2012 NHL Free Agents: Marc-Andre Gragnani Signing a Smart Move by Hurricanes

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2012 NHL Free Agents: Marc-Andre Gragnani Signing a Smart Move by Hurricanes
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The ice has finally been broken.

After 10 days of mere speculation, Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has, at last, dipped into the free agent market again.

But it's not Alexander Semin. It's not Shane Doan. It's not a top-tier player destined to transform the 'Canes into Stanley Cup contenders overnight.

No, it's merely Marc-Andre Gragnani, a 25-year-old defenseman with just 73 games of NHL experience. Per Renaud Lavoie of RDS:

Gragnani, who became an unrestricted free agent after not receiving a qualifying offer from Vancouver in June, will be joining his third team in five months in Carolina.

The former Sabres blueliner was sent to the Canucks as part of the Cody Hodgson trade in February.

However, despite Gragnani's low-level profile and inexpensive, two-way contract, his addition could prove very beneficial for the Hurricanes.

The 2005 third-round pick put his offensive skills on display during four seasons in the AHL.

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In one year with Rochester and three campaigns with Portland, Gragnani posted consecutive point totals of 52, 51, 43 and 60 during his lengthy, but accomplished, path to the big leagues.

The 6'2", 201-pound rearguard established himself as a strong power play weapon in the Sabres' prospect pool during the four-year span.

Further, during an injury call-up in spring 2011, Gragnani also registered his first career NHL goal, ironically, against the Hurricanes in overtime. The lost point proved costly for Carolina, who missed on out on the playoffs by a mere two points at the end of the season.

Gragnani finally broke through full-time to the NHL plateau last season, tallying two goals, 13 assists, 41 blocked shots and a plus-six rating in 58 games for Buffalo and Vancouver. Seven of his 15 total points came on the man-advantage.

Starting next fall, he'll add welcome depth to the Hurricanes' uncertain defensive situation.

Behind reputable stars Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain and Justin Faulk, the team sports a variety of borderline NHL-caliber blueliners—career sixth-defenseman Jay Harrison, recent signee Joe Corvo, promising prospect Ryan Murphy, re-signed AHL standout Bobby Sanguinetti and, now, Gragnani.

Given the crowded defensive situation, Gragnani's two-way contract status may translate to an AHL job for the Quebec native come opening day, but Gragnani should still receive plenty of opportunities to move back to the NHL as the season moves along. 

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Gragnani's signing is not a blockbuster move for Rutherford and the Hurricanes, but it is a clever and cost-efficient one. The still-young 25-year-old has the upside to become a true asset by season's end.

Hopefully, the move will also—at long last—set loose the avalanche of signings 'Canes fans have been expecting for weeks now. Will Semin or Doan be the next domino to fall?

We'll have to wait on that.

Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. In that time, he has written more than 405 articles and received over 620,000 reads.

Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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