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Free agency news in Carolina

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.

Bodie and Tlusty both played for the league minimum of $500k this past season.  Per the CBA, a qualifying offer for a player making less than $660k would have to be 110% of the previous year’s salary.  That would be $550k, which is, incidentally, the league minimum for the 2011-12 season.  Since neither player was qualified, there is no “right of refusal” and there is no compensation to the Hurricanes if some other team signs Bodie or Tlusty. 

I figured Bodie wouldn’t be qualified, but I’m surprised at the Tlusty situation.  I actually assumed that they’d go ahead and get him re-signed.  He’s show flashes of great potential slowed by injury.  I think in time he’ll be a good player.  Maybe he will, and maybe it’ll be in Carolina.  For now, though, all 30 teams have a shot at him. 

Late last week, the word around camp was that there was no way the Canes were going to come to terms with Jussi Jokinen, Erik Cole, Chad LaRose and Joni Pitkänen.  One, or maybe two of the four, but not all of them.  Negotiations with Cole have always been difficult, but they always work out in the end.  LaRose, if allowed to enter the market, might have other teams knocking on his door.  Jokinen was proving to be difficult, and the idea was that they would get old man Cory Stillman re-signed but would not be able to afford Jokinen.  The prevailing opinion was also that the team would leave the door wide open for Pitkänen.  His salary is on the rise, but his usefulness isn’t.  While he’s an ice-time machine and a (mostly) defensively reliable defenseman, his mistakes are big ones.  Costly ones.  The fans and probably the front office are tired of holding their collective breath late in a tie game with #25 on the ice.

Something changed between the draft and today.  Word started coming from Raleigh that all four of the UFAs would be signed.  As early as Tuesday.  A total 180° there.  Also, a 180° on Stillman.  The new word is that Jokinen will stay and Stillman will go.  And the latter may even retire. 

Then, later today, some more chirping about one of the UFAs.  Without naming a name, Chip Alexander of the News & Observer suggested that the coin has flipped again for one of the four. 

Canes fans have been told to expect at least one signing on Tuesday, and I’ll have my ears open.  The dust won’t settle until at least the middle of July, but the picture will be a lot clearer on Friday morning before the market opens. 

Carolina has also declined to offer a qualifying sheet to goaltender Justin Pogge, who spent the entire season in Charlotte.  This is a clear statement that Justin Peters will be going down to split time with Mike Murphy down there.  There will absolutely be a roster spot for a backup goalie.  And at the very least, a fourth line center.  The Canes are usually not very active in the free agent market, and they usually do the bulk of their work in the basement, sorting through the bargain bins and the “free” bins.  This season, things should be different.  They’ll need someone capable of playing goal at the NHL level.  There’s going to be a few of those on Friday, but they won’t last long.  As I said, they’ll also need a fourth line center and most likely a top four defenseman.  That’s going to be spendy, but the Canes have a long way to go just to get to the floor. 

There’s also news about alternate captain Brandon Sutter.  He was tendered a qualifying sheet, and he’ll be expected to re-sign in the next couple of days, but it won’t be what I thought it would.  Apparently, his agent has requested a shorter-term contract of two or maybe three years as opposed to a Staal/Ward type deal that would lock him in for eight years.  Cousin Brett was given a qualifying sheet, and will probably re-sign and play in Charlotte.  Cousin Brody was just selected in the seventh round of the draft.  Now the organization has two Staals and three Sutters.  Not so bad. 

There should be some more significant news this time tomorrow.  For now, a whole lot of speculation.

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: brandon+sutter, carolna+hurricanes, chad+larose, cory+stillman, erik+cole, free+agency, joni+pitkänen, jussi+jokinen

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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. 

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.