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Bruins trade defenseman Aaron Ward back to the Hurricanes

07.24.09 at 11:55 am ET

The Boston Bruins made a salary cap-inspired move on Friday morning as they dealt popular defenseman Aaron Ward back to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for former Boston College forward Patrick Eaves and a 4th round pick in the 2010 draft.

After nabbing Eaves in the deal, the Bruins placed the winger on waivers for the purpose of eventually buying out his contract. The 25-year-old Eaves comes with a cap hit of $1.4 million over the next two seasons, so a contract buyout will give B’s GM Peter Chiarelli a little more room under the salary cap once Eaves is bought out and Ward’s $2.5 million cap hit is also cleared from the books.

According to, Eaves’ buyout will count against the salary cap in this manner over the next four seasons:

2009-2010: $258,333
2010-2011: $-41,667
2011-2012: $258,333
2012-2013: $258,333 

Ward enjoyed some of his best seasons withthe Carolina Hurricanes and won the Stanley Cup with Carolina back in 2006, and actually makes his home in North Carolina around the Raleigh area during the offseason. A 6’€™2’€, 209 lb. native of Ottawa, Ward has played the last two-plus seasons with the Bruins since he was acquired from the NY Rangers for Paul Mara at the March, 2007 trade deadline and he had three goals and seven assists for ten points in 65 regular season games while adding one goal in 11 post-season games for the Bruins last year.

“We do still have a strong group. In this system now, when you make moves like these you have to make the assumption that other players — some of your current players — can carry on those responsibilities” said B’s GM Peter Chiarelli speaking of replacing Ward’s leadership and toughness on the ice. “It’s a fairly minor cap hit if (Eaves) doesn’t get claimed. I’m looking at (bringing in) another defensemen.

“(Ward) love it in Boston, and he was disappointed when I talked to him today. But he also understood and appreciated the fact that he was going to Carolina. If it was a strict cap-clearing exercise we could have picked a lot of different destinations. This made sense on all ends.”

One of Ward’s lasting images will be the Scott Walker “sucker punch” that he took to his face in the closing minutes of a Stanley Cup playoff game against the very-same Hurricanes team. Ward was left with a black eye for the rest of the playoff series, but Walker had an automatic one-game suspension rescinded by the NHL in a controversial ruling that set the tone for Walker’s Game 7 OT game-winner.

Because Eaves is under 26 years of age, per the NHL contract buyout rules, the Bruins are only on the hook for 1/3 of his $2.8 million salary owed over the next two seasons, and Boston will save more than 2 million — the combined savings of dealing Ward and buying out Eaves — on the salary cap this season. Once he had turned 26, the Bruins would have been on the hook for 2/3 of his salary per terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Eaves’ cap hit is $1.1 million less than Ward to begin with, and there could be at least $750,000 more coming off the books via the impending buyout of his deal. Could this be a move to clear enough space to sign restricted free agent Phil Kessel, or portend another move for another puck-moving defenseman?

“With respect to Phil, he’s a good young player and we want him in the mix,” said Chiarelli. “I’ve got the endorsement from ownership that any offer sheets that come we will match. To get these players at this level, you have to draft them. So they’re hard to get, and (Kessel) will be hard to pry from us.”

Stay tuned for more details this afternoon, as there is clearly another move to come after the Ward trade.

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