NEWARK, N.J. — The Carolina Hurricanes were determined to leave the NHL draft on Sunday with a veteran defenseman, even if it meant trading the No. 5 overall pick.
The Canes got their defenseman. They also kept the pick.
The Hurricanes selected Swedish forward Elias Lindholm with the fifth pick of the opening round after being spurned on a trade by the Buffalo Sabres. General manager Jim Rutherford then kept pushing, picking up defenseman Andrej Sekera from the Sabres in exchange for Canes defenseman Jamie McBain and Carolinas second-round pick 35th overall in the draft.
As it turned out we got to stay at (No.) 5 and get the player we wanted, and we also get the defenseman that when we came here to this draft we were hoping to get, Rutherford said.
Lindholms selection was a bit of a surprise in the draft at the Prudential Center. Many believed the Canes might take Valeri Nichushkin if he was available at No. 5 and the big Russian winger was.
But Rutherford said the Canes had Lindholm in their sights all along. Lindholm played for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League last season and was the highest-scoring junior-aged player in the league with 30 points in 48 games. He also starred for Sweden in the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
In describing himself as a player, the 6-foot, 181-pound Lindholm said, Two-way, working hard. I was a leader since I was a kid. I can be skilled. I can be tough. I can get shots. I can do whatever the coach tells me to do.
But it was more than age and numbers that convinced the Canes. Tony MacDonald, the teams director of amateur scouting, said Lindholm who could be used at center or right wing was the kind of competitive player who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Hes a guy who does everything at a high tempo, Rutherford said. He plays every shift at a high tempo. He has some grit. He does the little things that you look for in a player who has a chance to be a star player.
He does what it takes to win. Hes a guy who has the character and the leadership we like to have.
The Hurricanes, Rutherford said, also wanted to have Sekera. He said they first offered Buffalo the fifth pick and McBain for the Sabres first-round choice, No. 8 overall, and Sekera but couldnt make it work.
Sekera, 27, was a third-round pick by the Sabres in the 2004 draft. A native of Slovakia, he has played 339 regular-season games for Buffalo, giving the Sabres steady performances on the back end.
Were really pleased to get Sekera, Rutherford said. We feel very comfortable with him in our top four. He can play top-four minutes. Hes a real defensive defenseman, a shutdown guy.
McBain, 25 was a second-round pick by the Canes in the 2006 draft. He has played 206 regular-season games with Carolina and had flashes of offensive flair and good defensive play, but Rutherford said McBains poor conditioning this past season was disappointing to Canes coach Kirk Muller and management.
I think Jamie will turn his game around next year, Rutherford said. Unfortunately he didnt come to camp last year ready to play. He wasnt in good shape and because of that he didnt have a good year.
Rutherford said Sekera has two years left on his contract, with a salary of $1.75 million a year.
Lindholm has a year remaining on his contract with Brynas, but Rutherford said the player can be released from the contract if he makes the Canes roster next season. If not with the Canes, Rutherford said Lindholm would return to Brynas for another season.
Its pretty tough going into the mens league, Lindholm said of the Swedish Elite League. Theyre big and strong and tough.
The Canes had the 66th overall pick in the third round, taking defenseman Brett Pesce, who just completed his freshman year at New Hampshire. But Sekera is the defenseman they wanted Sunday.
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