Canes owner talks of future, new owners, and playoffs

Focus on new owners, playoffs

Staff WriterSeptember 27, 2011 

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. was asked to give a "state-of-the-Canes" talk at a Monday luncheon at the RBC Center.

"I'll tell you about the state of the Canes come next April," Karmanos said, smiling.

But Karmanos appeared optimistic about his team's chances this season, adding the Hurricanes had a legitimate shot at making another strong Stanley Cup run "if everything comes together."

In an interview after the Raleigh Sports Council luncheon, Karmanos talked about the makeup and potential of the team, about the market, about the need to continue to build the Canes' season-ticket base. He also said an announcement on new team investors likely would be made before the Oct. 7 season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Karmanos said he had closed on the sale of about $20 million equity in the Hurricanes to seven or eight investors. Using his valuation of the team at $240 million, that would be a little more than 8 percent minority ownership. Karmanos also said he was working on selling another $20 million in equity.

Karmanos, who did not offer any other details on the ownership transactions, said the franchise was on solid ground financially and in a strong market. He noted Raleigh recently received another accolade when it was named "best place to live" in the U.S. by Bloomberg Businessweek.

"Every year we've improved," Karmanos said of the franchise. "Our biggest weakness is not having a large enough season-ticket base. A lot of that is a reflection of the economy and I think as the economy picks up we'll do better in suite sales, advertising, all that stuff."

Since winning the Cup in 2006, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs four of the past five seasons. That resulted in a financial hit for the franchise, but Karmanos believes the personnel pieces are in place this season to not only get back to the playoffs but also to make a run.

"I've been at this a long time and I am one of the senior owners in the league," he said. "I'm not Pollyannaish about it. I really believe that we have a real strong shot at winning the whole thing."

"I like the fact we have a really good, solid group of young star players. Eric Staal, Cam Ward, (Brandon) Sutter, (Jeff) Skinner, and go from there and you have a real good nucleus to work with."

Karmanos said he has been able to see young defensemen Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk play, both in the NHL prospects tournament this month in Traverse City, Mich., and in the preseason. Both players, he said, have a "legitimate shot" at making the Canes roster and playing in the NHL this season.

"Our defense has changed enormously from the way it was last year," he said.

Karmanos said injuries always were a concern, and that there was a lack of depth at certain positions. But he said the goaltending had been improved with the signing of veteran Brian Boucher to back up Ward, and that acquiring former All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle and in bringing in center Tim Brent were needed moves.

The Hurricanes were left on the outside looking in last year when they failed to beat the Lightning in the final game of the regular season, closing two points out of playoff position with 91 points. Karmanos believes the team can make a five- to 10-point improvement this season, given changes to the team.

"Just by having better backup goaltending and by having a really good fourth-line center that we were missing last year to win faceoffs," he said.

And the team's potential weaknesses?

"The weaknesses usually pop up after about the fifth to 10th game of the season," he said. "That's when you say, 'Uh, oh, we need to fix that.'"

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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