Red and Black Hockey
With the free agent frenzy set to begin in less than 12 hours, there are still a few unanswered questions in Raleigh. For me, a really intriguing one will be regarding the goaltending situation. Cam Ward needs a strong backup. Someone who can be depended upon to start 15-20 games. He’s never had that. This summer, the Hurricanes have made it crystal clear that they’re not going to use Justin Peters in Raleigh. They don’t intend to replace him from within the organization, either.
Jim Rutherford has said that he’s looking to spend $1M or so on a proven NHL-calibre backup goaltender. There are a few out there, and JR has a list of three, from which he expects to sign one on Friday. He didn’t indicate who’s on that short list, but we can probably engineer something like it. He did tell David Droschak that former Hurricane Martin Gerber isn’t on that list, but he didn’t rule out his penchant for recycling:
That’s not to say I won’t bring somebody back
I’m thinking that he might be suggesting that former Whaler J-S Giguere is on that short list. I kinda like that idea.
Jussi Jokinen finally agreed to a three-year contract renewal with Carolina valued at $3M per season. Barring a really unusual turn of events, that should be it for re-signing UFA regulars. Erik Cole is still expected to try the waters tomorrow when the free agent market opens.
Forward Nick Dodge and defenseman Bryan Rodney and Casey Borer should re-sign, too, but they’re not for the big team. It doesn’t look like the organization has interest in keeping UFA defenseman Zack FitzGerald. UFA goalie Justin Pogge was not given a qualifying offer.
Jokinen’s salary turns out to be a bit more than I thought it would. For a while, it looked like his agent and Jim Rutherford were miles apart, but as negotiations heated up, I guessed that he would eventually sign for something like $2.75M. In today’s market, this isn’t an overpayment at all, even if I was expecting it to be less. If he had gone on the market, he might have seen offers of $4M or more.
The Canes will still have to go big tomorrow to find an Erik Cole replacement, and they’ll have to get some of the UFAs for Charlotte re-signed. They’ll have to pick one of many FA goalies to be the #2 guy behind Cam Ward. They’ll have to get RFA Brandon Sutter under contract, and that might happen today.
Things have been a little crazy this summer in Carolina. The UFA situation is muddy one minute, clear the next. Negotiations with the players have gone from “we’re nowhere near” to “there should be a signing any second now” and back again. Sometimes, those tidal flows occur several times a day.
All summer long, the assumption was that Joni Pitkänen would become a UFA, but he surprised everybody by signing a three-year contract renewal with no pay raise. It was also assumed that Chad LaRose would look for greener pastures in the Free Agent market. Today, there was another unexpected turn when the 29-year old Sharpie signed a two-year valued at a total of $3.4M. The contract is identical to the one that he signed in the summer of 2009: the first of two years at $1.5M and the second at $1.9M.
This summer has already been pretty crazy for the Hurricanes, and the free agency period hasn’t even begun. With daily ebbs and flows regarding the progress (or lack of same) being made with contract negotiations, certain players have been generally regarded as “as good as gone” while others have been viewed as “sure-thing renewals”. Today, for the milllionth day in a row, there was a big wrinkle. One that I never expected.
Defenseman Joni Pitkänen was written off by most fans. He was the one player who most believed to be the one who was being the most difficult with his negotiations. And then today, he of all people was the first of the four “big” UFAs to re-sign. He has signed a three-year contract renewal at $4.5M per season. Although the particulars aren’t available just yet, we’ll assume that it’s $4.5 in each season, rather than 4 / 4.5 / 5 or something like that. This is, incidentally, the same salary that Pitkänen got last season (with a cap hit of $4M).
When I wrote the other day about how the cap floor might give the Canes fits, I guessed at how the UFA situations would pan out. I posited that rugged fourth-line winger Patrick Dwyer would get a two-year renewal at a $650k cap hit per season. I was only off by a few pennies. Today, they signed the 28-year old native of Spokane, WA to a two-year renewal with a cap hit of $625k per season.
I also wrote that Dwyer is the new Chad LaRose and that fans better get used to the idea of Sharpie being out of the picture. It’s not that I don’t like LaRose; contrarily, he’s one of my favourite players on the team. It’s just that a team with a very tight budget can’t afford to pay Chad LaRose the way that they just paid him. He made $1.9M this past season with a cap hit of $1.7M. This is a reversal of stance from two summers ago when I said that he deserved every penny (and then some) of the huge pay raise. It may sound a little contradictory for me to say that the Canes are going to have a rough time getting to the floor, then in the same breath say that they can’t afford to see/raise Chad LaRose, but I’ll try to make sense of it.
The other day, I wrote about how Carolina’s thriftiness would make it difficult to reach the new salary cap floor of $48.3M. Compounding that was their lack of any progress with any of their own prospective UFAs. Since the draft, things have taken a turn and it seems like at least three of the four key UFAs will be re-signing.
Also, the Canes made a bit of an unexpected move by not offering qualifying sheets to RFAs Jiri Tlusty and Troy Bodie. The 5:00 pm deadline came and went and they are now officially on the market, waiting for the bell to ring on Friday. (Nearly) everybody else got qualifying sheets.
First, a quick word about the RFAs, then a look at the UFA situation. Then something about Sutter.
On Friday night, the Hurricanes did what they said they would do. They drafted the “best player available” by selecting defenseman Ryan Murphy from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Most pundits had him going in the top ten, and many had him pegged to be selected eighth. While flashy (and big) forwards like Joel Armia and Sven Bartschi were still available, they went with little defenseman, who is just 5’11 and 176 pounds.
I’m not a big fan.
Carolina’s traditional modus operandi has been to draft defensemen in late rounds to load up the system and to acquire NHL-ready defensemen via trade. They have not had any success when they’ve selected a defenseman in the first round. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first, I’ll look at Murphy.
Today, the NHL made official what we already knew. The salary cap for 2011-12 will be $64.3M and the floor will be $48.3M.
As of right now, the Hurricanes have 12 players under NHL contract for 2011-12, with a total cap payroll of $32,083,333. They’ve always been a thrifty team. Given their stance on (not) renewing Joni Pitkänen, the high probability of letting Chad LaRose walk and the possibility of letting either Jussi Jokinen or Erik Cole walk, it’s going to be tough to even reach the floor.
The Canes are going to have to spend some money to fill out the roster. They’ve already hinted at getting a real veteran goalie to backup Cam Ward. They’ll have to make some other acquisitions through free agency or trade, and it might be fun. I can’t even guess how that’s all going to pan out, but I can at least speculate on Carolina’s own free agents-to-be.
June 19, 2006 was the biggest day in Hurricanes history and indeed the best day in the lives of many Hurricanes fans.
Game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. After winning three of the first four, Carolina lost the next two, and it came down to a single game on home ice. We all know what happened.
Here’s how the final moment looked through my eyes (and a cruddy digital camera that I used to have):
Even with the summertime news being slow, the official Carolina Hurricanes sources have been dropping the ball. I had to learn from a TSN.ca email that the Hurricanes have signed last year’s fourth round draft selection Justin Shugg to a three-year entry-level contract. Yesterday. Still no word of it on the official site or from the News & Observer, save a tweet from Chip Alexander.
According to capgeek, which says that the numbers aren’t official, the deal will pay Shugg $600k at the NHL level or $60k at the AHL level in 2011-12, and $625k NHL / $65k AHL for each of the next two seasons. There is also a $225k signing bonus, which is spread over three years. The cap hit will be $616,667 in all three years.
About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.