Hurricanes hope deal bolsters offense

Updated: January 22, 2004, 2:55 AM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Desperate to fix a struggling offense, the Carolina Hurricanes acquired right wing Justin Williams from the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Danny Markov on Tuesday.

The Hurricanes rank last in the NHL with 86 goals and hope Williams will help. He has six goals and 20 assists this season.

"Obviously there's not the right mix right now," Carolina president and general manager Jim Rutherford said. "And we have to do something to change that."

The Flyers were forced into the trade by a rash of injuries to defenseman. Philadelphia was already in the market for a top-four defenseman before losing three backliners in less than a week.

"It's our opinion that a top-four defenseman is more valuable on our team than a third-line winger," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said.

Markov was in Philadelphia's starting lineup Tuesday for its game with Montreal. He was on the ice for two goals against the Flyers and when Simon Gagne scored Philadelphia's only goal in the 4-1 loss to the Canadiens.

"I was a little bit shocked, but I know it's part of the business," Markov said. "Nothing surprises me anymore in the NHL. I try not to think about it. I try just to concentrate on my game and play."

Williams, along with 23-year-old Simon Gagne, was supposed to form the future foundation of the Flyers' offense.

"We certainly didn't want to give up Justin, but we didn't have any choice," Clarke said.

Williams suited up for his new team Tuesday night, getting one shot on goal in the Hurricanes' 3-1 loss to Ottawa. Williams, the Flyers' first-round pick in 2000, played in all 47 games for Philadelphia this season.

"The positive thing is I'm coming to a team that really wants me here and I'm going to play here," Williams said after the game. "I'm excited to turn a new page in my career."

The move brought an abrupt end to Markov's short tenure with Carolina, which went to great lengths to acquire the 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman.

The Hurricanes traded former first-round picks David Tanabe and Igor Knyazev to Phoenix on draft day. But it took a long time to sign Markov, who threatened to play in Russia before coming on board in August.

Markov had four goals and 10 assists in 44 games for Carolina, which is next to last in the Southeast Division two years after reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

"He's certainly a player that I would've preferred not to trade," Rutherford said. "But in order to start to make changes, it's not always the players that you want to trade that you're able to trade."

Last year, Clarke said he would not trade Williams or Gagne for older players, even for short-term help in the playoffs. But Philadelphia had to make a move after losing three defensemen in the last week.

"We thought our defense was one player short anyway, and we were thinking somewhere down the line we'd have to get one for a playoff run," Clarke said.

On Thursday, Dennis Seidenberg broke his left leg during at practice and will be out at least three months.

Two days later, top defenseman Eric Desjardins was also injured in a collision with teammate Jeremy Roenick, who missed while attempting to check a Toronto player. Desjardins broke his right forearm and will be out about two months.

"Had we had no injuries or one injury at this stage, we weren't looking for a defenseman," Clarke said.

Philadelphia announced Monday that Marcus Ragnarsson will miss up to two weeks with a sprained left rotator cuff. The Flyers recalled John Slaney to take Ragnarsson's place.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press