Jay Harrison made the most of his opportunity to play regularly in the NHL last season, and the Carolina Hurricanes liked what they saw, signing the 28-year-old defenseman to a two-year, $1.4 million contract Thursday.

"Jay took a big step in his pro career last year," Carolina President and General Manager Jim Rutherford said in a press release. "He brings a physical and defensive element to our blue line, and we are happy to have him back."

Harrison, 28, established NHL career highs last season with 72 games played, 3 goals, 10 points and 72 penalty minutes, while averaging 15:16 of ice time per game. The Oshawa, Ont., native finished 2010-11 with a plus-5 rating to rank first among Hurricanes defensemen who played in more than half of the team's games.

A third-round pick of Toronto in the 2001 Entry Draft, Harrison has 4 goals, 18 points and 140 penalty minutes in 130 career NHL games with the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.