RALEIGH — NHL free agency began Sunday at noon, with all the tweets, speculation and eventual signings, but the Carolina Hurricanes had already made some big news by then.
The Canes had announced center Jordan Staal, recently traded to Carolina by the Pittsburgh Penguins, had agreed to a 10-year contract extension that will pay him $6 million a year. Staal, the brother of Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, is committed to being with the organization through the 2022-2023 season.
In the hockey world ... the perception has totally changed about the Hurricanes since we acquired Jordan Staal, Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford said. This is really a game-changer for us in the fact you get a young elite player who can do so many things in the game.
The Canes did make a few free-agent signings Sunday. They brought back defenseman Joe Corvo, who received a one-year contract for $2 million. They re-signed goaltender Justin Peters, who received a two-year deal and now has the opportunity to be Cam Wards backup next season, and re-signed depth forward Brett Sutter.
But the Hurricanes also let it be known they had a lot more money left to spend hopefully on forward Zach Parise or defenseman Ryan Suter, the two biggest names and free agents available.
The Canes made offers to both, made their best pitch. Rutherford and Canes coach Kirk Muller were prepared to fly to Toronto, at a moments notice, to confer with Parise.
Late Sunday afternoon, Rutherford received word the Canes likely were out of the running for Parise, the New Jersey Devils captain.
I dont believe were going to be one of two or three teams hes considering, Rutherford said. That could change overnight, but based on what I heard I dont think its going to.
A decision by Suter, the Nashville Predators star, also could come Monday, Rutherford said.
Theres a little disappointment but we knew going in there were a lot of teams involved, Rutherford said of the Canes bid to sign Parise. We did everything we could under our guidelines. Im not surprised.
There were media reports Sunday that Parise received offers sweetened with a $12 million signing bonus. But not from the Canes.
I dont know if that was a factor that made a difference or not, but it was something we were not going to do, Rutherford said.
Rutherford said the Hurricanes still would continue pursue a top-tier forward, possibly in free agency but more likely through a trade.
Were going to try to be active, he said.
The Hurricanes may become even more active in trying to trade for All-Star forward Rick Nash, the Columbus Blue Jackets captain. Once Parises decision is made, the Nash situation could be quickly settled.
The Hurricanes did solve a need in bringing back Corvo, who spent parts of four seasons with Carolina and was a member of the Canes team that reached the NHL Eastern Conference finals in 2009. Corvo, 35, was twice traded by Carolina to the Washington Capitals late in the 2009-2010 season, then to the Boston Bruins last July and now has twice returned.
Im obviously super happy to be back, Corvo said Sunday. Ive always felt comfortable here.
Muller said he wanted a veteran defenseman who was a right-handed shot and could be paired with Tim Gleason. Thats Corvo.
Im really excited about the chance to play with Tim again, Corvo said. It should be seamless. We complement each other well. Hes so good defensively and it gives me the chance to do what I can do.
Peters, 25, received a two-year contract that will pays $525,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL, with a guarantee of at least $250,000 in 2012-13. He will be paid $550,000 in 2013-14 and will have a one-way contract.
Jordan Staal turned down a 10-year, $60 million extension offer by the Pens the day before the June 22 trade to Carolina. His 10-year extension with the Hurricanes is the longest in franchise history Eric Staal received a seven-year contract worth $57.75 million in September 2008.
Hes just starting to come into his prime and he now represents a cornerstone of our franchise for the long term, Rutherford said.