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Friday, February 7
Updated: May 8, 3:10 PM ET
Slumping Carolina trades away slumping Kapanen

Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The slumping Carolina Hurricanes began what could be a series of moves by trading two-time All-Star Sami Kapanen to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday for former first-round draft choice Pavel Brendl.

Fri., February 7
This is an interesting trade and one that was probably not driven just by salary. It became obvious that Sami Kapanen wasn't going to regain his scoring touch any time soon, and scoring has been the biggest problem for Carolina this year. He has seven goals in his last 66 games dating back to the start of last season's playoffs and is a minus-17 this year, but the Flyers are hoping they can regain some of that touch. A change like this can often get a struggling player back on track.

Pavel Brendl has a big upside and has yet to put it together in the NHL, but there is potential for him to succeed for the Hurricanes. And Bruno St. Jacques is an NHL-caliber defenseman who has not been in the Flyers' rotation only because of the emergence of Dennis Seidenberg.

Philadelphia has acquired a burner who is a solid two-way player and can be a top-six forward while the Flyers get healthy, while Carolina now has a guy with huge potential and a defenseman who will be in the league for a lot of years.

The defending Eastern Conference champions have lost 23 of 29 and are 10 points out of a playoff spot with 27 games left after an 8-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.

''It's difficult to start the process of changing our team,'' general manager Jim Rutherford said. ''We came off such a good year, and we haven't been able to get on track. This is really the start of what we did three years ago, changing the face of this team.''

The 29-year-old Kapanen put up career-best numbers a season ago, scoring 27 goals and adding 42 assists for 69 points, second on the Hurricanes.

But the right wing slumped badly during the postseason last year, scoring only once in 23 games. His lack of scoring continued into this season with just six goals and only one since Nov. 29.

Kapanen said he wasn't the same after missing 11 games in November and December with a groin problem.

''The team was winning at that point so it was so much easier to go through it,'' said Kapanen, a five-time 20-goal scorer. ''This has been tough. After the injury I was lacking something when I came back and it hasn't gotten a whole lot better.''

Rutherford said he can't pinpoint why Kapanen, also a three-time Olympian and one of the NHL's fastest skaters, has not performed offensively.

''Sami has been a real professional with us,'' Rutherford said. ''He works hard all the time, he comes to play and he gives 100 percent. It's hard to put your finger on it.

''It's not from a lack of trying. I really don't know what has happened to him over this last year, but a change of scenery will help him.''

It would have been hard to justify Kapanen's $3 million a year salary next season at the pace he's playing, Rutherford added.

Kapanen leaves the Hurricanes after eight seasons. He ranks fifth in franchise history with 203 assists, sixth in games played (520) and ninth in points (348) and goals (145).

Brendl, still considered a rookie despite playing eight games in 2001-02, makes $550,000 this season and $1 million in 2003-04. His contract also has several bonuses.

''He is still in the development stage of his professional hockey career and he has a great offensive upside,'' Rutherford said of the 21-year-old Czech. ''His history over the years is he has scored a lot of goals at the levels he's gone through.

''He has a very good shot and at some point should be able to score in this league.''

Brendl, the fourth overall choice in 1999, by the New York Rangers, has five goals and seven assists in 42 games with the Flyers this season.

The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Brendl joined the Philadelphia organization in the Aug. 20, 2001, in a trade that sent center Eric Lindros to New York.

Rutherford didn't rule out other moves before the trading deadline March 11.

''We're looking at some other things to change this team,'' he said. ''I'm very disappointed.

''I think we did the right thing in the offseason by trying to keep the team together and even to this day I still think we had a good team coming into this season, but some of the little things that worked for us a year ago didn't work for us this year.''

Rutherford did say coach Paul Maurice, who signed a long-term contract extension after the Stanley Cup finals last year, would not be fired.

''The coach is safe,'' Rutherford said. ''The coach is a very good coach and he will continue to coach our team.''

Two minor-leaguers also were involved in the deal. The Flyers got defenseman Ryan Bast, while Carolina acquired defenseman Bruno St. Jacques.

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