For the past two seasons, defenseman Justin Faulk sat next to Andrej Sekera in the Carolina Hurricanes locker room at PNC Arena and played next to him on the ice.
But Ron Hainsey was Faulk’s defensive partner Thursday in the Canes’ practice. Next to Faulk’s locker was an empty stall and sign that simply said “Hurricanes.”
Trades create an instant void. Here one day, gone the next. So it was for the Canes after Sekera was traded Wednesday to the Los Angeles Kings and forward Jiri Tlusty to the Winnipeg Jets.
More trades could be forthcoming in the next few days. For now, the Canes move on.
“We say it all the time, but it’s not a fun part of the business when teammates and good friends leave to go somewhere else,” Faulk said. “But it is part of the game and we try to get used to it. Wish them luck and try to stay in touch with them.”
Like most of his teammates, Faulk learned about the trades Wednesday through social media. He later dropped by to see Tlusty, who he said he recently had teased about being traded so the Canes could “upgrade” Tlusty’s position.
But the trades were necessary because the Canes must look to next season. For the sixth straight season, there will be no playoffs for Carolina, and players such as Sekera and Tlusty, both pending unrestricted free agents, were dealt before the March 2 deadline for assets.
Sekera, who drew much interest from playoff hopefuls, fetched a conditional first-round draft pick and a promising defensive prospect from the Kings. The Canes received a pair of draft picks for Tlusty, who played with Jordan and Eric Staal on the top line Tuesday in the Canes’ 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It doesn’t change our approach going forward, but it changes our team, for sure,” Canes coach Bill Peters said Thursday. “I loved Andrej’s competitiveness. Good pro, good teammate, easy to coach. (Tlusty) was a really good player (and) no matter where you put him you knew what you were going to get.
“But what it does is give other people opportunities and I’m excited about watching what people do with their improved opportunity.”
The Hurricanes host the Washington Capitals on Friday and Peters will insert two players who were healthy scratches against the Flyers. Defenseman John-Michael Liles will play his 700th career game, and Andrej Nestrasil will move back into the lineup at forward.
Peters had Alexander Semin on the Staal line Thursday. Semin had a pair of assists and a season-high seven shots in the win over the Flyers in what may have been his best overall game of the season.
“He skated, he shot the puck and worked hard to get into position to shoot it,” Peters said.
Goalie Cam Ward, who played his 500th career game Tuesday, will receive a milestone award from the NHL in a pregame ceremony Friday. Peters said Anton Khudobin would be the starter in net, allowing Ward to “enjoy the ceremony and soak it all in.”
Center Jay McClement and defenseman Tim Gleason are two other pending UFAs who could be moved before Monday’s deadline. Both are veterans who have been traded in their careers and could quickly fit into another locker room and lineup.
“It’s tough to keep out of your mind,” McClement said Thursday. “It’s getting down to the last few days and there’s not much you can do. I’m just waiting to see what happens, see if the phone rings or not.”
The Canes traded Gleason to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Liles on New Year’s Day 2014, only to re-sign him to a one-year contract in the offseason. Now, the Canes could trade him again.
“It’s a change and one of those things where you almost have to prove yourself all over again,” Gleason said of being traded. “Players know who you are but you have to make a name for yourself. It’s something you have to get adapted to.”
Just as the Canes must adapt to not having Sekera and Tlusty. Sekera was an alternate captain, and Peters said another probably would be chosen after the trade deadline.
“It was a lot of fun for the year-and-a-half we played together,” Faulk said of Sekera. “I hope my next D partner is just as easy to play with, an easy transition.”