In defenseman Brett Bellemore, the Carolina Hurricanes have locked up another would-be unrestricted free agent with significant Checkers experience.
Bellemore, a 25-year-old veteran of four full professional seasons, agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way deal with Carolina on Friday. The deal is identical in its basic terms, including length, salary at both the NHL and AHL levels and a base guarantee, to the one signed by Charlotte captain Brett Sutter earlier in the week.
Like Sutter, Bellemore, who recorded two assists and seven penalty minutes in his first eight NHL games with Carolina last season, will be looking to become a full-time player at the highest level next season. A steady part of the Checkers’ defense for all three of their AHL campaigns, Bellemore’s rugged style of play earned postseason praise from Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford, who is looking to add grittier players in depth positions.
Last season at the AHL level, Bellemore (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) set new career highs with 11 assists, 13 points, 87 penalty minutes and a plus-11 rating. His penalty minute total ranked second on the team, while his plus/minus rating ranked third among Charlotte skaters and led all team defensemen.
A sixth-round draft choice of Carolina’s in 2007, Bellemore is second all-time in games played by a Checkers defenseman (215) and is third on the franchise’s all-time penalty minutes list (221).
With Bellemore and Sutter signed, the only remaining unrestricted free agents who finished last season with the Checkers on NHL contracts are forwards Jerome Samson and Tim Wallace, though there are several more who are coming off AHL contracts or are restricted free agents (a full list can be found here).
Unrestricted free agents without new contracts on July 5 will be free to sign with other organizations.