Luke DeCock

With Ward return, Teravainen trade, Canes active early — DeCock

The Canes have been busy the past two days by signing goalie Cam Ward, top, on a two-year extension and trading with the Blackhawks for Teuvo Teravainen, right.
The Canes have been busy the past two days by signing goalie Cam Ward, top, on a two-year extension and trading with the Blackhawks for Teuvo Teravainen, right. cseward@newsobserver.com

The draft is still a week away but the two big moves the Carolina Hurricanes made this week shored up one position while substantially upgrading another.

If the re-signing of Cam Ward to a cut-rate deal is followed by the exit via trade of Eddie Lack and the arrival of another goaltending option, than this all makes sense. It’s hard to imagine the Hurricanes going through another season with those same two goalies and expecting better results.

The stability Ward offers in net should allow general manager Ron Francis to gamble on someone else via trade to compete for playing time, assuming he can find a taker for the final two years of Lack’s contract. There’s no urgency with the former, even if there is with the latter. With the arrival of another viable option in net, two years of Ward may be enough to get the Hurricanes through to prospect Alex Nedeljkovic.

Ward being welcomed back to the fold on a relatively affordable $6.6 million, two-year deal Thursday was not entirely unexpected. Francis left that door wide open last week and the free-agent pickings appear to be, at best, slim. So bringing back Ward at half of what he was making is defensible both financially and pragmatically. Which isn’t to say it’s a slam dunk, either.

It isn’t Ward’s fault that the Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs in seven years, but he hasn’t gotten them over the top, either. And as good as he was in the second half, he’s been good through stretches before and has rarely been able to stretch that out over a full season. There remain questions about his physical and mental durability, but he’s better than nothing – or, more to the point, he’s better than Lack.

Because of his history with the franchise, Ward’s return – which will be greeted with very different emotions by various segments of the fan population, given his status as an increasingly polarizing figure – may slightly overshadow the other move of the week, which should have a far bigger impact on the Hurricanes.

A year after the Hurricanes turned cap space into Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, they got even more from the Blackhawks this time around.

Luke DeCock

Francis went into the offseason with a plethora of draft picks and oceans of salary-cap space. He converted both into the kind of highly skilled forward the Hurricanes tend to lack when he sent a second-rounder this year and a third-rounder next year to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday for Teuvo Teravainen, agreeing to take on the final year of Bryan Bickell’s $4 million contract as well.

That gave the Blackhawks the salary-cap room they need to re-sign Andrew Shaw to the benefit of the Hurricanes. Bickell is a reclamation project who spent most of last season in the minors, but the Hurricanes can afford his salary and have nothing to lose. Anything they get out of him is a bonus, especially if he can get back to his grinding, goal-scoring ways.

Teravainen is the real prize, a player the Blackhawks did not want to surrender, a sort of Patrick Kane Light at a mere 21. He slots easily into the Hurricanes’ top two lines, probably on the left wing although he can play all three forward positions, and the addition of Teravainen and prospect Sebastian Aho should give the Hurricanes an immediate boost of raw skill.

A year after the Hurricanes turned cap space into Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, they got even more from the Blackhawks this time around.

They’re probably still a forward or two shy of a full load but this is a start, especially if Bickell has anything to offer. And Francis still has more draft picks and cap space to offer. Could he, for example, offer to take the final, moot year of the retiring Pavel Datsyuk’s contract off the Detroit Red Wings’ hands? As has been pointed out elsewhere, would owner Peter Karmanos set aside his rivalry with Red Wings owner Mike Illitch to allow that to happen?

Some cap-friendly NHL team is going to get a pick or player from Detroit. Might as well be the Hurricanes, since their offseason is already off to an active start with the draft still a week away.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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