The Carolina Hurricanes aren't waiting until the NHL trade deadline to start moving major players.
The Hurricanes on Wednesday sent defenseman Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings and dealt forward Jiri Tlusty to the Winnipeg Jets. Both were due to become unrestricted free agents after the season and the Canes have been unable to re-sign them to new contracts.
Sekera was traded for the Kings’ first-round draft pick in either 2015 or 2016. The Hurricanes also obtained defensive prospect Roland McKeown, who was a second-round draft pick by the Kings in 2014.
The Canes will receive the Kings' first-round pick this year if the defending Stanley Cup champions qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. If not in the playoffs, the Kings will surrender their first-round choice in 2016.
Tlusty, who has been with the Canes parts of six seasons, was traded for a pair of draft picks -- a third-round selection in the 2016 NHL draft and either a fifth- or sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft, again conditional on the Jets qualifying for the playoffs this season.
“Any time you lose players like this, it’s tough,” Canes general manager Ron Francis said Wednesday. “They’ve been good for us, been good soldiers, and they’re good people.
“It’s never easy but you need to give up good things to get good things. We feel like we were able to pick up some draft picks and pieces that will help us moving forward and will give us more options and flexibility building around the players we have.”
Francis said the Hurricanes did not retain any salary from either transaction. Sekera has a $1.75 million salary this season and Tlusty a $2.95 million salary.
Sekera, 28, was obtained in a June 2013 trade with the Buffalo Sabres and teamed with Justin Faulk the past two seasons as the Canes’ top defensive pairing. He set career highs last season in goals (11), assists (33) and points (44), although his offensive production has dropped this season -- Sekera has two goals and 17 assists in 57 games.
“He’s obviously a very good defenseman and a piece we will miss,” Francis said. “He played a lot of minutes for us, played in a lot of situations and played against the other team’s best.”
Tlusty, 26, came to Canes in a December 2009 trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs and played 322 games for Carolina. He had 76 goals and 69 assists, scoring 13 goals this season.
Francis said he had several conversations with Sekera and Tlusty about re-signing but was unable to come to an agreement.
“We couldn’t get a deal done that we were comfortable with in terms of length and money,” Francis said. “We couldn’t just let them walk away. We had to get something in return and we're pleased with what we got.”
Francis has said the Canes could look to trade other pending UFAs before the March 2 deadline. He indicated Wednesday that there likely would be no movement of players not due to become UFAs, although noting, “There’s still a few days until March 2 and you can get a lot of phone calls."
Tlusty talked Tuesday about the possibly of being traded and appeared almost resigned to the fact he would be dealt.
"For six years Carolina gave me the opportunity to play and I like it here," Tlusty said. "I have a lot of friends outside of hockey. It's been six great years but it's the business."
With the Jets, Tlusty will be reunited with Paul Maurice, who coached him both with the Hurricanes and earlier with the Leafs. Tlusty, from the Czech Republic, was Toronto’s first-round draft choice in 2006 and the 13th overall pick.
Tlusty, who scored a career-high 23 goals during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, signed a one-year contract with the Canes last July. While the Jets could sign him to a new contract before NHL free agency begins July 1, Tlusty didn't rule out the possibility of re-signing with the Hurricanes if he becomes a UFA.
"If I fit in their plan and they try to come back to me July 1, I will have interest in talking to Carolina," he said Tuesday.
The conditional 2015 draft pick the Canes received from the Jets will be a fifth-round selection if Winnipeg reaches the Stanley Cup playoffs his season, or a sixth-round pick if they fail to make it.
McKeown, 19, is in his third season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. He serves as Kingston’s captain and ranks second among Kingston defensemen with 24 points in 54 games.
"He's a character guy, a leadership guy," Francis said. "They use him head-to-head against the other team's best. He's a good prospect."