The cornerstone Hurricanes are playing very well. Center Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward have picked up their game, giving GM Jim Rutherford full confidence they can be part of the solution as the team rebuilds.
But Rutherford is busily altering the supporting cast, adding young players and prospects to expedite the turnaround.
Carolina traded forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 and defensive prospect Joe Sova, a former collegiate standout at Alaska-Fairbanks.
Ponikarovsky was playing under a one-year, $1.5 million contract. The club had no interest in retaining him past this season.
“He was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and there are other players in our system who are developing and wanted to get in,” Rutherford told the Raleigh News-Observer. “Now was the time to move him. We were able to get a draft pick and a prospect defenseman.'”
Other veterans with expiring contracts include Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason, Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen. As the trade deadline nears, Rutherford may be willing to listen to offers for them as well.
Earlier Rutherford added forward Evgenii Dadonov from the Panthers as part of a four-player trade that also brought forward A.J. Jenks and sent forwards Jon Matsumoto and Mattias Lindstrom to the Florida organization.
Dadonov scored 17 points in 36 NHL games as a rookie, but struggled to produce in limited duty (three points in 15 games) for the Panthers this season. Dadonov reported to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League, but could return to the NHL as Rutherford offloads veterans.