If you were wondering – like I was – why Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford didn’t wait a little longer before shipping D Joe Corvo to the Bruins in a July 5th deal that netted him just a fourth-round pick in return, the answer is a familiar one: money.
When you’re managing a budget-conscious club like the Canes, you worry about real dollars. In fact, you worry about every real dollar. In the coming season, Corvo will earn $2.5M (his cap hit is $2.25M). After signing free agent D Tomas Kaberle to a three-year, $12.75M deal earlier last Tuesday, Rutherford quickly moved Corvo’s cash off the Canes’ books.
“We couldn’t have kept both guys on our team moving forward,” says Rutherford, speaking to why he didn’t opt to shop Corvo in search of a better offer. “Through his representative, he (Corvo) already had requested to be traded, so we had something in motion and we thought it best to act on it. There’s no guarantee we’d have been able to move him when we needed to before the season started.”
While I firmly believe there would have been several suitors for a veteran like Corvo, Rutherford didn’t want to take the chance. In Carolina and other mid-to-small market stops like it around the circuit, managers don’t have room to take too much financial risk. In this case, Rutherford didn’t want any lingering drama. In his position, you could hardly blame him.
Kaberle, meanwhile, arrives in Raleigh after a personally rocky, but ultimately successful Stanley Cup run in Boston. Despite the fact that Kaberle failed to meet the organization’s expectations after coming over from the Leafs prior to the trade deadline, quickly becoming a whipping boy for the local media and fans, the Bruins were prepared to keep him on short-term deal.
One team source in Boston says the B's would have done a one-year deal and possibly two years with Kaberle, depending on the price. They weren’t, according to the source, going to any further than two years.
While Kaberle clearly didn’t help his market value with his overall performance during his stay in Boston, he did get a three-year commitment from Carolina. Former Leafs coach Paul Maurice, currently in his second stint behind the Canes’ bench, helped sell Rutherford on the offensive upside in Kaberle’s game.
In making its offer, the team has asked the 33-year-old defender to commit to the club’s conditioning program. There were many in Boston that cited Kaberle’s fitness level among the reasons he struggled making the transition from the Leafs to the Bruins. The Hurricanes see Kaberle averaging 21 or 22 minutes per game. That’s why they want him in top shape.
In Denver, Avalanche GM Greg Sherman is also expecting big things from a recent acquisition – goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Acquired from the Capitals for the substantial price of a first- and second-round pick, the 23-year-old Varlamov is expected to fill the Avs’ sizeable goaltending void (along with recently signed free agent stopper, J.S. Giguere).
“Being a first-round pick in 2006, we feel Varlamov is headed into that four-to-seven year window in a goaltender’s development that he’ll be ready to take on the load of being a No. 1 goalie,” Sherman said. “He’s a young guy that was looking for more opportunity and we’re prepared to offer that. In that way, it worked well for both him and our team.”
If Varlamov is going to have a chance for success in Denver, he’ll have to stay healthy (injuries have limited him to no more than 27 games in each of his two previous NHL seasons) and get some defensive support from the guys in front of him. In two years under head coach Joe Sacco, the Avs have been an attacking team that can be fun to watch. On the flip side, however, they give up way too many quality scoring chances. Those kinds of chances usually lead to goals. The Avs surrendered a league-high 3.5 goals per game in 2010-11.
Two seasons ago, Colorado got to the playoffs on the pads of goaltender Craig Anderson, who was simply brilliant. Last year, however, when Anderson struggled with injury and inconsistency (he was traded to Ottawa in February), the team sunk dramatically in the standings, particularly during a second half 5-26-2 freefall.
Talented, but still largely unproven, Varlamov will have a chance to grow with his new team, provided, of course, he doesn’t have to carry the entire group on his back.
Sherman was optimistic about the possible return of 23-year-old center Peter Mueller, who missed the entire 2010-11 season due to concussion issues. “He has been training at a high level,” Sherman says. “At this point, he has been symptom-free and we hope he’ll be able to participate in training camp.”
Drafted eighth overall by the Coyotes in 2006, Mueller seemed to find his scoring touch, putting up 9 goals and 20 points in just 15 games with the Avs after being acquired prior to the 2010 trade deadline. Sacco would love to add his name to a list of talented young forwards that already includes Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and David Jones.