RALEIGH — The NHL trade deadline is still a month away, but the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a draft pick and cleared one of their expiring contracts off the books Friday night.
After a 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals, the Canes traded forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 and minor-league defenseman Joe Sova.
Sova, 23, has split time between the AHL and ECHL this season. The Devils signed the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Illinois native as a free agent in 2011 after three years at Alaska-Fairbanks.
The Canes signed Ponikarovsky to a one-year, $1.5 million contract over the summer. He had seven goals and eight assists in 49 games for the Hurricanes.
He had one shot in 10 minutes, 49 seconds of ice time against the Capitals on Friday. The Hurricanes save $632,432, the remaining value on his contract.
''We're real happy with the job 'Poni' did for us,'' Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said. ''He worked hard for us every night and was a very useful player.
''He was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and there are other players in our system who are developing and wanted to get in. Now was the time to move him. We were able to get a draft pick and a prospect defenseman.''
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 27. The Hurricanes have four other impending unrestricted free agents they could move before then: Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason, Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen. Allen has a no-trade clause.
''I'm not pushing to make trades,'' Rutherford said. ''I'm getting a lot of calls about players, but it would have to be something that made sense for us.''