Canes ponder draft prospects, trades

calexander@newobserver.comJune 22, 2012 

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Top NHL prospect Filip Forsberg speaks to the media during media availability on the Gateway Clipper Express on June 20, 2012 in Pittsburgh.

JUSTIN K. ALLER — Justin K. Aller - Getty Images

  • NHL Draft Where: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh When: Round 1: 7 p.m. Friday; Rounds 2-7 10 a.m. Saturday TV: NBC Sports Network Canes’ pick: Likely to keep 8th pick Inside: The NHL releases the 2012-13 schedule, with the Canes’ opener Oct. 13 at Winnipeg. 3C

— The Carolina Hurricanes spent much of a busy Thursday discussing potential trades and talking to potential draft prospects.

When the day ended, the Canes had not made a trade and still owned the No. 8 overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday night at Consol Energy Center. And general manager Jim Rutherford said that may not change.

“As far as a trade is concerned I’m not overly optimistic about anything happening here,” Rutherford said Thursday in an interview. “When a player is available during the season you might have one or two teams you’re competing against. But there are a lot of teams here looking to make deals.

“We can make a trade if we want to make a trade. Teams ask about Justin Faulk, Brandon Sutter, Jeff Skinner. But that doesn’t make any sense. Those three players are getting better and better. We’d like to add a player to upgrade our team without giving up a core player, but that’s tricky to do.”

Rutherford came to Pittsburgh intent on making a deal, and the Canes are believed to be one of the teams eagerly pursuing All-Star forward Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But Columbus general manager Scott Howson said Thursday he was not close to making a deal. Howson, who has not named the teams he has been negotiating with on Nash, did say he was not giving up on getting a trade done in Pittsburgh and met with Nash’s agent for an hour Thursday.

“I think a lot of things can happen between now and when the draft is over,” Howson said.

Adding another wrinkle to the trade talk were reports in Pittsburgh on Thursday that Penguins center Jordan Staal had rejected a long-term contract extension offered by the team. Staal, the brother of Canes captain Eric Staal, is due to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

Between fielding calls, Rutherford and the Canes’ contingent met with potential first-round picks. Coach Kirk Muller hoped to be a part of the interview process but was unable to attend because of a family matter, Rutherford said.

Prospects such as forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg, and defensemen Griffin Reinhart, Matt Dumba and Morgan Rielly all said they were interviewed Thursday by the Canes. Forward Radek Faksa, and defensemen Cody Ceci, Jacob Trouba and Olli Maatta said they were not, although they talked to the Canes at the recent NHL prospect combine in Toronto.

Rutherford said the Canes likely would keep the No. 8 pick and not look to move up or down in the first round. He said the Canes’ top-eight list was made up of five forwards and three defensemen.

Rielly, a defenseman who played for Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League, said his interview lasted about 30 minutes and that Ron Francis and Cory Stillman led the session. Francis is Carolina’s vice president of hockey operations and Stillman recently rejoined the Canes organization as director of forward development.

Rielly and Forsberg, a Swedish forward, said Francis and Stillman used video as part of the interview, both saying the Canes were the only team to do that.

“It was pretty cool,” Rielly said. “They showed, say, video of a two-on-one and asked me how I would play that.

“They were the only team so far to do it, which is kind of awesome. It shows that they care about their prospects and they’re here to do a good job.”

Added Forsberg, “It was like they asked you questions to test your hockey sense.”

Grigorenko, who could be among the top five picks tonight, said he has had three interviews in Pittsburgh – with Carolina, Buffalo and Toronto. The Russian center, who came to North America last season to play for Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), has faced questions about his commitment and dedication, even about his age.

“Some teams are hard on you and want to see your reaction,” he said of the interviews.

Grigorenko’s birth date is listed as May 16, 1994, but there has been some Internet chatter about him being 20, not 18. Grigorenko said the age issue has been more puzzling than troubling.

“I had never heard about this and don’t know from where it (came),” he said.

Russian winger Nail Yakupov will probably be the No. 1 overall pick tonight by the Edmonton Oilers. Canadian defenseman Ryan Murray could go second to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After that, it’s a guessing game – about a lot of things.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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