November 17, 2010
Wednesday's trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, in which the Canes traded defenseman Anton Babchuk(notes) and forward Tom Kostopoulos(notes) to the Flames for defenseman Ian White(notes) and forward Brett Sutter(notes), served as a reminder of the uncomfortable balance between business and bloodlines in the NHL.
You could hear it in the voice of Kostopoulos during his introduction to the Calgary press, as he expressed "shock" over the deal and worried about explaining this professional transaction to his 3-year-old daughter.
"She had her Canes jersey on today, and I had to tell her she wasn't going to the game tonight," he said. "I'm trying to explain the best I can about what's going on."
And you could also sense it in the way the Flames handled the incomparable awkwardness of GM Darryl Sutter trading his son away to the Carolina Hurricanes, less than a week after his arrest for punching a cab driver in the mouth.
Assistant GM Jay Feaster, who handled the announcement of the trade, said, "One of the things Darryl has always prided himself on is the fact of being able to separate out the personal relationship and the business aspect of what it is that we do."
The added drama in this situation was the fact that Sutter was arrested for a fight outside a Scottsdale bar last week and demoted to the AHL as he apologized for the incident. Feaster said, repeatedly, that this trade was in the works well before the arrest and that the Hurricanes had asked for Sutter in the deal.
Brandon Sutter(notes), the Carolina forward and son of Calgary Coach Brent Sutter, told Chip Alexander of the News & Observer that his cousin's reputation shouldn't be cemented by one incident: "It's not his character. Definitely a one-time thing."
For Carolina, White is the key to the trade. From Canes Now, coach Paul Maurice explained why:
"For Ian White coming in, he's a puck-moving defenseman and all-around pretty competitive guy. He takes bigger minutes than he ever has. We think of him as a guy who will fit real well with Joni Pitkanen(notes). Or Tim Gleason(notes), and he's played with Jay Harrison(notes) before.
"He should be able to play with any of our group and maybe settle us a little bit back there and move the puck well. ... It should bring some balance to our blue line. With where we're at with out back end, we need a little bit more of a stabilizing player that we can play bigger minutes, too."
White was acquired by the Flames in the Dion Phaneuf(notes) deal and then signed a one-year contract to avoid arbitration last summer. Feaster pulled back the curtain on Wednesday's trade, saying that the team's inability to sign White long-term last summer led them to sign defenseman Mark Giordano(notes) to a five-year deal. After that, they started shopping White and found a dance partner in Carolina.
White is having arguably the worst season of his career, with six points in 16 games and playing to a minus-10. Maybe a change in scenery will help him. The same could be said of the player with whom he was traded.
George Johnson of the Calgary Herald nailed it this week in a column proclaiming it was time for Brett Sutter to go:
The kid needs a chance, away from the prying eyes and constant referencing to the man who's both his boss and his father, to try to make his mark. Maybe he's an NHLer. Maybe he ain't. But we, and he, won't find out until this umbilical cord is cut and he stakes out on his own.
What kind of market there'd be for an interchangeable part on the 14th-place team in the Western Conference is certainly debatable, but if something can be done, the possibilities should be explored.
For the good of Brett Sutter, as much as anyone.
Well, he's gone, and both player and father/GM are better for it.