The Boston Bruins have traded defenseman Aaron Ward to Carolina in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in the 2010 draft and Patrick Eaves.
Eaves, however, was immediately placed on waivers, freeing up cap space for the Bruins, who have yet to sign 36-goal scorer Phil Kessel.
The deal sends Ward back to Carolina, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2006 and has made his home in the offseason. Ward became somewhat of a public enemy in North Carolina after he was on the receiving end of a Scott Walker punch in this year's Eastern Conference semifinals.
The defenseman told Boston.com he was on the golf course in North Carolina when his phone rang and general manager Peter Chiarelli was on the other end.
"I knew right off the bat. It's never good when your general manager calls you in the summer," he told Fluto Shinzawa. "He told me I was traded. I was pretty happy with the news that I'd get to go back to Carolina. He conveyed to me that he wasn't going to trade me anywhere else but Carolina. It worked out well."
Ward, 36, posted a plus-16 rating in 65 games last season. In two-plus seasons with the Bruins, Ward scored nine goals and recorded 17 assists.
Ward was due $2.5 million for the 2009-10 season, while Eaves was due $1.4 million for each of the next two seasons. Eaves will become a free agent after the Bruins complete the buyout of his contract.
Chiarelli has said that the team plans to re-sign the 21-year-old Kessel, who is a restricted free agent. It was believed that in order to make room under the salary cap, a forward like Chuck Kobasew would have to be traded. Kobasew is under contract for $2.3 million for the next two years — a slightly lower number than that of Ward.
Kobasew, 27, scored 21 goals and notched 21 assists last season for the Bruins after scoring a career-high 22 goals in the 2007-08 season.
After Walker punched Ward in Game 5 of the conference semifinals, Ward said he was not welcomed too kindly in Raleigh.
?The fan base there was wrapped up in me being Public Enemy No. 1,? Ward said in May. ?I don?t get it. I was the one who got belted in the face. I was surprised when I got to Carolina by the level of animosity directed at me. I got back to Boston, and I sat up with my wife until 3 a.m. trying to convey to her the level of animosity in Raleigh. She didn?t believe it. I said, ?I?m dead serious. I?m going to go back to Raleigh, and they hate me.?"
Though no announcement has been made, the open defenseman slot could be occupied by Johnny Boychuk, who proved to be an AHL stud last season. In 78 games for the Providence Bruins, he earned the Eddie Shore Award for best AHL defenseman for scoring 20 goals and registering 45 assists. He's seen just five games on NHL action (one with the Bruins), posting a plus-1 rating in 51 minutes on the ice.
While he's grateful he will be returning to familiar territory, Ward is admittedly disappointed to see his time in Boston come to an end.
"This came as a complete surprise," he told Boston.com. "I was preparing myself to be with the Boston Bruins next season. You look at the picture as a whole, and it was a team that won the Eastern Conference and finished the highest it did in a long time. In your own evaluation, you think you're a key component of that success. I had no thought process or inkling that I was moving on."