Anyway, the huge news came down at some point on Friday, and I didn't catch wind of it until around midnight because of my 15-hour day.
The "huge news" is, of course, the trade. In a few years, this might be referred to as "The Trade (v. 3.0)". For now, no quotations, no capitals.
The Canes give up Oleg Tverdovsky and the rights to Jack Johnson. In return, they get third line center Eric Belanger and third pairing defenseman Tim Gleason from the Kings.
My initial reaction was one of shock. I couldn't believe they actually pulled the trigger. Then, I wondered "Wait.... We get Belanger, Gleason, and what else???". Then I thought about it. And thought about it some more. And then I had an IM chat with the Acid Queen. And then I read Scott Cason's brilliant piece. Then I read some other stuff.
My conclusion: I like it.
First, I'll explain what the Canes give up.
- Oleg Tverdovsky Last summer, the Canes took a big chance on Tevvy. They signed him to a three year deal, paying him $2.5 per season. It had been more than two years since the Russian had played in the NHL. He once showed promise as a top defenseman with offensive upside, and the Canes were hoping to get that out of him. Unfortunately, either the "new NHL" has passed him by, or he had a bad season. Or both. His 23 points (3/20) were less than what the Canes were hoping for, and his less than spectacular play on the defensive front made him look like the most overpaid player in the league. He scored two own goals. TWO!! He was often the target of criticism when the defense was sub-par. I and my friends even named an "award" for feeble play in his honor. All summer, I've been hoping for, and loudly asking for, a trade involving him. Given that he didn't dress at all in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the fact that his quality of play had diminished by then anyway, I would have settled for a seventh round draft pick and a bucket of practice pucks.
- The rights to Jack Johnson. I was trying to be positive about the Jack Johnson thing. I was trying to encourage people to be patient with the kid while he enjoys the college experience. College, I would say, would be good for sanding off his well known rough edges. He needs to grow as a person before he can grow as a hockey player, I would say. He needs a little development. Of course, in the back of my mind, I knew that Johnson and the Canes would never be a fit. We knew all along that he would spend one year in Ann Arbor. When the Wolverines were eliminated from NCAA play last spring, he rejected the Canes' offer to join the team and play on the big team. When the playoffs started, more of the same. After we won the Cup, more of the same. As summer wound down, Johnson announced his intention to stay in Ann Arbor another season. Reports started to pop up that his indisposition to turn pro had to do with the Canes rather than with his "not being ready". I dismissed these reports as hogwash.
One interesting side note is that until just a few days ago, we were unable to get any comment at all from Jack himself. Anything we heard out of the Johnson camp came from his father, who is a very strange bird. According to some source, Jim Rutherford had a dinner meeting with Jack Johnson a few weeks ago. While the two had dinner and presumably discussed the defensman's future, Jack Senior waited in the car. The whole time. At some point, Jack let on that dad was in the car. Rutherford, shocked, asked why Jack Senior didn't come in and eat with them. There was no answer. Cason thought that it was pretty much done at that point:
The bridge was already on fire before that faithful (sic) evening. The bridge probably collapsed after that bit of strange cimema (sic).
There's a lot that we don't know about Jack Johnson, including when he will decide to enter the NHL. It was looking more and more likely that the talented defenseman had no intention of ever joining the Carolina Hurricanes.
If Carolina had just selected Gilbert Brule last summer, this wouldn't be happening right now. If Carolina had selected Mark Staal, they'd have a defenseman, and this wouldn't be happening right now. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts....
By trading away Oleg Tverdovsky, the Canes have an addition by subtraction thing going on. They rid themselves of a hefty contract, and they rid themselves of a player that wasn't working out.
By trading away the rights to Jack Johnson, the Canes no longer have to deal with that media sideshow. It has been a distraction all summer, and really even longer than that. Johnson may turn out to be Pronger Junior. If he does, Rutherford will look like a jerk. If he fails to polish those rough edges, if he parties too hard in college, if he never really transitions to the NHL game, JR looks like a genius. I'm a little sad that we're giving up on such a hot prospect. At the same time, I'm glad that we don't have to deal with that mayhem anymore. I'm not even sure if those "rights" will mean anything. It could be the case that JJ stays four years, and re-enters the draft. I don't know the ins and outs of the CBA well enough to know how that works. Anyone???
The Canes address some immediate needs with this trade, and although it's rarely a good idea to make trades with the "here and now" in mind, this is what we've done. As far as that's concerned, I like very much what the Canes are getting.
- Eric Belanger A bona fide NHL center capable of having a 40 point season. Last season, he had 37 points (17/20) in just 65 games. He'll center the third line, a position which we had Trevor Letowski playing out of position. Now Letowski (or Walker, for that matter) will move to the left wing on the third line. If Belanger indeed ends up centering the third line, and can put up the kinds of numbers he is accustomed to, we'll get our Matt Cullen back. Hopefully more. Ryan Bayda has worked his tail off in camp and in the preseason, but he's the clear odd man out here. If he makes the big club roster, he just went from being the third line left wing to being a healthy scratch.
- Tim Gleason. The former first-round pick is still very young for a defenseman at 23. He's a big strong dude with offensive potential, and room to grow. He's described as an "average defender" with a ton of grittiness, above average speed, and a decent shot. He's certainly no Frantisek Kaberle, but as long as he isn't a bump on a log, he's going to be better for the Canes than Tevvy ever was. Addition by subtraction, and addition by addition. He's ready for the NHL, and removes some of that third pairing trepidation Canes fans were having. We still might see more of Andrew Hutchinson than this guy, but it'll be a while before we know. And the kid has potential. As Cason puts it:
The Kings get Tverdovsky. The Canes get their Tverdovsky. Only difference is that the Hurricanes new Tverdovsky has the chance to become Frankie Kaberle with manly pipes and a mean streak. Their Tverdovsky will more than likely stay just a Tverdovsky.
At the end of the day, I, like the Acid Queen, have experienced something like relief with the end of the Jack Johnson saga. I assume that Jim Rutherford knows something about Jack that none of us knows, and said thing pressed his hand to make this deal. This doesn't exactly have the markings of a deal we couldn't turn down. Unless, of course, JR was privy to some information that JJ would never be available to us. Perhaps Jack and Jack Senior rubbed JR the wrong way. Perhaps JR thinks that JJ will never lose his rough edge. I don't know, and we probably won't know until about 2011.
He's the Kings problem now.
The new guys give us some unfamiliar things. Belanger will be the first "French" guy we've had since Marty Gelinas. Gleason will be the only "Tim" that I can remember. This'll give us loads of chances to scream out "Timaaaaay!!!"