RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes opened the NHL’s free-agent period Tuesday by adding one forward, keeping another one and bringing on an upper-level executive.
The Hurricanes agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent centre Brad Malone and gave Jiri Tlusty a one-year contract.
They also hired former Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell as the president of Gale Force Sports and Entertainment, which operates both the team and its arena.
Jim Rutherford had served as both the team’s general manager and president of Gale Force before he stepped aside in April to allow Ron Francis to slide into the GM’s spot.
Rutherford was hired last month as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ GM, and now Waddell will run the team’s business-related operations while the hockey matters will fall to Francis.
“Donnie’s got great credentials,” owner Peter Karmanos Jr. said. “I believe the best way to grow a business is not by cutting expenses, it’s by growing revenue. Don’s going to work on the process and the organization itself, and we’re going to try to move the Hurricanes forward from the business side.”
Karmanos called the start of free agency “one of the more desperate days of the hockey season” because “a lot of our brethren are out running around trying to see how much money they can spend.”
He insisted “we’ve got a very good hockey team” and it didn’t make many big waves, adding Malone and keeping Tlusty while allowing a couple of role players—centre Manny Malhotra and backup goalie Justin Peters—to leave.
Malone, 25, will make $600,000 this season and $700,000 in 2015-16 and projects as a fourth-line centre. Francis called him “a big, physical forward” who “helps improve our team’s depth up front.”
He had three goals and two assists in 32 games with Colorado this season and has played parts of the past three seasons with the Avalanche.
Tlusty, 26 and a restricted free agent, had 16 goals and 14 assists in 68 games last season. He will make $2.95 million.
Two players from last year’s team have signed elsewhere—Malhotra received a one-year deal from Montreal while Peters agreed to a two-year contract with Washington.
Peters’ departure appears to have cleared up Carolina’s uncertain goalie situation. The Hurricanes carried three goalies—Anton Khudobin, Cam Ward and Peters—at the end of last season.
Francis said he “talked to a lot of teams” about Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner during the Hurricanes’ run to the 2006 Stanley Cup and the subject of trade speculation this off-season.
“We still believe in Cam Ward,” Francis said. “At the end of the day, we feel Cam is a good goaltender. He’s had a couple of tough years and some weird injuries.”
Francis said Malhotra was looking for a two-year contract while the team was willing to offer only one year.
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