Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford had hinted the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday might make for a slow day for his team. Turns out it was.
The Hurricanes made only one trade, sending forward Jussi Jokinen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional 2013 draft pick -- either a sixth- or seventh-rounder depending on how much Pitkanen plays for the Pens this season.
The Canes (16-17-2) are in 11th place in the NHL's Eastern Conference, trailing Southeast Division leader Winnipeg by four points. Injuries to such key players as goaltender Cam Ward, defenseman Justin Faulk and now defenseman Joni Pitkanen -- out 10 to 12 weeks with a broken heel bone suffered Tuesday against Washington -- could result in the Canes, 1-8-1 in their past 10 games, missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
"It couldn't have come at a worse time," Rutherford said of the injuries and the team's late slide. "We spent more money on our team this year. I believe we had a team in place that was a very good team. We've talked about playing well in the first part (of the season) and not as well in the second part.
"But when I talk about it coming at a worse time, this is a year we have decided to raise ticket prices and do different things. That doesn't sit right with the paying customer when they watch a team that was do good in the first half and a team that wasn't good in the second half. So the timing of this could not be worse."
Rutherford made a number of calls and inquiries Wednesday, but said there were no deals that made financial sense and not many impact players available. He said the injury to Pitkanen did not change any of his plans or potential deals.
"Based in the position we've put ourselves in over the last two or three weeks, I wasn't going to trade younger players or high draft picks for someone who may or may not make a difference here in the last month," he said.
The Jokinen trade was made, in part, to move out salary -- Jokinen has one year left on a contract that has a $3 million salary cap hit next season, when the NHL salary cap will be reduced to $64.3 million. The Hurricanes retained a portion of Jokinen's salary but Rutherford declined to give the amount.
Rutherford also said that the Hurricanes on Wednesday signed forward Brock McGinn, a second-round draft pick in 2012. McGinn, 19, played this season for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.
McGinn signed a three-year, entry-level contract that on the NHL level would pay him $700,000 in 2013-14, $750,000 in 2014-15 and $800,000 in 2015-16. At the AHL level, he would be paid $70,000 in each of the three years.
McGinn received a signing bonus of $277,500. He will join the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes' AHL affiliate.
The Hurricanes have 13 games remaining in the regular season, but Rutherford's comments Wednesday about the team did not sound encouraging. He said he is "about as frustrated as you can get" about the way the season has deteriorated.
"We're not sitting here saying it's over," he said. "But the most frustrating thing is that in the first part of the season we showed what kind of team we had ... and we played very well. A whole lot of things happened that put this team in the position that we've gone on a long losing streak and it came at the worse time possible. ...
"The real deal here is to put the best product on the ice that we can. I believe we had a good product. As we speak today we don't."