Saturday afternoon, after the Washington Capitals announced they had traded a fourth-round pick and defenseman Jack Hillen for Gleason, Peters looked at Hillen’s still-stuffed locker stall, the one Gleason would soon occupy, and considered how the tables might soon flip. Aside from two early seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and a brief stint last year in Toronto, the 32-year-old had spent his entire career in Carolina. Maybe he would need greeting in Washington, a tour guide of sorts. Maybe he would need Peters, the way Peters needed him.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Peters said. “Anything I can do to help him out coming here, not knowing a lot of the guys, hopefully I can return the favor, what he’s done for me in the past.”
Based on the conference call Gleason held with reporters, after he had gotten through security at Raleigh-Durham Airport while awaiting his flight into town, enthusiasm alone should help him make quick friends. For roughly 10 minutes, he peppered his answers with phrases like, “Pretty excited, obviously,” and “Anxious to get going tomorrow night,” and “Just looking forward to the opportunity for sure.”
Aside from logging 18 games over one postseason, Gleason has never reached the playoffs, so dropping into a divisional race offered enough reason for such excitement, particularly as a presumed rental with his one-year deal expiring at season’s end. Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis called Gleason shortly before noon, informing him of the pending move, which Gleason never saw coming while he skated against the Capitals in a 3-0 victory Friday night at PNC Arena.
“It’s funny how things work,” Gleason said. “You played these guys last night, we had a couple…you have some battles on the ice, words said, this and that, playing with the people the next day. Funny how the league works. I’ll be shaking hands with those guys tomorrow, which will be pretty funny.”
After speaking with Coach Barry Trotz on the phone, Gleason expected to debut Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, skating on the third pair with Mike Green. An 11-year veteran with 546 career games under his belt, including two full regular seasons at the start of this decade, Gleason hoped to add a more physical presence, and several new teammates mentioned the idea of preventing opposing checkers from hunting Green.
“He’s had some really, really good years in this league,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We all know that he’s a tough customer. If he slides in playing with Greenie there, that’s a really good guy to play with that can protect a high-valued target.”
Said Trotz: “He’ll keep people honest. You want to take a shot at Greenie, he can back it up. He’s done that in junior as well, and he’s done that in the National Hockey League. He was hard to play against last night. Guys could feel it. It was good to know that our players thought he was difficult to play against.”
Gleason, who played on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team with Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik, caught Green’s attention Friday in Raleigh. He led the Hurricanes with 133 hits, ranked third among defensemen in shorthanded ice time for the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill and has recorded at least 15 minutes of total ice time in all but one game since Jan. 10.
“I don’t know if I need protection, but a solid, big guy that can clear the front of the net, play in front of the D-zone,” Green said. “Just a solid player. Really looking forward to playing with him.”
The feeling was mutual.
“We have a great opportunity to pick up some points here, a great opportunity to get to the playoffs,” Gleason said. “This is a bit of a change for me, knowing we are in the playoff race right now. Every game’s huge, and just real excited to be a part of this team for sure going into the playoffs.”