As expected, the Carolina Hurricanes signed defenseman Anton Babchuk to a one-year deal shortly after the free-agency signing period opened today.
The Hurricanes retained Babchuk's rights after last season when the two sides couldn't agree on terms. Babchuk, 26, spent the season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. The Hurricanes had made him a qualifying offer at the end of last season, but Babchuk had lost his arbitration rights when he rebuffed that offer and left to play in Russia for the 2007-08 season.
Babchuk had a career year with the Hurricanes during his last season (2008-09) with the team, scoring 16 goals — including four game-winners — and 19 assists,
"I will admit that we missed him," general manager Jim Rutherford said today. "I said at the time, it's going to be hard to replace those 16 goals. We didn't."
Babchuk will make $1.4 million this season.
This past season, he played in 49 games with Avangard Omsk, where he scored 9 goals and 22 points and was a plus-17. The Kiev, Ukraine native was also played in the KHL's All-Star Game in Minsk, scoring a goal for Team Yashin.
Rutherford said if Babchuk had stayed with the team last year, he'd probably be in line to make a lot more this season — more than the Canes could afford.
"We probably wouldn't be able to pay him this year," said Rutherford, who is still looking for a sixth defenseman.
He mentioned getting a call from the agent of Joe Corvo, who was sent to Washington before the trade deadline last season.
The way Rutherford sees it, as things currently stand, he'd have Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain paired, Joni Pitkanen and Babchuk paired and Jay Harrison with the final defenseman to be determined.
If Rutherford is able to get a higher end defensemen, which could come between today and a month from now, he said, he could pair him with Gleason and drop McBain down with Harrison.