by Kate Shefte
Jim Rutherford is true to his word. Just this week, he vowed that Matt Cullen would be gone before the Olympic break and Ray Whitney would depart right afterward, and today he pulled the trigger on a trade that send Cullen packing for third-place Ottawa just before the trade freeze took effect at 3 p.m Cullen will get a cushy role as possible second-line center in Ottawa and he’s almost assuredly playoff-bound.
Carolina allowed Cullen to head north once before, only that time in free agency, due to money issues. Neither party liked how that one worked out. Cullen is like the lost puppy who keeps finding his way home, and like Niclas Wallin, once Carolina gets its act together no one would be surprised to se him come back. He’s a free agent this summer and could easily be back if Ottawa doesn’t offer him a contract extension. But if he doesn’t return, at least he gave us this beauty – his last goal in a ‘Canes sweater – to remember him by.
In return, the ‘Canes collected another second-round pick and second season NHL defenseman Alexandre Picard. There are actually two guys by that name in the NHL, but this one is 24 and an Ottawa native. He’s already suited up for three teams in his short tenure, and one stat that stands out is that he scored all six of his goals on the power play in 2008-2009. Not a bad sign. It seems as though he’s sort of fizzled out during his last two city stops, with Ottawa ganking many of his minutes this season before finally trading him. Perhaps he’ll find his happy place here in Carolina.
So now we know. It doesn’t matter how well the Hurricanes do down the stretch; JR his put the kibosh on this season and is moving forward, pawning off role player for picks. I don’t know that I see the Hurricanes continuing to excel (as they did in last night’s convincing 4-3 overtime victory over fifth-place Buffalo) after the Olympic break with Whitney gone, but this team has finally found the chemistry it so desperately needed in the first half of the season, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. Jussi Jokinen seems perfectly willing to do it all himself anyway.