The Hurricanes trade for a "veteran defenseman" finally happened, only the player they acquired was someone nobody expected. Instead of getting a "gritty veteran defenseman" like many thought, Rutherford added some help to the powerplay by acquiring Marc-Andre Bergeron from the Tampa Bay Lightning. All the Canes gave up to acquire him was a 7th round pick and waiver acquisition Adam Hall (who was subsequently waived again after the trade), so this is a low-risk move for the Hurricanes, but it's also a very strange one at that.
Assuming no one else is traded, the Canes will have nine defensemen on the roster once Justin Faulk and Bobby Sanguinetti are healthy and Kirk Muller is going to have to do his best to shuffle players in and out of the lineup. Even if the Hurricanes trade one of their defensemen within the next 24 hours, that leaves eight on the roster and I'm having a very hard time figuring out how Bergeron fits into the lineup. There is no doubt that he can provide help to a powerplay that's currently ranked dead last in the NHL, but his usage at even strength has been pretty suspect over the years.
For those who know nothing about Bergeron's history, here's a quick bio. He is a very skilled powerplay quarterback and puck-mover. He has a very hard, accurate slapshot that makes him dangerous on the powerplay and he can also lead defensive zone breakouts very efficiently. He's basically your prototypical offensive defenseman, something the Hurricanes have too many of as it is but Bergeron is a bit of a special case. While he has improved the powerplay of just about every team he has been on, he has yet to stay with any team for more than three years because he is a defensive liability at even strength. His underlying numbers speak for themselves here.
Bergeron plays third-pairing minutes and usually starts the majority of his shifts in the offensive zone. Guy Boucher protected the hell out of him when he was with the Lightning the last three seasons, starting him in the offensive zone over 70% (!) of the time. I wish I knew how the Hurricanes planned to fit Bergeron in their lineup but I honestly don't see how it can work right now with Faulk still injured. The entire point of making a trade for a defenseman was to get someone to take pressure off McBain & Pitkanen and it seems like Bergeron will do the opposite of that since he needs to be sheltered to be effective.
With that being said, Bergeron is very, very good at what he does. He has been a negative possession player in only one of the last six seasons and has produced at a pretty impressive rate at even strength on top of that. The nice thing about a player like Bergeron is that while he might be a defensive liability, he is good enough at keeping the play in front of him that he's only defending 20-30% of the time he's out there. Bergeron actually thrived quite a bit under Boucher in his first two years with Tampa Bay. He's been a healthy scratch for most of this year, though.
The main thing to take away about Bergeron is that he can do a lot of good things for you in the offensive zone and he's even better on the powerplay.
Bergeron has produced terrific results on the powerplay for every team he has been on and I think this is where he will help the Canes the most. I mentioned earlier that their powerplay is ranked last in the NHL, but they are in the top-half in producing shots, The problem is that none of them are going in.. Only the Buffalo Sabres have a worse shooting percentage during 5v4 play and I'm not sure if Bergeron can help that. His big shot from the point and puck-handling skills will definitely create more chances, but not many are going to care if the goals don't come. The encouraging news here is that Bergeron has been able to give his teams results on the powerplay in the past, so hopefully that continues.
We know that Bergeron can help the Canes produce more offense and possibly help on the powerplay, it's just that finding a spot for him in the lineup is going to be tough. Can Muller protect Bergeron as much as Boucher did? He's been giving extra offensive zone starts to any defenseman not named Justin Faulk or Tim Gleason, so I guess it shouldn't be too hard to shelter him, but I still don't see how he fits in unless another defenseman is traded. The Hurricanes had an abundance of puck-moving defenseman heading into this season and just added another, so it's going to put a lot more pressure on their heavy-lifters (Gleason, Faulk, Pitkanen) to do a lot more. We could possibly see the Canes use seven defensemen with Bergeron taking Westgarth's spot and being used in strictly offensive situations.
In short, this is a low-risk move for the Canes and while Bergeron does fill a need, I'm not sure just how good of a fit he will be. He only makes Carolina only a marginally better team if he plays to his full potential, but that's usually what a 7th round pick will get you.
Stats courtesy of Behind the Net.