Published July 06, 2011
Tomas Kaberle didn't have to look too far for advice on the Carolina Hurricanes and the city of Raleigh. All he had to do was strike up a conversation with his brother, Frantisek, who was a Hurricane from 2005-09.
He got the sales pitch.
"He talked about the fans, how you don't really hear throughout the League how good of fans they are," Tomas Kaberle said Wednesday, a day after signing a three-year, $12.75 million contract with the Hurricanes. "When he was there for his time, his few years, I thought he was the happiest out of the three teams he played on in the NHL. It made it an easier decision for me."
Ironically, Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford told NHL.com the idea of offering a contract to Kaberle came from a phone conversation he had over the weekend with the agent for now former Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo.
Three minutes after Carolina announced Kaberle had signed his three-year contract, the team put out a press release saying Corvo had been traded to Boston for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick.
Rutherford said Corvo was "very respectful and did not demand to be traded like some players do," but the conversation instead was about where he was in his career with his contract and how playing somewhere else might be a better fit for him.
"It was just timing from that point on," said Rutherford, who admitted he had no intention of signing any unrestricted free agent to a big-money deal July 1. "We talked to Boston to see if they were close to signing Kaberle and they said they were apart on term. It really came about in a short little while, maybe 24 or 48 hours."
Carolina coach Paul Maurice certainly is pleased. He had Kaberle for two seasons when he was coaching in Toronto and told NHL.com Wednesday that the Hurricanes are getting a "really low-maintenance defenseman," somebody "who doesn't need anyone to hold his hand, a professional."
"We know he's a good puck moving defenseman," Maurice added. "He'll go back and get it, move the puck in structure, but also he can freelance with it with his head up. We have a good group of forwards and we want to get the puck to them. We feel like Tomas can do that."
Maurice also expects Kaberle to be a front-runner on what hopefully is an improved power play, even though he's aware of the criticism that was being heaped on the Kaberle during Boston's Cup run this past spring.
Kaberle took a lot of heat for the Bruins' ineffectiveness on the man-advantage -- Boston was 10-for-88 on the power play in the playoffs -- but Maurice didn't think it totally was warranted because, "I've never seen a power play die with just one guy."
"Somehow they found a way to win the Stanley Cup," Maurice continued. "I've seen Tomas run a power play that scored 107 goals one season (Toronto, 2005-06). I'm sure he'll be able to help ours."
Maurice's task now is finding the right defenseman to pair with Kaberle in even-strength situations. Kaberle is a left-handed shooting defenseman who prefers to play on the left side, so Rutherford said the coaching staff will have to convince one of their other left-shooting defensemen to move to the right side.
"That's hard to say," Rutherford said. "Ideally for the type of player Tim Gleason is, if we can get him over to the right side and play with (Joni) Pitkanen, play those big minutes, than (Jamie) McBain, (Derek) Joslin or (Jay) Harrison can end up playing with Tomas. There are a few options there. We just have to see who is most comfortable making that move."
No matter how it shakes out, Kaberle said he believes he'll have the opportunity to play a bigger role in Carolina than he did in Boston, where Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg make up the top pair and Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference were the second pair.
"I'll do my best to fit with these guys," Kaberle said. "I think it's a good, young team and there's a chance to do something special."
While signing with the Hurricanes on Tuesday marked the beginning of a new phase in Kaberle's career, it also signified the end of five crazy months that began with the annual trade rumors from when he was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kaberle spent 11-plus seasons in Toronto before he was dealt to Boston on Feb. 18. Less than four months later, he was lifting the Stanley Cup over his head.
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli reportedly offered Kaberle a two-year contract to remain a Bruin, but the veteran defenseman decided to wait it out to see if something better came along. He said he had a few teams asking about him, but also had a feeling it might take longer to get something done.
"I got an offer from Boston, but it was a little bit different offer than I got from Carolina," Kaberle said. "I loved to play there (in Boston). The boys were great. Everybody was great to me right from the first day I got in, and obviously in the end it was a special moment that made it even bigger. But sometimes it's all about business, and Carolina showed really good interest in me."
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