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Hurricanes find backup goalie, 4th-line centre by signing Brent, Boucher, Ponikarovsky

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Carolina Hurricanes added three free agents Friday, signing two-year contracts with goalie Brian Boucher and centre Tim Brent and reaching a one-year deal with forward Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Boucher's US$1.9 million deal will pay him $900,000 this season and $1 million in 2012-13. The veteran made $925,000 last season with Philadelphia, and was 18-10 with a 2.42 goals-against average as part of the Flyers' three-goalie rotation.

"He's a guy that we've always liked," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He's just one of those guys that fits into a team nicely. ... A hard-working guy, a great team guy, a guy that can give you a stretch of 8-10 games if necessary, if your No. 1 guy gets hurt."

Acquiring a fourth-line centre and an experienced backup goalie behind Cam Ward were the Hurricanes' top two priorities of the off-season, and they took care of both hours after free agency started at noon Friday.

Rutherford said he wants Boucher to play between 20-25 games. Last year's backup, Justin Peters, is scheduled to spend this season at Carolina's AHL affiliate in Charlotte so he can play more often and continue his development.

Ponikarovsky will make $1.5 million this season. He had just five goals in 61 games with Los Angeles last season after scoring at least 18 goals in each of his previous five NHL campaigns.

Brent will make $700,000 this season and $800,000 in 2012-13. He made $575,000 last season with Toronto, and had eight goals and 12 assists in 79 games with the Maple Leafs.

He had two goals and an assists in a loss to the Carolina in January, then blocked a handful of shots in a rematch the following week.

"We liked him before that," Rutherford said. "Aside from (those performances), he's a good fit in that role as a fourth-line centre."

Carolina also re-signed centre Jiri Tlusty to a one-year deal worth $525,000. Tlusty had six goals and six assists in 57 games last season.

The Hurricanes re-signed most of their potential free agents, reaching deals with forwards Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose and defenceman Joni Pitkanen this week.

But Rutherford said popular forward Erik Cole turned down Carolina's attempt to keep him, instead signing with Montreal for $18 million over four years.

"I do think the best thing for us to do right now with the budgeted money that we had for Erik Cole is to sit, wait until the dust settles and possibly try to (replace) him through a trade," Rutherford said. "If we don't find the player we like, that just moves some of the younger players up quicker. ... That'll be a tough spot to fill."


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