Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 02/28/11 at 09:03 PM ET
On trading deadline day, the Carolina Hurricanes made a pretty big move that should make their defense much better, and they didn’t give up much to do it. They traded the mercurial winger Sergei Samsonov to the Panthers for gritty stay-at-home defenseman Bryan Allen. Allen had to wiave his no-trade clause to make the trade happen, and is under contract through the 2011-12 season with a cap hit of $2.9M. Samsonov, on the other hand, is set to become an UFA this summer.
Samsonov has had a rough go this season and, with the addition of Cory Stillman, he became an expendable left wing.
As fate has it, Carolina and Florida will play each other tomorrow night in Raleigh.
We like this very much because it addresses an immediate need heading down the stretch and into the playoffs. It also takes care of the “defensive defenseman” need for next season.
Samsonov enjoyed immediate success after he was claimed off re-entry waivers from the Blackhawks in January of 2008. He had bounced around from Boston to Edmonton (where he played against Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals) to Montréal to Chicago and never really clicked. Somehow, though, he clicked in Carolina. He scored 32 (14/18) points in 34 games for Carolina heading down the stretch. Carolina missed the playoffs by two points that season, as they lost the final game of the season.
He followed that in 2008-09 with his best full season in seven years. He tallied 48 (16/32) in the regular season and eight (5/3) in the playoffs. Last year, he came back down quite a bit, with just 29 (14/15) points. This season, he has 26 (10/16) points through 58 games played, but he hasn’t really had a consistent role with this team. He’s been on the top line and he’s been on the fourth line. He’s at the end of his current contract and there’s no reason to consider renewing him.
Samsonov is a really skilled player and it’s fun to watch him skate, but it’s frustrating to watch him skate. That’s all he does. He’ll skate circles around defenders, make some nifty maneuvers through tight areas, then he’ll turn the puck over or shoot it right at the goaltender’s chest. A lot of razzle-dazzle, but nothing to show. All Russian, no Finnish. All shake, no bake. Whatever.
While eliminating some of the logjam at left wing and shedding some salary, the more important part is that this addresses a big need for Carolina. The defense has been a big issue, and specifically the need for a sturdy defensive defenseman. Allen is a big dude. 6’4”, 220 lbs. On a team that doesn’t hit much, he led all defensemen in hits for the Panthers with 83. His job will be to clear the crease for Cam Ward, and he should do just fine.
With this transaction, Carolina takes on $80,824 as a cap hit, and that’s totally fine.
It’s frankly amazing that Jim Rutherford was able to get anything for Samsonov, but the Panthers were having a humongous fire sale.
This trade naturally raises the question of what to do with Joni Pitkanen in the off-season. Carolina has four NHL defensemen, including Allen, under contract for next season. Derek Joslin will become a RFA, and I’ll assume that he re-signs for not much more than the league minimum. Jay Harrison will become an UFA, and there’s no telling what will happen there. Joni Pitkanen, who makes $4M this season, will become an UFA. His proclivity for going to Joniland is becoming a growing concern and I just don’t see the Canes re-signing him this summer. Instead, I see them getting someone cheaper in the free agent market. That, or working with what they already have and re-signing and promoting a guy from Charlotte.
This is a move that Canes fans would have liked to have seen a couple of weeks ago rather than now, but Florida wasn’t having a fire sale two weeks ago. Also, this move was, in part, pressed by the fact that Calgary claimed Brett Carson off waivers this morning.
This is going to make Carolina’s defense stronger. A lot stronger. Will it be enough to push them into the second round of the playoffs (or beyond)? We won’t know for a little while, but it’s certain that the blueline needed this.
Sergei Samsonov was a good guy to have around here, and he’s given us some good memories. Now, he’s given us a chance to make the team better by being a part of this trade. It may turn out to be the biggest contribution he ever made to Carolina.
Samsonov won’t have to travel to join his new team because they’re traveling to join him. He’ll stay put in Raleigh and leave with the team after Tuesday night’s game. If the hockey gods have a sense of humor (and we all know that they do), Samsonov will score against Carolina. For his sake, I kind of hope so. As long as Carolina wins the game.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.