Canes quiet as NHL free agency begins

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 30, 2014 

Manny Malhotra celebrates with Nathan Gerbe after Gerbe scored the first goal of the game during the first period an NHL game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Saturday, January 25, 2014. The Canes won 6-3.

AL DRAGO — newsobserver.com

  • Free-agent Canes

    Players due to become unrestricted free agents Tuesday include:

    Forwards: Drayson Bowman, Andrei Loktionov, Manny Malhotra, Radek Dvorak, Aaron Palushaj, Brett Sutter, Nicolas Blanchard, Kellan Tochkn.

    Defensemen: Brett Bellemore, Mike Komisarek, Tommi Kivisto, Mark Flood, Matt Corrente, Joni Pitkanen.

    Goalies: Justin Peters, Mike Murphy.

    Source: Capgeek.com

— The Carolina Hurricanes spent a mostly quiet two days at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia.

According to general manager Ron Francis, it could be more of the same Tuesday.

NHL free agency begins at noon, and there will be the usual flurry of phone calls, negotiations, wheeling and dealing. But that may not include the Canes.

“We’ll look to fill a few holes but I don’t see us being overly aggressive,” Francis said Monday. “We’ll probably be more patient and see how things shake out.”

With the league’s salary cap set at $69 million next season, about $1 million lower than expected, some teams will look to move players. That should free up some trade possibilities and will increase the free-agent pool.

“There are always teams that are aggressive (Tuesday) but in time there should be players available where you can get the right guy at the right price,” Francis said.

Francis said the Canes would be looking to pick up a fourth-line center or winger, as well as depth at defenseman in free agency. Manny Malhotra, the fourth-line center this past season, could be re-signed but Francis said the veteran forward – one of the best NHL comeback stories and a Masterton Trophy finalist – was seeking a two-year contract.

Others who will be unrestricted free agents and available to negotiate with teams include goalie Justin Peters, defensemen Brett Bellemore and Mike Komisarek, and forward Radek Dvorak. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who missed all of last season with a heel injury, also is due to become a UFA. Francis said in recent discussions with Pitkanen's agent he is not yet able to skate.

Monday was the deadline for qualifying offers to restricted free agents and the Canes did not tender offers to forwards Drayson Bowman and Andrei Loktionov, who now become UFAs. The Canes qualified forwards Jiri Tlusty, Zach Boychuk, Greg Nemisz, Justin Shugg and Jared Staal; and defensemen Michal Jordan and Rasmus Rissanen – Francis said contract talks continue with Tlusty.

Bowman played a career-high 70 games for Carolina last season. Lokionov was obtained in a March 5 trade with the New Jersey Devils and played the final 20 games, but suffered a shoulder injury competing for Russia in the 2014 World Championship that required surgery.

There have been some significant trades in the league leading up to free agency. In a deal Monday, the Colorado Avalanche traded P.A. Parenteau to the Montreal Canadiens for Danny Briere.

That deal came a day after the Tampa Bay Lightning made a couple of late-night moves on Sunday, trading for forward Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers and then quickly sending him and forward B.J. Crombeen to the Arizona Coyotes for a draft pick, opening up cap space.

But Francis said the Canes would not be making a number of major, noisy moves or trades. Mostly “tweaks,” he said.

“We’re looking at the big picture,” he said Monday. “The successful franchises in the league like the (Los Angeles) Kings or Boston Bruins become successful by building a foundation. They do it over a long period of time, not a short period of time, and it takes some time to do it. That’s our plan.

“The flip side of that is we have not been in the playoffs for five years and we want to get to the playoffs. So we have looked at potential deals but have not found any that will make us better.”

Francis noted the Canes’ biggest changes have come in restructuring the management team and in hiring a new coach in Bill Peters.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with our players about the culture changing and what’s expected,” he said. “We feel we can keep a lot of what we have, try to make it better and make it work.

“We need to play better and we need to play better on a consistent basis. I believe if we can get that consistent effort, we can get in the playoffs and compete for the (Stanley) Cup every year. That’s our goal.”

NOTE: The NHL announced Monday the Canes’ game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, scheduled Friday, Oct. 17, will now be played Thursday, Oct. 16.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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