NHL Free Agents: Carolina Hurricanes Sign Tim Wallace, Jay Harrison, Prospects
With many of the free agent market's biggest names now off the board, the Carolina Hurricanes and GM Jim Rutherford have turned towards their internal to-do list.
Tidying up a number of loose ends within the organization, Rutherford has come to terms with a gritty new fourth-line forward, three young restricted free agents and extended a reliable third-pairing defenseman.
Former Islander and Lightning winger Tim Wallace stands as the team's only out-of-town signing of the week, bringing the influx of grit and toughness Rutherford was seeking for the team's fourth line.
Yesterday's Canes signing Tim Wallace had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick w/ Bridgeport on 11/27. Seems to have good mix of scoring, toughness— Paul Branecky (@PaulBranecky) July 20, 2012
Wallace, 27, scored just one assist in 31 games with the Islanders before being traded, but managed a respectable three goals and eight points in 18 games with the Lightning. The 6'1", 201 lb. Alaska native scored his first career NHL goal, ironically, against the 'Canes themselves, in March.
Head coach Kirk Muller hopes that Wallace can bring a few more fisticuffs to the 'Canes, who finished second-to-last in fighting majors last season.
Per director of operations Ron Francis via the team's press release:
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
“Tim is a versatile forward and played well with Tampa Bay to finish the year. He has a good amount of pro experience and should challenge for a spot with the Hurricanes in training camp."
Wallace should add additional depth, for the cheap price tag of $700,000, to an already-crowded Hurricanes bottom six. Moreover, if he doesn't work out in Raleigh, Wallace has a two-way contract that could land him a job with AHL Charlotte:
Might compete for bottom six spot. If not, good fit for CLT. RT @bjaywhittington: where do you see tim wallace fitting into canes lineup?
— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) July 20, 2012
On the defensive side of the roster, Rutherford also signed a three-year extension with rearguard Jay Harrison, who was set to become a UFA next July.
From an early career spent scraping out 1-year deals in the minors and overseas to getting 3-year extensions, Jay Harrison's come a long way— Paul Branecky (@PaulBranecky) July 24, 2012
Harrison, 29 came to the Hurricanes as a free agent in 2009—after failing to earn a full-time NHL job in seven years with Toronto. He proved his worth as an inexpensive sixth defenseman.
Despite making just $650,000 in salary, Harrison, a third-round pick in 2001, set career highs in goals (nine), assists (14), points (23), hits (118), blocked shots (153—second on the team) and average ice-time per game (20:33) last season.
He'll carry a cap hit of $1.5 million over three years starting in 2012-13.
Jay Harrison proved himself as an NHL defenseman. Now he'll be paid like one. Very deserving.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) July 24, 2012
Obviously, Rutherford was pleased with the deal. Per the team's press release:
“Jay has developed into a consistent, steadying presence for our defense. He is capable of providing both physicality and offense, and we are happy to now have him under contract for the next four seasons.”
The team also re-signed several up-and-coming prospects, Jerome Samson, 24, Drayson Bowman, 23, and Zach Boychuk, 22, to three separate two-way contracts this past week.
Samson, who has bounced back and forth between the NHL and the minor leagues continually since being signed as an undrafted UFA in 2007, has performed consistently in the AHL but found translating that game to the 'Canes difficult.
The Quebec native's 20 goals and 17 assists in 57 appearances with AHL Charlotte last season ranked second among team forwards and marked Samson's fifth consecutive 20-goal AHL campaign—although that tally reached as high as 37 in 2009-10.
Which signing was the smartest?
Corey S. of the blog Canes Country elaborates:
"[Samson] was able to get almost four shots on goal per game when he was playing with the Checkers, which is was a main reason why he was able to have 20 goals despite...a shooting percentage [of just 9.0 percent]...Samson was not only one of the Checkers best scorers, he was one of their top possession players, as well.
Samson has all the makings of being a quality NHL player even if he is a late-bloomer and hasn't quite made his mark yet."
Samson's two goals and three helpers in 16 NHL games also set career bests, but he'll need a fantastic training camp performance to be anything more than an injury call-up yet again next year.
He'll carry an NHL cap hit of $0.6 million during the new one-year deal.
Bowman was a pleasant surprise for Muller and the Hurricanes last season, appearing in a career-high 37 NHL games, all but two of which occurred after Paul Maurice's departure—with fairly impressive results.
Bowman tallied six goals, 13 points and a plus-two rating. He found his way into Carolina's top six from time to time, and his 54 hits on the year (an average of 1.46 per game, fourth among all team forwards) topped that of even Brandon Sutter (53), Eric Staal (48) and Joni Pitkanen (27).
His in-depth statistics also proved steadfast. Per ESPN's Corey Pronman:
CAR extended Drayson Bowman for 2 years. Facing 7th highest Corsi Rel QOC, has 2nd highest Corsi Rel on CAR. AAV on deal is 600k. Good deal.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) July 23, 2012
The former third-round pick also played well at the lower level, registering 13 goals and 26 points in 42 AHL appearances.
With a strong 2011-12 season behind him, Bowman's two-year contract, reportedly worth $600,000 per season, will also become one-way in 2013-2014.
Former 14th overall pick Zach Boychuk has never come close to living up to expectations, but he's been given one more shot at successfully transferring his raw talent into NHL prosperity.
Boychuk led all Checkers forwards with 21 goals and 44 points last season, and that's nothing new—the merely 5'10" winger has always been a high-scoring forward against the AHL's smaller, slower competition.
The problem has been finding a way to use his finesse talent in the NHL. Boychuk has scored just seven goals and 18 points in 72 career NHL games over the last four years, and racked up zero goals and only two assists in 16 appearances last season.
He's fallen behind the curve of fellow prospects like Samson, Zac Dalpe, Chris Terry and others. He failed to receive the one-way deal that Bowman did one day earlier, and is seemingly down to his final season in the 'Canes organization.
So how important is this year for Boychuk, now that we can't blame Mo's reluctance to play young'uns?— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongWTVD) July 24, 2012
We'll see how Boychuk fares when his career is truly on the line.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. In that time, he has written more than 410 articles and received more than 645,000 reads.
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