RALEIGH—The Hurricanes improved their pool of forwards on Thursday, bringing left winger Cory Stillman back into the fold from the Florida Panthers. And they might not be done yet.
“This was a good opportunity for us to add some experience,” said general manager Jim Rutherford in a team press release. “Cory adds more depth to our forward lines and we are familiar with what he is capable of doing offensively.”
Ryan Carter heads to Florida, along with a fifth-round draft pick in next year's draft. Carter provided some toughness and a good hand in the faceoff circle, but pitched in only three assists in the 32 games he played in red and white after being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks before Thanksgiving.
Being that Carolina is on the playoff cusp and unsure whether or not they're stocking up for a playoff run or rebuilding their larder of assets for the future, this seems a smart, no-risk deal. Carter's contributions will not be missed, and Stillman's familiarity and veteran presence should bolster the team. If they don't, he'll become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
The trade deadline is Monday at 3pm Eastern time, and the Canes still have more pending unrestricted free agents on their own roster, some of whom are likely to be moved before the deadline. Carter is gone, and Ian White was sent to San Jose for the younger and cheaper Derek Joslin, clearing salary that accommodated the Stillman deal. Rutherford has some difficult decisions to make, as it's hard to imagine the chemistry of the team without players like Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, and Jussi Jokinen—all of whose contracts expire at the end of the season.
Joni Pitkanen and Sergei Samsonov will also be UFAs, but seem perhaps more likely to be moved. Pitkanen has disappointed much of the year despite leading the team in ice time, and Samsonov has bounced around the depth chart similarly to how he bounces around the offensive zone.
Looking around the league at other UFAs from teams below the playoff line who could possibly be rental players like Stillman, blueliners such as Buffalo's Steve Montador, New Jersey's Andy Greene, Columbus' Jan Hejda, and Dallas' Karlis Skrastins stand out, as well as forwards such as the Devils' Jason Arnott, the Sabres' Mike Grier, the Ducks' Todd Marchant, the Blue Jackets' Ethan Moreau, the Maple Leafs' Tim Brent, or even extra piece Fernando Pisani in Chicago.
More of a blockbuster deal could fetch winger Mike Knuble from the Capitals. He would look good standing in front of the net on a Carolina power play. Or what about Ales Hemsky or Dustin Penner from Edmonton? Both players have additional years left on their contracts, but are also the kinds of guys that Carolina might want to have around past this season. Offloading the salaries of Pitkanen ($4.5 million) and Samsonov ($2.8 million) could accommodate some of these bigger names.
In any case, it will be fun to go to the Canes' practice on Monday morning at the RecZone in Raleigh to see who dresses and who doesn't, and to click "refresh" on the hockey sites all afternoon.