Tomas Kaberle comes to Canes; Corvo leaves

Staff writerJuly 6, 2011 

— The Carolina Hurricanes caused a few small ripples in the NHL with their free-agent signings late last week.

The ripple was much bigger Tuesday.

The Hurricanes, outbid for power forward Erik Cole by the Montreal Canadiens, signed defenseman Tomas Kaberle to a three-year deal that will pay the four-time All-Star $4.25 million per season.

To help make room for Kaberle's $12.75 million contract, the Hurricanes traded defenseman Joe Corvo to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

"Tomas is a player we have liked for a long, long time," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday. "He's one of the best puck-moving defensemen and power-play specialists in the league. When he's on his game, he can do a lot of things."

Kaberle, 33, has played 902 regular-season games in his NHL career - all but 24 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who drafted him in 1996. With Kaberle in the final year of his contract, speculation built this past season that he would be traded, and the Leafs sent him to the Bruins on Feb. 18 in exchange for Boston's first-round draft pick this year, a second-round pick in 2012 and a prospect.

Kaberle helped Boston win its first Stanley Cup since 1972, notching 11 assists in 25 playoff games, and appeared to be at his best in the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks. His older brother, Frantisek, was a member of the Canes' Stanley Cup champions in 2006, when the defenseman had the distinction of scoring the winning goal in Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers.

"I told Tomas today, 'Each of you has a Stanley Cup, and this gives you the chance to go one-up on your brother,' " Rutherford said. "Hopefully, he will have that opportunity in the next three years."

A native of Rakovnik, Czech Republic, Kaberle has produced 40 or more points in a season eight times in his career, with a high of 67 for the Leafs in 2006. Averaging 22:06 of ice time in a combined 82 regular-season games last season between the Leafs and Bruins, he had 43 assists to rank fifth among NHL defensemen. His 25 power-play assists were fifth among all NHL skaters.

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice was Kaberle's coach in Toronto for two seasons - 2006-07 and 2007-08 - and observed the impact the 6-foot-1, 214-pound blueliner can have on a game.

"He's a high-end, puck-moving defenseman who plays within the system and sees the ice well," Maurice said Tuesday. "He's a cerebral player and a good playmaker with a lot of experience.

"He's a calming influence on defense. In the late stages of games, you want the puck on his stick. His heart rate is not going to change."

On Friday, when free agency began, Cole accepted a four-year, $18 million contract with the Canadiens. The Canes signed forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky and Tim Brent - along with goaltender Brian Boucher - on Friday, then added free-agent forward Anthony Stewart on Saturday.

After Cole's decision, Rutherford said Corvo, through his agent, asked if a trade might be possible. Corvo, 34, was heading into the last year of a contract that pays him $2.5 million.

With Corvo traded to the Bruins, Rutherford said the Canes could be "more aggressive" in pursuing Kaberle.

"To get Tomas, it meant trading a player to make room," Rutherford said. "Joe was a real good player for us, and we wish him well."

A self-described "budget team," Carolina now has two defensemen making more than $4 million a year - Joni Pitkanen was re-signed last week to a three-year deal at $4.5 million per season. As for potential defensive pairings, Maurice said that would be decided in training camp.

"We're going to be scrimmaging a lot this year, looking at a lot of different combinations, different looks," Maurice said. "The same for the forwards."

In addition to the Kaberle signing, the Canes confirmed Tuesday that defenseman Derek Joslin has filed for salary arbitration. Joslin, acquired last season from the San Jose Sharks, is a restricted free agent and was made a qualifying offer by the Hurricanes.

"I think we've really changed the way our defense will look, and how our team will look," Maurice said.

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

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