RALEIGH, N.C. – Hours before facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that defenseman Jay Harrison had been dealt to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The pick was previously acquired by Winnipeg from Ottawa.
It wasn’t a monumental deal by any means.
However, the move showed a little more of the path that executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis may be heading along with this team that currently sits in last place in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference with a 9-19-3 record.
“We thank Jay for his time with the Hurricanes,” Francis was quoted as saying in the team’s written release.
“He represented our organization with class and we wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
Harrison, 32, totaled four points (1g, 3a) and a minus-5 rating in 20 games for the Hurricanes this season, and posted 68 points (21g, 47a) in 317 games played throughout his six years with Carolina.
Head coach Bill Peters answered questions about the transaction following the team’s eventual 4-1 win over the Leafs – its first victory following a six-game losing streak.
Though a part of the business of the sport, one must wonder the impact it made on the other players to see an empty stall in the dressing room hours before the start of a game.
On the surface, it would seem that it sent a message to work that much harder to win a hockey game at home, a place where Carolina has come up short too many times this season.
Peters downplayed the notion.
“It’s not about sending a message to our group or any of that,” he said.
“It’s just the business; it’s reality. It is what it is. I think the timing of it is obviously good for Winnipeg, I think it’s good for Harry to get in there and get a few games in hopefully before Christmas – I don’t know their schedule at all. Then move forward from there. I know it cleans up our situation a little bit.”
Harrison will fill a spot that Winnipeg needed to seam up due to recent injuries, but more importantly the goodwill deal also allowed Francis to eventually shed some salary on a contract that had the veteran blueliner on the books for $1.5 million per year through 2015-2016.
With many wondering what kind of moves Frances would make, this one showed a little more.
It was a bigger step than just picking up forward Andrej Nestrasil off waivers last month.
It showed a glimpse towards the organization’s commitment to bring up more of its homegrown talent.
The recent insertion of Charlotte Checkers captain and fifth-year pro defenseman Michal Jordan into the lineup made such a move doable.
“I think it’s good for both parties to be honest with you,” Peters said.
“It gives Harry a chance to be in the lineup and play. He’s an NHL D-man who can continue to play at a high level. Michal Jordan is a guy who’s now played 11 games and we said when we brought him up, we wanted to give him a good look. We’ve given him a good look and we like what we see.”
Seeing an established and consummate pro like Harrison move on from Carolina was the type of move that will springboard into bigger ones that this team must make in order to become better.
It also provided the platform for now former teammates and coach to sincerely pass on their best wishes – a practice that they will likely repeat for others throughout the rest of the season.
“Obviously, I’ve known Jay for a very long time and he’s a great human being and was a lot of fun to play with,” goaltender Cam Ward said while donning the fire helmet he earned after recording 25 saves for the win against Toronto.
“That’s the tough part of what we do and you immediately think about his family, but we all as former teammates wish him the best in Winnipeg.”
“He’s a good man, a real good man,” Peters added.
“Harry’s a pro. He’s a good pro – he’s gonna’ go there and help them. He was part of our leadership group, so there’ll be a void for sure. We’ll talk about it as a group tomorrow – we didn’t today. I found out about 3:30 and the timing wasn’t right to address it with the team. We’ll do that tomorrow. I wish him nothin’ but the best.”
Carolina will use Friday to appreciate their win over the Leafs, reorganize, rest, and recover before returning to the ice to face the New York Rangers at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Notes: Harrison showed his leadership in many ways, on and off the ice, as a member of the Hurricanes. Most notably, he led many informal on-ice workouts at RCI in recent years to help his teammates, rookies and veterans alike, prepare for the upcoming season as training camp approached. He was also very accessible to offer his perspective on the team and the game as well as the business of the NHL, particularly so as a critical go-to representative of the players during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season.