Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford's summer plans seemed fairly obvious after July 1: Re-sign as many of team's free agents as he could, and augment the roster with small, thrifty signings that fill holes.
His latest move is thrifty but anything but small: The Hurricanes signed Tomas Kaberle, 33, on Tuesday to a three-year, $12.75 million deal as reported by TSN.
So much for signing "sometime next week," huh?
Said Rutherford: "Tomas is one of the top puck-moving defensemen in the NHL and power-play specialist. He has had a good career and is now a Stanley Cup champion. We welcome him to Carolina and look forward to his contributions to the Hurricanes."
Wow, a "good" career. Quite the carnival barker, that Rutherford.
His $4.25 million annual cap hit is identical to that of his previous contract, which he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006 and which ended this summer with the Boston Bruins, with whom he won his first Stanley Cup. Kaberle's is the second-highest cap hit among Hurricanes defensemen, behind that of Joni Pitkanen ($4.5 million) who re-signed with Carolina last week before going unrestricted.
About that defense: Carolina cleared $2.25 million in cap space for next season by trading puck-moving defenseman Joe Corvo for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft from … the Boston Bruins, Kaberle's former team.
(Thus continues the relationship in which Rutherford and Peter Chiarelli are more than happy to help each other out; see Ward, Aaron trade.)
Was Kaberle a bust with the Bruins? And can he help the Canes?
He tallied nine points in 24 games, including just three on the power play in the regular season. He collected five power-play assists in the playoffs for the champs and had three points in the Stanley Cup Final; he was also a plus-8.
That said, he simply wasn't the difference-maker they expected him to be for Joe Colborne, a 2011 first-round pick, and a 2012 second-rounder. But they did win the Cup.
For the Hurricanes, it's a different (lesser) set of pressures than in Toronto and Boston, and a team whose style of play meshes well with puck-moving defensemen. He's not getting any younger, but one could imagine Kaberle having a strong season sending players like Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Skinner off to the races with outlet passes and picking up helpers on Eric Staal power-play goals. (Carolina was 24th in the league on the power play last season.)
Kaberle also joins a Carolina team that has his old coach in Toronto Paul Maurice and several players with whom he played there: Jay Harrison, Alex Ponikarovsky, Tim Brent and Jiri Tlusty. They're basically one Joey Crabb away from being the Occasionally Scratched MapleCanes (or do you prefer the Hurrileafs?).
We wish Tomas Kaberle the best in Raleigh. And by that we mean we'd hate to see the eventual buyout of a Kaberle become an unofficial franchise tradition.