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Canes off-season questions might already have answers

Today, Chip Alexander (twitter: ice_chip), who covers the Hurricanes for the Raleigh News & Observer, unleashed a flurry of tweets regarding the Hurricanes off-season plans.  Especially regarding the pending free agents.  A couple of them are a bit surprising.  Most of them are worth comment.

No official word yet from the Hurricanes but fans should expect: Paul Maurice to return as head coach next season. ...

I’m not really surprised, given that he still has one year on his contract.  They really don’t want to pay the remainder of his contract plus the salary of a new coach.  The fact that the Hurricanes narrowly missed the playoffs was the final straw in the minds of many Hurricane fans, but I can’t get on board there.  Of course we all want our team to make the playoffs and make a deep run, but this was meant to be a rebuild year, and I think fans should be happy that the Hurricanes were even in the playoffs conversation.  The bottom line, though, is that no team wants to simultaneously pay two coaches.  2011-12 will be the last year of his contract, and I’m sure that they’ve already made it clear that if the Hurricanes don’t make the playoffs, he’s going to be out. 

It’s expected Ron Francis will leave the bench and his associate head coaching duties. Will return to front office as asst GM. ...

Again, I’m not surprised.  Ronnie never seemed comfortable behind the bench.  We all wanted him to eventually become the head coach, but I just don’t think that he’s meant for that.  He’s very good at that front office stuff.  Scouting and player development.  That sort of thing.  We need him around, but it has seemed like he’s more comfortable in the front office.

No decision apparently has been made yet on a new assistant coach. One option could be moving Jeff Daniels from Charlotte. ...
This conversation has been going on all season long.  Daniels has already worked behind Carolina’s bench, and did a good job.  A few summers ago, he and Tom Rowe flip-flopped positions:  Rowe went from being the head coach of the Albany River Rats to being the assistant coach of the Hurricanes.  Daniels went the other way.  Jeff Daniels has done a very good job in that role, and the speculation is that when Paul Maurice’s time is up here in Carolina, Daniels is next.  And I can see that.  I don’t think that they’ll move him to Raleigh right now, though.  Not to become an assistant. 

Another asst coaching option could be bringing in a former NHL defenseman who has experience coacheing defensemen in NHL.

This is what Carolina needs badly.  Guidance for the blueliners.  I’m not sure if Chip is suggesting someone in particular, but if he is, I can’t figure it out.  Carolina has had a lot of history hiring and re-hiring from within the “family”, and I can’t think of a former Hurricane who fits this description. 

It’s possible Erik Cole will sign a new contract before July 1 and Brandon Sutter will be signed to a long-term deal. ...

#26 had a good season, putting up 52 (26/26) points, and looked a lot like the 2005-06 Erik Cole before the injury.  I’ll be surprised if it’s more than a single season, but I’m glad that they’re leaning towards re-signing.  The Sutter thing is a no-brainer.  He’s one of the faces of the future of the franchise.  He’ll command and deserve a handsome raise over his entry-level pay.  He wore and proved that he deserved to wear the A on the front of his sweater this past season.  He’s probably not ever going to put up massive offensive numbers, but he’ll eventually be a beast in the faceoff circle.  He’s already a very good penalty kill and is a very reliable two-way player even strength. 

It appears probable Cory Stillman will re-sign with Canes, with understanding he then would move to front office. ..

  I’m a little surprised by both aspects of this.  I figured that he was a late season/playoff rental and that the Canes wouldn’t touch him in the summer.  He’s too old for the Hurricanes new system, but he is one of the more creative players in the league.  He’s too expensive, so if this goes down, I’ll have to assume that there’s going to be some significant home team discount.  He was paid $3.5M last season, and that’s just too much for a guy who is past his playing prime.  With Stillman, though, the Canes aren’t looking for offensive production.  They’re looking for veteran leadership.  Stillman’s got that in spades.  Two Stanley Cups including the one with Carolina in 2006.  Still, at the end of the day, he’ll have to sign for less than $2M for this to make any sense.  As far as the “front office” business goes, I’m at a loss there.  He’s a really intelligent guy and a really nice guy, and a guy with some ties to the community (his son captained the Junior Hurricanes to a championship at this year’s Quebec International Peewee tournament in the B division).  I’m a little surprised to hear that they already have a front office position lined up for him.  He only played here for two full seasons and two partial seasons.  Those type of appointments (Francis, Brind’Amour, Wesley) have been reserved for the long-timers. 

It appears probable Canes will look to re-sign Chad LaRose, Re-signing Joni Pitkanen, Jussi Jokinen could be tougher given market value ...

I love Sharpie, but I’m surprised here.  He made $1.9M and put up 31 (16/15) points.  He’s a phenomenal penalty killer and a good pest, but I think that’s a little too much dough for LaRose.  I think other teams might come calling with attractive offers, and I’ve already assumed that he’s expendable.  He’s one of the greatest guys and probably favorite of the fan favorites, but from a money standpoint, that kind of money can be better spent elsewhere.  I figure Jokinen might be tough, and if I remember correctly, the last contract re-up was a tough one, but I have faith that they’ll get it done.  Pitkanen, on the other hand….  I’ve already sounded off on that. 

If Pitkanen does not sign, Canes will look to sign free-agent D-man. Also expected to seek experienced backup goalie, fourth-line center.

Carolina will be happy to let go of Pitkanen’s salary burden.  Although chews up minutes like nobody’s business, some of those minutes are really scary.  He wanders around aimlessly, he becomes a liability.  I’ll continue to say that it’s time for him to go.  Spend the money elsewhere.  The players who will be available as free agent defensemen don’t have an obvious choice as a first pairing replacement among them.  Not affordably, anyway.  Every summer the Canes experiment with a fourth line center, and nothing seems to work.  The good thing is, they’re a dime a dozen.  Experienced backup goalie?  Yes, please.  Cam Ward shouldn’t have to play 68 games a year.  Even if he’s capable of it, he shouldn’t have to. 

That’s a lot of tweets, and a lot of info in there.  Nothing is official yet, but I would assume that he has his information on good authority.  It’s a lot to digest, and there’s a lot of things that can and will happen between now and July 1.  And between July 1 and October.

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: carolina+hurricanes, free+agency

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Kinda weird to read you being sorta kinda supportive of Erik Cole.

Posted by WJPurdy from Rolesville, NC on 05/17/11 at 09:44 AM ET

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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. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.