WASHINGTON — John-Michael Liles was set for warmups for the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Wednesday when he got the news he had been traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Liles watched from the sideline as the Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings, then hopped a flight to Washington to join his new team the Carolina Hurricanes.
On Thursday, Liles took to the ice at the Verizon Center for the morning skate. He was paired with Ryan Murphy. He was used on the power-play unit with Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin and Murphy. Above his stall in the visitors locker room was New Guy.
Its exciting. It was kind of an up-and-down ride in Toronto the last few years and Im just excited for the opportunity coming here with this team, Liles said. I havent played against them this year but watched a few of their games. Theyre obviously a good, young team and hopefully I can add something to it.
Liles, 33, began his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche in 2003 and was named to the NHL All-Rookie team in 2003-2004. After seven seasons with the Avs, he was traded to the Leafs in June 2011.
For Liles, a midseason trade was different. He put on the Canes uniform for the first time Thursday No. 26 and played Thursday against the Washington Capitals.
Im jumping into the fire, he said.
Liles, who has more than 600 games of NHL experience, played just six games for the Leafs as two younger defensemen, Morgan Rielly (19) and Jake Gardiner (23), started and took the minutes.
Youve got two really good players in Rielly and Gardiner there who are going to have bright futures, and they play a similar style game, Liles said. Obviously the coaching staff felt with what they had in the lineup, they didnt necessarily need me quite as much.
The Canes believe Liles, listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, can consistently contribute given the chance.
Hes an offensive-minded veteran type of defenseman, Canes center Eric Staal said. Great skater, good passer, good shot. Hes played a lot of games and will add experience and work on the power play and also just move the puck up to the forwards.
At the same time, Staal and his teammates were sad to see defenseman Tim Gleason leave as part of the Leafs deal. Gleason had been a fixture with the Canes since the fall of 2006.
Ive been in this game long enough to see a lot of good friends come and go, and Tim is a friend and was a teammate for a long time, Staal said.
Liles said he wasnt the only defenseman in the family. His younger brother, Joe, played club hockey at the U.S. Naval Academy.
He got all the size. Hes 6-foot-1. He stole it from me, John-Michael said, smiling.