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Hurricanes on the hunt for defense

Joni Pitkanen will miss the entire 2013-14 season after breaking a bone in his foot chasing down an icing last season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Joni Pitkanen will miss the entire 2013-14 season after breaking a bone in his foot chasing down an icing last season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen (broken left heel bone) will miss the entire season, which is a major blow to the blueline.

Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford wasted little time finding a replacement, inking former Winnipeg Jets blueliner Ron Hainsey to a one-year, $2-million contract.

Hainsey's signing leaves the Hurricanes with $1.05 million in cap space. With Pitkanen out of the lineup, Rutherford will give some of his prospects (such as promising Ryan Murphy) a long look during training camp.

Rutherford has room to add another player if necessary and didn't rule out doing so via trade or free agency. He'll also get some cap relief once the season begins when Pitkanen goes on long-term injured reserve, which could be used for future additions.

One trade option could be Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros, though his salary ($4 million) and injury history could make him unpalatable for the Hurricanes.

Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Matt Niskanen ($2.3 million) could be a trade candidate, though recent word out of Pittsburgh suggests the Penguins won't need to move him to become cap compliant.

SABRES TO STAND PAT WITH VANEK, MILLER

Buffalo Sabres fans can expect Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller to be in the lineup when the regular season opens next month.

CBC's Elliotte Friedman claimed the Sabres were willing to pick up part of Vanek's $7.14 million cap hit for this season if they could find a deal they liked.

GM Darcy Regier, however, told the Buffalo media the “trade window” was closed. He doesn't expect it to open again until close to the March 5 trade deadline.

Vanek's an unrestricted free agent next summer and with the Sabres in rebuild mode, this season could be his last in Buffalo. Even with the Sabres offering to pick up part of his salary, he remains too expensive for most clubs at this time of the year.

Expect interest in Vanek - and Miller - to pick up near the trade deadline, after the Sabres have paid out most of their salaries.

WINGS MUST DEAL WITH CAP AFTER CLEARY SIGNING

Days after Daniel Cleary reportedly agreed to a three-year, $8.25-million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, he signed a one-year, $1.75-million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

Cleary apparently agreed to join the Flyers on a professional tryout offer with the promise of that three-year deal if he cracked the lineup, but subsequently had second thoughts and returned to the Red Wings.

The signing pushes the Wings payroll above the $64.3 million salary cap by $2.3 million, which they'll have to shed via trade or demotion to be under when the season opens next month.

Demoting Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Danny DeKeyser (who are waiver-exempt) would be one solution, but the Wings would still be overstocked at forward.

Expect the Jordin Tootoo ($1.9 million) and Cory Emmerton ($533,000) trade rumors from this summer to resurface in the coming days.

As for the Flyers, GM Paul Holmgren had no hard feelings toward Cleary. “He had deep roots with the Detroit organization. I can't fault him for that.”

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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