A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Canes to revamp blueline

On Thursday, the Hurricanes officially announced two things that came as a surprise to absolutely nobody. First, Glen Wesley is retiring. Second, Bret Hedican will not be a Hurricane next season. Carolina currently has three healthy defenseman under contract for next season and will by default be a much younger group in the fall.

Just nanoseconds after the Wesley announcement, it was announced that the Hurricanes will be retiring his sweater number 2 at some point in the 2008-09 season. Wesley played 20 NHL seasons, ten of them with the Hurricanes. He also played three seasons with the Whalers before the team relocated to North Carolina. Before that, he played seven seasons with the Bruins

There are as many as seven former Whalers still in the NHL, but since Sami Kapinen and Glen Wesley both retired this week, just one is a Whaler/Cane: Marek Malik.

In 1994 Wesley was acquired from the Bruins for three first round draft picks. One of those picks would become Sergei Samsonov, who has resurrected his career with the Hurricanes.

Wesley played in 1,457 NHL games, which puts him at 16th all-time and ninth among defensemen. In terms of games played with the Whaler/Canes he had 903, which is second only to some guy named Ron Francis.

Looking at this list, he's in some pretty elite company.

One of my favorite on-ice memories of Wesley is from game one of the 2006 SCF. At the end of the first period and the Canes killing a penalty, Wesley blocked three shots in one shift, and they were all off his body. One on the ankle, one on the knee and one on the thigh. He limped off the ice and into the room, but returned to give everything he had. He ended the game with five blocked shots and a +2 rating.

That summer, he used his day with the Cup to visit wounded US Marines at Camp Lejeune.

The team announced further that it has hired Wesley to be the "Director of Defenseman Development". This is a position that was created out of thin air, but a very classy move by the organ-eye-zation. Wesley's work ethic has never been called into question, and he'll do a fine job developing prospects.

After Ron Francis, Wesley will be just the second Hurricane to have his sweater officially retired. Steve Chiasson's #3 has been "unofficially" retired, and the Canes have honored Hartford's retirement of the #9 sweater for Gordie Howe.

Like Francis, Wesley never cared about being in the spotlight and always deflected praise with class and compliments about his teammates. Whenever that sweater retirement ceremony is, I'll be there to cover the whole thing. "Ron Francis night" was excellent, and I expect "Glen Wesley night" to be just as good.

With Wesley (39) and Hedican (37) no longer in the fold, the Canes will need to pick up at least one defenseman through trade or free agency. Re-signing Tim Gleason is a very high priority. Tim Conboy acquitted himself quite well during his call-ups, so we should hope to get him re-signed as well as Dennis Seidenberg. Still, though, Carolina will need at least one, and probably two young NHL-calibre defensemen. There continues to be a ridiculous amount of speculation concerning a trade involving Erik Cole.

The draft is two weeks away. Then the free agent period begins on July 1.

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