Canes' Rutherford talks about getting top player

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 2, 2012 

— The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for a top-tier forward to play on a line with captain Eric Staal.

What about Jordan Staal?

For now, it’s little but speculation. Jordan Staal, one of the three Staal brothers in the NHL, has a year left on his contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. No one with the Hurricanes can speak publicly about him lest they be accused of tampering.

But if the Pens do decide to trade Staal, 23, it’s believed the Canes would be interested. Staal, who won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, scored 25 goals and had a career-high 50 points last season and is one of the NHL’s best two-way centers.

Canes general manager Jim Rutherford discussed in general terms what the Canes are looking for in the offseason Wednesday. Rutherford has talked several times about the need to acquire a scoring winger to play on center Eric Staal’s line, but the team’s focus may have shifted.

“What we’re working on now is whatever it takes to get a top player, whether it’s a center or a wing,” Rutherford said. “Eric can play the wing. He has played the wing before and played there in the (2010) Olympics (for Canada). He has played very well on the wing.”

Rutherford noted seeking out a free agent can be risky. Should forward Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils be available July 1 and Carolina is interested, the Canes could be just one of several suitors.

“In free agency, you don’t have control over where a player decides to go,” Rutherford said. “If you trade for a player and he’s under contract, you know he’s coming to the Hurricanes.”

Jordan Staal, who will make $4.5 million next season, is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-2013 season. Again, there is risk involved. But Rutherford, again without mentioning Jordan Staal, said such a contract status would not be a stumbling block to a potential trade.

“You don’t get any assurances, so you would need to have confidence in what we have to offer and what the player would be willing to take to stay here,” Rutherford said. “You need to be able to do whatever it takes to get that player (signed) beyond that next year.”

The Canes have the eighth overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Rutherford said the team would consider trading the pick for the “right player,” but added he was “not excited” about the possibility of giving up the pick.

Jordan Staal might be the “right player.” He’s the Pens’ No. 3 center behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but would take on a much larger role with the Canes.

Staal’s agent, Paul Krepelka, declined to comment Wednesday.

In other team news, Rutherford said there will be a reorganization of the coaching staff that could include Tom Barrasso taking on new duties with the team.

John MacLean and Dave Lewis will remain as assistant coaches, Rutherford said, and Rod Brind’Amour will become a fulltime assistant coach next season and travel with the team. Brind’Amour was a member of the coaching staff last season but rarely traveled, spending some of his time working with forward prospects in the Canes’ minor-league system and fulfilling a prior commitment to help coach his son’s youth team.

Rutherford said head coach Kirk Muller would decide if Brind’Amour would be behind the bench during games or the team’s “eye-in-the-sky” coach monitoring games from the press level.

Rutherford said Muller wanted a change in the role of the team’s goaltending coach, which could lead to Barrasso being reassigned. Barrasso has been a fulltime assistant coach while also working closely with the Canes goalies.

“Kirk (Muller) would like a goaltending coach to be around about 10 or 12 days a month, or as needed,” Rutherford said. “The other part of the month would be spent working with our goalie prospects or scouting for potential goalies.

“This may not work ideally for Tommy (Barrasso). He will need to decide. His goal is to be an assistant coach or one day a head coach, so we’ll need to work through that. Maybe he will help with pro scouting.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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