Free agency offers Canes plethora of options

GM Rutherford would like to add defenseman

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 30, 2012 

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Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford talks to the press before an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators at the RBC Center in Raleigh on Nov. 17, 2010. The Canes' announced today they have traded for defenseman Ian White and forward Brett Sutter of the Calgary Flames. The team sent defenseman Anton Babchuck and forward Tom Kostopoulos to the Flames. CHRIS SEWARD - cseward@newsobserver.com

CHRIS SEWARD — CHRIS SEWARD - cseward@newsobser

— Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have been anxiously awaiting Sunday.

So, too, Ray Whitney. And Bryan Allen.

In fact, a host of NHL players who will be unrestricted free agents could be cashing in as the NHL free-agency period begins at noon, when general managers start scrambling and the dollars start flying.

How active will the Carolina Hurricanes be today?

“We’ll be poking around,” Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford said.

They have the salary-cap space to do more than poke. They have additional financial resources. They have a good place to live – always a pitch to free agents – and a well-respected coach in Kirk Muller.

Rutherford said the Hurricanes would like to add a veteran defenseman. Muller added it would be preferable to find someone to play the right side and in the top four on the back end, possibly with Tim Gleason.

“A guy who can move the puck, play against the top guys and take on a lot of minutes,” he said.

The Hurricanes also have other needs – namely a scoring winger and a backup goalkeeper.

“Up front, we’re short a guy still,” Muller said of the forward situation. “If we can make our team better in that area, we’ll be pretty happy.”

The Canes might make an offer to Parise, the New Jersey Devils captain and the top forward available on the market. They might do the same to Suter, the Nashville Predators defenseman who will be much in demand.

The Hurricanes likely won’t be able to match offers that front-load huge salaries the first few years of contracts, which is likely out of their price range.

But Rutherford noted the Canes have signed a new 10-year agreement with Fox Sports Carolinas that will provide “considerably higher” revenue. The team has also added minority investors, including Rutherford.

“We’re in a stronger position,” he said.

Rutherford said his policy has been not to sign a player to a contract longer than seven years – such as the one given to captain Eric Staal – because they’re not insurable after seven years. But he soon could make an exception for newly acquired center Jordan Staal, Eric’s brother.

It’s hard to pinpoint who the Canes’ free-agent targets will be. They have a pair of veteran defensemen in Allen and Jaroslav Spacek who will go on the market, and Rutherford said one might be re-signed.

The Canes also could take a look at such defensemen as Adrian Aucoin and Michal Rozsival of the Phoenix Coyotes. There could be interest in Jason Garrison, who scored 16 goals for the Florida Panthers last season, or maybe an older veteran, such as Filip Kuba of Ottawa.

There also is Joe Corvo. The former Canes defenseman will be available, has played with Gleason and is right-handed.

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner, fresh off a Stanley Cup run, might be of interest. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, he has the size Muller wants. P.A. Parenteau of the New York Islanders is another winger the Canes could pursue.

Shane Doan of the Coyotes might seriously test the free-agent market, although he could re-sign with the team. Then there is Whitney, the former Canes forward who led Phoenix with 77 points last season, even as approached his 40th birthday.

Whitney and Muller are friends. Whitney still has a house in the Triangle. After two years in the desert, he might be ready to return.

Muller didn’t mention Whitney by name, but he smiled Friday when asked about the possibility of bringing back a 40-year-old winger who was named to the NHL’s second All-Star team this year.

“He certainly would be a player who would be very helpful to this club,” Muller said.

The Hurricanes had planned on Brian Boucher being Cam Ward’s backup in goal next season. But Boucher, signed as a free agent last July, is out four to six months with a shoulder injury.

Justin Peters, 25, spent most of last season with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League but also played well when called up by the Canes. He becomes a free agent and Rutherford said he was at the top of the Canes’ list as Boucher’s replacement, although the Canes will take a look at goalies available.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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