RALEIGH — After a monster offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes are already starting to see results.
Everyone from President and General Manager Jim Rutherford to an estimated 4,000 fans expressed excitement for the upcoming season Friday at the teams fifth annual FunFest at PNC Arena.
This is a great turnout, Rutherford said. We couldnt have asked for much better than tonight.
The Hurricanes have had a busy offseason after a 33-33-16 finish last season in which the franchise missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. They re-signed backup goalie Justin Peters, brought in defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, forwards Tim Wallace and Chris Terry, and most importantly, traded for high profile center Jordan Staal.
Throughout the night, Rutherford wasnt shy when speaking about Staals added value to the team.
Hes a big man one of the biggest centers in the league, and hes such a young guy at only 23 years old, Rutherford said. I dont think theres any team in the league that wouldnt want Jordan Staal.
By locking up Staal, the younger brother of Carolina center Eric Staal, to a 10-year extension through the 2022-23 season, Rutherford said excitement for the team and season ticket sales are at the same level as the season following the Hurricanes Stanley Cup Championship in 2006.
Veteran Hurricane forward Chad LaRose sees the franchises progress already taking place.
We had a great second half of the season, and we felt great about the team we had, Said LaRose, who will be entering his eighth season with the Hurricanes. Jordan is definitely a huge addition to our team, and hes only going to help out.
Rutherford and LaRosas comments at FanFest came in the State of the Canes event in which the two faces of the franchise spoke to fans. Former Hurricane Aaron Ward also addressed the crowd.
Along with the chance to hear some of the organizations important voices, fans played floor hockey, bounced on inflatable slides, took pictures with the teams championship banners from the 2006 Stanley Cup, the 2001-02 Eastern Conference Championship, and the 2005-06 Eastern Conference Championship.
Banners for retired players Ron Franci, Glen Wesley and Rod BrindAmour were also lowered for fans to take pictures with.
Rutherford also confirmed that the team has spoken with the agent of Alexander Semin during the past week in hopes of working out a one-year deal with the free agent forward.