RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes didn't wait until this weekend's NHL draft to try to improve their roster.
The Hurricanes agreed to terms with defenseman Tim Gleason on a four-year, $11 million contract Thursday, keeping the 25-year-old with the franchise that gave up a touted prospect to acquire him in 2006. Carolina also acquired the rights to free-agent winger Darcy Hordichuk from Nashville for a conditional fifth-round pick in next year's draft.
Gleason will make $2 million this season and receive increases of $500,000 in each of the following three seasons. The Hurricanes acquired him in a trade that sent touted defenseman prospect Jack Johnson -- picked third overall by Carolina in 2005 -- to Los Angeles. The four-year veteran, who was a restricted free agent, had three goals and a plus-5 rating in a career-high 80 games last year.
Gleason's return bolsters a unit that has gotten thinner in the offseason. Earlier this month, defenseman Glen Wesley retired after 20 NHL seasons, while veteran free agent Bret Hedican is not expected back.
"We're very happy to get Tim signed long-term," general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement. "He is a very important player to our team and our defense going forward."
Also on Thursday, Carolina acquired the rights to Hordichuk, an unrestricted free agent who had a goal and two assists in 45 games with the Predators last year. If Carolina fails to sign the seven-year veteran before the season, Nashville will send a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft as compensation.
The Hurricanes have the No. 14 overall pick in Friday's first round after narrowly missing out on the playoffs. While there are several highly regarded defensemen in this year's draft, assistant general manager Ron Francis said the team isn't "aggressively pursuing" any deals to trade up and will instead focus on drafting the best player available.
"We have to remember we're drafting really young kids," Francis said. "There's no guarantee the guy we draft this year is going to step in and play for us this year. Especially with defensemen, because they'll take longer to develop. Hopefully they'll play in the NHL sooner rather than later, but we have to remember the process could be a year, two years or three years down the road."