RALEIGH, N.C. – Turns out two of the newest Carolina Hurricanes aren’t really all that new.
Former Hurricanes Joe Corvo and Anton Babchuk are back with the team after spending some time with other clubs.
And while two of Carolina’s most recognizable names may be gone—now that Rod Brind’Amour retired and Ray Whitney left via free agency—a pair of re-acquisitions certainly will provide a dose of familiarity around the RBC Center.
“It was just a no-brainer to come here,” Corvo said Wednesday, “and just make it feel like it was no time missed at all.”
The Hurricanes are relying on Corvo’s comfort level—and his sudden status as the team’s elder statesman—to help fill the inevitable leadership void that accompanied the departures of their two most experienced players.
With the 40-year-old Brind’Amour and the 38-year-old Whitney no longer around, the vibe in the Hurricanes’ dressing room can’t help but skew younger. Brind’Amour ended a two-decade playing career on the last day of June, and Whitney signed a two-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes one day later.
That leaves the 33-year-old Corvo as the oldest player on the roster. Only three others will be in their 30s this season, and the next oldest after that is forward Chad LaRose, who’s 28.
All-star Eric Staal, who inherited the team captaincy from Brind’Amour midway through last season, turns 26 in October.
“I always liked to poke fun with Rod about stuff, and have fun with him. A lot of guys didn’t do that,” LaRose said. “It’ll be a little different, I think, because it’ll be such a young locker-room. The presence of Brind’Amour around is definitely something that you can’t replace. He’s an irreplaceable guy. But we know that Staal’s a great leader. … He’s going to fill in just fine for us.”
The Hurricanes can only hope their two not-so-new additions can mesh back with their teammates with minimal effort.
Babchuk was a key defenceman with a hard slap shot, scoring four game-winning goals for the Hurricanes in 2009 when they reached the Eastern Conference final. He played last season in Russia but agreed to a one-year deal with Carolina in July.
“That’s all we can ask, is to bring his big shot and solid defence, and we’ll be good,” LaRose said.
Corvo, also a critical component of that team, came back after he was traded to Washington at the deadline during a roster purge.
When his contract ran out after the season, the offensive-minded defenceman and power-play presence made an easy decision to return to Carolina. He signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million in mid-July.
“For players my age, in particular, things weren’t that easy this summer. No one’s throwing money or long-term deals at guys like me,” Corvo said. “In the end, it was about keeping my family happy and in a comfortable situation where I didn’t have to move, didn’t have to buy a new house somewhere in a city and get adjusted.
“Really, the whole Washington situation was such a short period of time where it almost feels like I was never there,” he added. “Easy room (in Carolina), easy guys to get along with. It should make for a better start of the season.”