Darryl Sutter was able to place the interests of his hockey team ahead of his personal feelings.
The Calgary Flames GM traded his son Brett on Wednesday, shipping him to the Carolina Hurricanes along with defenceman Ian White for winger Tom Kostopoulos and defenceman Anton Babchuk.
The move came one week after Brett Sutter was charged with assault following an incident outside an Arizona bar. But assistant GM Jay Feaster was adamant the deal was in the works before that happened.
“This discussion took place going back to the end of October, beginning of November,” Feaster said on a conference call. “He was a player that Carolina identified as someone that they wanted in the deal. So it evolved from there.”
Darryl Sutter selected his son Brett in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. The 23-year-old forward was a depth player for the Flames this season—registering one assist in four games before getting scratched in 12 straight.
He was assigned to the American Hockey League earlier this week.
“One of the things that Darryl has always prided himself on is being able to separate out the personal relationship and the business aspect of what it is that we do,” said Feaster. “We were in a situation where Brett was not playing, he was not able to crack the starting lineup and hadn’t played in an extended period of time. …
“It was a decision that was made … in the best interest of the hockey club.”
The move provides Calgary with a little bit of salary cap relief. Babchuk (US$1.4 million) and Kostopoulos ($950,000) are earning less combined than White, who is on a one-year contract that pays him $2,999,995. Sutter has a two-way deal and earns the league minimum of $500,000 when he is in the NHL.
The key to the transaction was actually White, who became expendable when the Flames signed defenceman Mark Giordano to a five-year extension in October. That left Calgary without the necessary cap space moving forward to lock up White.
“Shortly after we signed Gio, that’s when we began to have conversations with other teams and talk about the possibility of making a deal,” said Feaster. “In the conversations with Carolina, we focused on these two players very, very quickly. It took some time as these things usually do.”
Babchuk has bounced between Carolina and his native Russia the past couple seasons, but says he’s committed to staying in the NHL now.
For Kostopoulos, the news came as a surprise. The 31-year-old has one year remaining on his contract and will be joining his fifth NHL team.
The toughest part for him was breaking the news to his three-year-old daughter, who was wearing a Hurricanes sweater on Wednesday in anticipation of attending a game later in the evening.
“It’s tough, it’s kind of a shock,” said Kostopoulos. “I’m not so worried about myself, it’s an easy flight over. I’m just kind of more concerned about my family … and explaining it to my daughter.”
Brett Sutter was charged with misdemeanour assault in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Nov. 10. Police say he was drunk to the point of slurring his words and had been thrown out of a bar for being “disorderly and extremely intoxicated” when he punched a cab driver in the mouth without being provoked.
The cabbie suffered a cut to the inside of his mouth and was spitting blood, but did not lose any teeth.
Sutter gets a fresh start in a new organization, where he’ll be joining another family member if he gets the chance to play for the big team. Cousin Brandon Sutter is an alternate captain with the Hurricanes.
His move is a reminder that hockey is a business.
“We’ve had discussions internally, as a management group and as a coaching staff, about where we feel Brett is in his development,” said Feaster. “Again, it was a decision that this was in the best interest of the hockey club. …
“If we could have consummated the transaction back in the first week of November, we would have done that.”