Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford met with the agent of forward Ray Whitney at the NHL draft on Saturday, but Whitney is expected to test the free-agency market, Rutherford said Monday.
The team hopes Whitney, 38, who has played 18 NHL seasons and was third on the team in points (58) last season, still ends up with the Canes.
The NHL's free-agency period begins Thursday, and Whitney is an unrestricted free agent.
"We're keeping the door open and hoping that he'll come back to us," Rutherford said.
While the sides were far apart financially, Rutherford said he met with Whitney's agent, J.P. Barry, at the NHL draft in Los Angeles on Saturday.
"I do think it sounds like he'll go into free agency in July and see what his options are," Rutherford said.
And Rutherford cautioned that it could be more difficult to sign Whitney later because the team has decisions looming on other players.
One decision the team must make before Thursday is whether to buy out forward Rod Brind'Amour, who turns 40 in August and would make $3 million this coming season.
"We're just walking through that," Rutherford said. "We're trying to keep it comfortable for both sides and trying to make it work for both sides. I really don't know when we'll have a decision on that."
Rutherford said no decision has been made on whether to buy out the contract of forward Sergei Samsonov, who would make $2.8 million with the Hurricanes this season.
The team couldn't come to agreements with defensemen Brett Carson and Alexandre Picard, both 24 years old and both restricted free agents, who, without having received qualifying offers from the Hurricanes by 5 p.m. Monday, will become unrestricted free agents Thursday.
Both players were on two-way contracts last season, meaning they got paid different rates depending on whether they played their games in the minor leagues or in the NHL. Rutherford said he offered to remove the minor league clause from their contracts, giving them one-way deals that would pay them the same rate regardless of where they played.
For Carson, a qualifying offer would have been 110 percent of his $522,000 salary because he earned less than $660,000. For Picard, it would have been 105 percent of his $850,000 salary.
Rutherford said he didn't want to go to arbitration with either defensemen, which would have happened if the players rejected their qualifying offers.
The Hurricanes did make a qualifying offer to restricted free-agent goalie Justin Peters. That will be a two-way deal the player will have the ability to take to arbitration. The Hurricanes also made qualifying offers to Casey Borer, Bryan Rodney, Nicolas Blanchard, Nick Dodge and Justin Pogge.
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