Talk about a strong finishing kick. The Canes' turned what appeared to be a fairly quiet trade deadline day into a bang-up, wholesale lineup change with a late rush.
Defenseman Aaron Ward and Scott Walker were traded just after noon. About three hours later, just before the NHL's 3 p.m. deadline, the Canes dealt defenseman Joe Corvo to the Washington Capitals for defenseman Brian Pothier, Finnish forward Oskar Osala and a second-round pick.
Defenseman Andrew Alberts was sent to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick, and forward Stephane Yelle -- with Harrison Reed -- was sent to the Colorado Avalanche for Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll and a sixth-rounder.
Add in the trades of Matt Cullen and Niclas Wallin before the Olympic break and that's seven players leaving the team since mid-February. General manager Jim Rutherford promised changes and he made them.
"I'm not happy with the day. It was not an easy day for anybody," Rutherford said. "It's a tough day, a sad day. You're saying goodbye to people you care about.
"As far as cutting our losses financially, and building toward the future and getting a couple of young players, we did what we set out to do. But I can't say I'm happy. I'm happy the day is over."
Rutherford estimated the Canes would save a little more than $2 million this year with the trades.
"It was part of the guidelines going into this trade deadline," Rutherford said. "We're in a year where our gate receipts are down, our revenues are down, we're in a tough economy. We understand why. Our team didn't play well for a couple of months. We didn't draw as many people as we expected to.
"So from a business point of view we felt we had to try and cut our losses. And we did that and we did it by not moving any of our core players."
Rutherford said Zach Boychuk and Jay Harrison would be recalled from Albany (AHL) and that Pothier, 32, would be in the lineup for Thursday's game against Ottawa. Forwards Chad LaRose and Erik Cole returned from injury Tuesday against Toronto.
For much of the last month, trade speculation has centered on winger Ray Whitney, due to be an unrestricted free agent. But Rutherford said no offers "made sense."
"Ray did not want to go anywhere," Rutherford said. "I think at the end he would have if it was in the best interests of the organization. It was in the best interests of the organization to finish the season here."
Whitney has a no-trade clause in his contract, but Rutherford said that was not a factor in nixing any potential deals in the past few days. What was a factor, he said, was the Canes winning their last six games and 10 of 12.
"Based on how we've played over these last 12 games, it probably did change our position on Ray Whitney a little bit," Rutherford said.
Rutherford said he "really teetered" on making the Corvo trade with the Caps, but the offer of a second-round pick in addition to the two players sealed the deal. The Alberts trade to Vancouver was made just minutes before the deadline, he said.
Rutherford said it was important to bring in goaltender Justin Pogge with Cam Ward out with a back injury and Albany goalie Mike Murphy sidelined with a hand injury.
"We only have (Justin) Peters and (Manny) Legace healthy," he said. "If one of those guys went down we would be in a jam."
Rutherford said the Canes now have three second-round picks and two third-round picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, with 11 picks overall in the first seven rounds.
Ward, Alberts and Yelle were added in the offseason in an attempt to solidify what Rutherford and others thought would be a Stanley Cup contender. Alberts was under contract for next season for $1.3 million.
"It's difficult. I'm attached to all these players," Rutherford said. "I'm the guy who brings them here, I'm the guy who works with them through good times and bad times and it's a tough day.
"You don't ever want to be a seller. When you're a seller, the year's not going the way you expected it to go, whether it's from a financial point of view or a performance point of view, and they usually go hand in hand. It's not a good day."
The Canes have pulled within eight points of eighth-place and playoff position with 20 games left to play.
"Our priority is to make this playoff race interesting," Rutherford said.