in January 2008. Samsonov, paid $2.9 million this year, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

"He was good for us," Rutherford said.

Rutherford said Samsonov became expendable with the addition of Stillman and the recent play of forward Jerome Samson, who was the Checkers' leading scorer before being recalled Feb. 13. Samson, 23, played almost 13 minutes and had an assist in the 4-3 loss to the Canadiens.

Staal took a big hit from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen late in the second period of Friday's game at the RBC Center. He did not play the third period of the Canes' 4-1 victory and did not make the trip to Montreal as a precaution.

Staal said he was attempting to take a shot when he was hit in the "upper-neck, head region" by Niskanen. He said he was "pretty dazed" but felt better Saturday and Sunday.

"I was trying to settle the puck down and get a snapper off ... and I couldn't see him coming," Staal said of the hit. "It was such a quick play, and I was moving pretty quick. ... I'm not sure if it looked like he was trying to avoid me once he realized I didn't see him. He kind of pulled up a little bit, his hands got up high ... It was almost like he didn't want to fully finish because he knew I was kind of in a vulnerable position."

Staal took extra shots before practice Monday and was zipping up and down the ice during the workout.

"He's ready to play," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "He feels good and strong."

Allen, a first-round draft pick (fourth overall) by the Vancouver Canucks in 1998, missed all but two games of the 2008-2009 season after a knee injury. He also missed nine games this season with a broken foot.

Rutherford said he was assured by the Panthers - and by Allen - that he was healthy.

"I had one year where I had the knee injury, but I dealt with it and it's in the past for me," Allen said. "I couldn't feel better, health-wise. It's good not to have to worry about that anymore.

"I'm ready to get going and try and help this team win."

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

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