The first trade of the new season was made about an hour ago when the Carolina Hurricanes sent goaltender Brian Boucher and defenseman prospect Mark Alt to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward 23-year-old center Luke Pither. This will be Boucher's third stint with the Flyers, the team who he began his NHL career with.
Boucher was battling a groin injury for most of last season and played in only 10 games as a result. He also suffered a shoulder injury over the summer and had to take some time over the prolonged off-season to heal up from that. There was a lot of speculation that the Canes were going to deal Boucher sometime this week because they had two goalies in their system in Justin Peters and Dan Ellis who were both playing well. Ellis was invited to the Hurricanes training camp and with Boucher now out of the picture, the back-up job to Cam Ward appears to be his to lose.
While Boucher didn't get to play that much last year, he was very poor in most of the games he did play in. His overall save percentage was .881 in 10 games and his even strength save-percentage was only .899, both of which are below replacement level. Boucher was also on a one-way deal, which means that they would be paying him a full NHL salary even if he lost the back-up job to Ellis or Peters, and that isn't something a team like the Hurricanes can afford to do. The Flyers, on the other hand, were in need of a back-up goalie as it appears they don't feel too comfortable with having Michael Leighton as their #2 for now. Boucher has played well in Philadelphia before and the Flyers can probably afford to keep or the other in the minors while paying them their full salaries.
The interesting part of this deal is that the Hurricanes decided to send Mark Alt to Philadelphia along with Boucher. Alt was one of their many second round picks in 2010 and there was a point where the team was pretty high on him as a prospect. His stock fell quite a bit this year, though as he is having a very tough junior season as the University of Minnesota with three points in 21 games. From the Minnesota games I've been able to watch this year, Alt has definitely looked uncomfortable in his own zone and it's pretty easy to see why he was scratched for a couple of games this year. He is still only 21 and isn't costing the Hurricanes anything right now, so I'm a little shocked that they decided to give up on him but there might be a chance that they aren't missing out on anything by trading him.
Luke Pither, the player the Canes received in this trade, was undrafted and has spent all of this season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers and Trenton Titans. He currently has 11 goals and 25 points in 35 games in the ECHL and will probably spend the rest of this season with the Charlotte Checkers as a depth player. He spent the previous two seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms where he totaled 11 goals and 30 points in 106 games. In other words, they didn't get much in return with this deal and basically had to send Alt to Philadelphia to get the Flyers to take Boucher's contract.
I'm not sure how I feel about the team giving up on Alt and using him as a throw-in, but this trade probably doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things unless Alt really turns it on after this year. GM Jim Rutherford did mention that there would be a few moves done to clear space for other players, and this looks like one of them. Will there be another one coming up? We'll just have to wait and see.