Given all of Glen Sather’s activity during the first two weeks of the NHL’s free agent frenzy, it was only a matter of time before the Rangers would have to clear some salary to give them cap space to sign Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa and leave a little leeway heading into the season.

The other shoe finally dropped when the Rangers traded C Matt Cullen back to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for D Andrew Hutchinson, Joe Barnes and a 2oo8 third round draft pick.  The trade frees up about $2.3 million in salary space when you factor in Hutchinson’s contract for 2007-2008.

Hutchinson is a 27-year-old blueliner who is on the final season of a two-year contract that will see him earn $500,000.  Originally a 1999 second round draft pick of Nashville (54th overall), the Predators traded him to the Hurricanes in July 2005 in exchange for a 2005 third round draft pick that originally belonged to Phoenix.

The 6-foot-2 and 204 pound right-handed shooting defenseman appeared in a career high 41 games last season and scored 3 goals and 11assists with 40 PIM.  While he set a career record for assists and points, Hutchinson was scratched for two big chunks of the season.  He sat out 10 of 11 games from mid-November to mid-December and then was scratched for 28 of the Hurricanes final 35 games.

Hutchinson is an offensive player who has the potential to be a power play QB based on his smart hockey play.  He still needs to refine his play in the defensive zone and, despite his size; he is not as strong as he should be.

Barnes is a 6-foot-3 and 212 pound center who was Carolina’s third round draft pick in 2005 (64th overall).  He was eligible to opt into the 2004 Draft, but decided against it after a neck injury during the Under-18 Tournament limited him to just 58 games.

Barnes has two years left on a three-year deal that pays him a $475,000 NHL salary and $55,000 and $60,000 in the minors, respectively.

After spending four full seasons with Saskatoon in the WHL (240-69-83-152-266 PIM), Barnes began his professional career with Albany of the AHL.  A concussion cut short his season after just 15 games where he scored 2 goals and 1 assist with 19 PIM. questions whether or not Barnes will be able to recover from both of his injuries.  His 2006 concussion is not the first of his career.  He suffered one in Saskatoon’s training camp back in September 2005 according to Adam Geric of the Saskatoon star Phoenix.

Barnes spent three seasons in Saskatoon as a teammate of former Ranger draft pick Dalyn Flatt.

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