The Carolina Hurricanes traded defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, general manager Jim Rutherford said today.
Spacek, 37, had been on injured reserve with an upper-body injury but has been cleared and will play for the Canes tonight against the Winnipeg Jets, Rutherford said.
Kaberle signed a three-year, $12.75 million free-agent contract with the Canes July 5 but has mostly been a disappointment on the blue line this season. Kaberle, a former All-Star with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was traded by the Leafs to the Boston Bruins last season and was a part of the Bruins' Stanley Cup run.
"I should have known better," Rutherford said. "Tomas is a player who has had a very good career but I should have known better in the sense of where he was in his career. He won the Stanley Cup, he had a short summer and at the start of training camp and the start of the season he was not where he needed to be (physically).
"He has not done as well as expected, just as the team has not done as well as expected. He has played better the last couple of weeks. But to have flexibility next year without his contract is important to us."
In 29 games with the Canes, Kaberle had no goals and nine assists and a minus-12 rating. He did have a pair of assists in each of the last two games.
Rutherford said his preference would have been to trade Kaberle for a forward but said "there was not a deal out there that could be made for Kaberle."
Spacek was in his third season with the Habs and has played 12 games this season, with no goals and three assists. He is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
"He's been around a long time and is a capable guy," Rutherford said. "We'll see how it goes."
Spacek is needed tonight with defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison out with upper-body injuries. Rutherford said Pitkanen has been sent back to Raleigh and will miss Tuesday's game in Toronto.
"We're just being cautious with Joni," Rutherford said. "It's not a long-term injury."
Canes coach Kirk Muller played a season with Spacek with the Florida Panthers in 1998-1999. Muller also was an assistant coach at Montreal the past five seasons.
Rutherford said Muller had some input into the decision but noted, "The bottom line was moving Kaberle's contract."
Spacek played against the Canes in the 2006 Stanley Cup finals as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Panthers in 1998 and made his NHL debut that season for Florida.