Nathan Gerbe may be the shortest player in the NHL, but hes one of the biggest pests on the ice.
A player never lacking for grit or tenaciousness, Gerbe signed a one-year, two-way contract Friday with the Carolina Hurricanes that will pay the 5-foot-5, 178-pound forward $550,000 at the NHL level or $150,000 on the American Hockey League level, with a guarantee of at least $250,000.
Gerbe, 26, was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 2005 and has played all 188 career NHL games with the Sabres. He has 72 career points (29 goals, 43 assists) and 88 penalty minutes.
Something that drives me and fuels me is being a player whos tough to play against, Gerbe said Friday. Get out on the ice, get rolling get the energy going and help my team any way I can. Its going to be different playing for another team but Im fired up to get down there.
A former Boston College standout, Gerbe had a career-high 16 goals and 31 points in 64 games for the Sabres in the 2010-2011 season. In this past season, shortened by the NHL lockout, he had five goals and five assists in 42 games and became an unrestricted free agent on July 5.
Gerbe needed spinal surgery last July for back and neck issues stemming from a hit-from-behind by Marc-Andre Bourdon of the Philadelphia Flyers in December 2011. Cleared for contact just as the 2012-2013 season began, he returned to the Sabres lineup Jan. 24 against the Hurricanes.
I was hurt in 2011 and it was something I didnt notice right away, Gerbe said. I kept going and played 40-some games, which probably did not help me. I got to the point I struggled to take off my skates and put on my clothes.
My recovery from surgery took about seven months. I was cleared to work out the day the lockout ended, and I jumped right into games, without a workout, which may not have been the smartest thing to do. But Ive gotten stronger in the offseason and feel healthy and ready to go.
Ron Francis, the Canes vice president of hockey operations, said Gerbe should compete for a roster spot in the teams preseason training camp.
The Hurricanes, who will move into the new Metropolitan Division next season, signed two unrestricted free agents defenseman Mike Komisarek and goalie Anton Khudobin on July 5. Gerbe is an experienced player who adds depth at forward.
The Sabres bought out the final year of Gerbes contract, which was to pay him $1.85 million next season.
I was a little shocked that happened, Gerbe said. Then it becomes something that drives you to work harder. I want to prove everyone wrong, and especially prove it to one team up North.
Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip