WASHINGTON — On the day defenseman Justin Faulk was named to the U.S. Olympic team for the 2014 Winter Games, the Carolina Hurricanes dealt away a former U.S. Olympian.
Defenseman Tim Gleason was traded Wednesday to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman John-Michael Liles and defensive prospect Dennis Robertson. Liles is expected to join the Canes in Washington for the game Thursday against the Capitals.
“We felt we needed a different mix on defense and needed someone else on the back end who was a good puck-mover,” Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We also wanted to add someone who could play on one of our two power-play units and he can help us offensively. He’s a team guy, a character guy. He should be a valuable addition for us.”
The trade was made official during the NHL Winter Classic between the Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. After the game, the U.S. Olympic team was announced and Faulk, 21, was among the selections.
“Obviously it’s a big thrill for me,” Faulk said. “Playing in the Olympics has been a goal of mine, to play on that stage. If you ask anyone on the team, they’ll all say the same thing – we’re not going to Sochi for anything but a gold medal.”
Gleason, 30, helped the U.S. team win a silver medal – and nearly a gold – in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rugged and reliable, he served as an alternate captain and played 491 games for the Canes but was slowed this season by a concussion and later a lower-body injury, missing a total of 21 games.
“We’re thankful for all that Tim did for us,” Rutherford said. “He’s a good person and gave us some good years.”
Liles, 33, has appeared in 627 NHL regular-season games for the Colorado Avalanche and Maple Leafs. An Indianapolis native, he was on the 2006 U.S. Olympic team.
Liles has spent much of this season with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League as the Leafs turned to younger defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner. In six games with the Leafs, Liles had 15 hits and 10 blocked shots while averaging about 17 minutes of ice time per game.
Liles has two years remaining on his contract after this season, with a cap hit of $3.875 million. He’ll earn $4.25 million next season and $2.75 million in 2015-16.
Gleason also has two seasons left on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million. With a no-trade clause, he had to approve the trade to Toronto.
Gleason was held out of Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, then he was not at practice Wednesday. He was not the only notable absence.
Carolina coach Kirk Muller said goalie Cam Ward has a lower-body injury and will miss at least the two road games this week against the Caps and New York Islanders. Ward, who was sidelined 10 games this season with a lower-body injury, was in net Wednesday as the Canes rallied for a 5-4 overtime win against the Canadiens.
Goalie Anton Khudobin is expected to start against the Caps after being out since Oct. 13 with an ankle injury. Khudobin was sent to the Charlotte Checkers for an AHL conditioning stint and started two games within the past week.
Faulk, from South St. Paul, Minn., will make his first Olympic appearance after competing for the United States in several international competitions. He played in the 2011 World Junior Championship and then in the 2012 and 2013 World Championships.
At the 2012 Worlds in Finland, Faulk led U.S. defensemen with four goals and had a team-best plus-9 rating. In 2013, he topped the U.S. defensemen with six assists as Team USA earned a bronze medal in Sweden.
“I’ve competed for the U.S. a number of times, and every time you get the chance to wear a USA jersey it’s a huge honor,” Faulk said. “I’m pretty fired up.”
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