Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 07/02/11 at 08:43 PM ET
On Friday, Carolina lost one of its star players to free agency, then added five new players. They added four forwards and a goalie. None was a blockbuster, but all should be great additions to the team.
The biggest addition was goaltender Brian Boucher, who is the only active NHLer from the state of Rhode Island. Like most of the free agent netminders on the market, he made his name as a starting goalie but now must make his money as a backup, most recently for Philadelphia. He holds the record for longest shutout streak with five consecutive shutouts in during the 2003-04 season. Since the lockout, Carolina will be his seventh NHL team.
On Friday, they also added Tim Brent and Alexie Ponikarovsky from the Leafs. Both already have highlight reel stuff from games against Carolina. Brent for being awesome and Poni for being lazy. More on this in a bit.
On Saturday, they added two more. Right wing Anthony Stewart from the Thrashers, who Jim Rutherford described as a “late bloomer”. They also added some organizational depth in left wing/tough guy Justin Soryal, who has played his entire professional career with the Rangers AHL team.
In the 2003-04 season, “Boosh” served as the 1A goalie for the Coyotes, with Sean “wife beater” Burke as the 1B. Boucher set the league on fire, recording five straight shutouts en route to setting a record of 332 shutout minutes. It was finally broken up by Randy Robataille of the Thrash. Those five shutouts were his only five of the year. In fact, he only won 10 games in 40 appearances that season. He finished with an unimpressive record of 10-19-10 with a save percentage of .906 and a GAA of 2.74. Last season with the Flyers, appeared in 34 games as a very busy #2, posting a much more impressive record of 18-10-4 with a save percentage of .916 and a GAA of 2.42.
Tim Brent is a guy who was well-liked in Toronto. I’ve read nothing but good things about him and his character. Last season, the Cambridge, Ontario native played his first full NHL season, notching eight goals and 12 assists. He had one shorthanded goal, this beauty against Carolina:
He was also on a highlight reel for being the robbery victim on one of the best saves of the season by any goaltender. It happened to be Cam Ward:
This video clip, also coincidentally against Carolina, is the reason that Leafs fans love Tim Brent. Three blocked shots during an epic 5-on-3 penalty kill. This is some seriously good stuff:
I think he’s going to be a great addition to the Hurricanes. At two years for a total of $1.5M, this is a pretty good bargain, too. He was first on the Leafs among regular forwards with 1:58 penalty kill TOI per game. He was third among Leafs regulars with 52% faceoff winning percentage. He was first among Leafs regular forwards with 58 blocked shots. This is pretty similar, from a Hurricanes standpoint to Brandon Sutter.
Alexei Ponikarovsky had a bad season with the Kings last season, scoring just 15 (5/10) points in an injury-filled season that limited him to 61 games. The 31-year old native of Ukraine has scored 20 or more goals in four seasons. His best was 2008-09, when he set personal bests with 23 goals and 38 assists. Jim Rutherford has said that “Poni” might play on the top line, but I won’t expect to see that.
He is famous around here for being a big part of an epic collapse by the Leafs (or alternately, a dramatic comeback by the Hurricanes) in which Vesa Toskala of the Leafs was headed for a 2-0 shutout, but ended up giving up two goals in the last 85 seconds, then giving up an Eric Staal goal in overtime. Poni‘s part in that was that he had the puck on his stick and an open net in front of him with the score 2-1. For some reason, he hesitated instead of burying it, and it cost the Leafs the game. I wrote about it here, and there’s also a video:
I found a really fun video of Alexei Ponikarovsky playing the Felix Unger to Nik Antropov’s Oscar Madison:
The Hurricanes also re-signed Jiri Tlusty, who technically became an UFA because Carolina didn’t give him a qualifying offer.
I thought everything was done, but the Hurricanes made two signings on Saturday. The Soryal signing is for Charlotte. The Anthony Stewart signing came as a bit of a surprise. In his first full NHL season, he scored 14 goals and added 25 assists. The 6’3” 230-pounder was born in LaSalle, Quebec and is of Jamaican descent.
Stewart will probably play as the third line right wing, which means that one or more of the kids from Charlotte won’t be getting the call.
Carolina still has to re-sign their own RFAs Derek Joslin and Brandon Sutter. I expect those to get done pretty soon. That should be the end of Carolina’s action in the free agent market. Jim Rutherford has suggested that he’s still interested in acquiring a top six forward via trade, but he said that at this point, they’ll wait until the season starts to pursue that seriously.
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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.