RALEIGH — Andrej Sekera said he was asleep at home in Slovakia when a 2 a.m. phone call awakened him and changed his life.
Sekera was no longer a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
The defenseman was drafted by the Sabres in 2004. His entire NHL career – more than 340 games – had been spent with the Sabres.
But on June 30, Sekera was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL Entry Draft in Newark, N.J. The Canes shipped defenseman Jamie McBain and their second-round draft pick to the Sabres.
“The way the business is, it’s always in your head that it could happen,” Sekera said Thursday after skating at Raleigh Center Ice. “I got traded. No big deal. Life goes on.
“I’m happy to start with a clean slate here and try to prove something to myself and to the team, too.”
The Hurricanes were looking for help on the blue line after finishing 26th in the NHL in shots against (32.2 per game) and 29th in goals against (3.31) last season. General manager Jim Rutherford said the defense would be revamped, and trading for a top-four defenseman was a priority.
“I’ve played against him the past few years and know he’s a very solid NHL player,” Canes captain Eric Staal said. “Great skater. Kind of does everything well.”
Sekera, 27, has the kind of experience the Canes were seeking. In the 2010-2011 season, he set career highs in assists (26) and points (29). He also was a member of the Slovakian Olympic team in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“I like to skate. I like to join the rush,” Sekera said. “Keep it simple in our zone and make the first pass. Try to help as much as I can in the offensive zone as well as help in the defensive zone.”
Sekera said his impression of the Canes was that they were a team that skated well and was crafty in creating offensive chances.
“They did that with five guys and I thought they defended with five guys,” he said.
Sekara said he spent the summer training in his hometown of Bojnice, Slovakia. He also attended Slovakia’s four-day Olympic orientation camp, although there was no on-ice work.
“We’re used to playing the big rink, the big surface,” he said.
Experiencing the Olympics in 2010 was fun, Sekera said – other than the last game. Slovakia, captained by defenseman Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, was beaten by Finland 5-3 in the bronze-medal game.
“Too bad we didn’t get a medal,” Sekera said, smiling. “The loss to Finland was not a good feeling and I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I will do my best to help our team to get as far as it can.”
But the 2014 Sochi Olympics are months away. For now, it’s all about getting acclimated to Raleigh and his new team.
Sekera won’t be the only former Sabre at training camp. Forward Nathan Gerbe signed a free-agent contract with the Canes last month.
Both were fixtures in longtime coach Lindy Ruff’s Buffalo lineup. But Ruff was fired in February. A decision was made to reshape the Sabres, who failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs the past two seasons.
“You never know,” Sekera said. “Changes can come at any time for anybody, and especially when they’re rebuilding. Maybe they didn’t get from me something they wanted.
“Wherever you are, you want to start strong. You don’t want to let the people down that wanted you. All I can do is just work hard, play my game, and I hope I can help Carolina.”
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