ward-aaron-ap-2008

Aaron Ward spent over two seasons with the Boston Bruins. ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford is excited about the team's defence after re-acquiring Aaron Ward from the Boston Bruins.

Rutherford announced Friday the NHL team has traded forward Patrick Eaves and a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 for Ward, who played in Carolina for four seasons.

"With this trade, our defence really takes shape," Rutherford said. "Aaron played very well during his time in Carolina and had maintained that consistency with New York and Boston. We envision him complementing Joni Pitkanen well as a defensive pairing."

Ward, 36, had 15 goals and 56 points in 276 regular-season contests with the Hurricanes.

In the summer of 2006, he signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers, who dealt him to Boston for fellow blue-liner Paul Mara on Feb. 27, 2007.

Last season, Ward collected three goals and 10 points in 65 games for Boston. The Windsor, Ont., native also ranked second on the team in blocked shots (124) and third in hits (151) despite missing 17 contests to injury.

Odd couple

The move makes teammates of Ward and the player who infamously punched him two months ago. Scott Walker decked Ward late during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal won by Carolina. The blow was called a "sucker punch" by Bruins coach Claude Julien.

The six-foot-two, 209-pound Ward played in all 11 of the Bruins' playoff games this past spring, notching a goal and 25 blocked shots.

Drafted fifth overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1991, Ward has totalled 43 goals and 95 assists for 138 points in 762 NHL games with Detroit, Carolina, the Rangers and Boston.

He has won three Stanley Cups — back-to-back with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 and in 2006 with the Hurricanes.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli praised Ward during a conference call.

"He's been a tremendous soldier here," Chiarelli said, "bringing experience, bringing size and strength, bringing a stabilizing presence to our defence and, frankly, I wouldn't have traded him anywhere else but Carolina. That's where his home is and I really do appreciate the time and service and personality Aaron has brought to our organization."

Will miss Winter Classic

The trade came nine days after Ward attended a news conference at Fenway Park for the official announcement that the Bruins would play the Philadelphia Flyers there on New Year's Day in the NHL's third annual outdoor Winter Classic. He was excited about the prospect of playing there.

Ward becomes the latest key player to be reacquired by the Hurricanes. Centre Matt Cullen was traded back to Carolina in 2007 after one season with the Rangers, and the club dealt forward Erik Cole to Edmonton before last season before bringing him back in a pivotal deal at the trading deadline.

After trading for Eaves, 25, the Bruins placed the right-winger on waivers with the purpose of buying him out. He had six goals and eight assists in 74 games last season.

The trade increases the salary cap room for the Bruins. Ward is scheduled to make $2.5 million US next season, the last of his contract. Waiving Eaves provides more cap room.

Phil Kessel, the Bruins leading goal scorer last season, is a restricted free agent and the Bruins could need that extra cap space. Chiarelli said the Bruins would match any offer sheet Kessel receives.

"I would expect that we would add a defenceman," he added, although not necessarily to replace Ward in a pairing with Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara.

With files from The Associated Press