Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 06/30/09 at 11:06 PM ET
Today is the last day for teams to re-sign their potential UFAs before they enter the market at noon on Wednesday. Everyone in Raleigh was hoping that an announcement would come that the team had come to terms with Chad LaRose. It didn’t. As expected, there was also no announcement about Erik Cole. Jim Rutherford has made it clear that he will not initiate any more negotiations with them. He has put “final offers” on the table. Ryan Bayda has also declined Carolina’s “final offer” and will test the free agent market. Although no doors are permanently shut and no bridges are burned, this has ruffled Jim Rutherford’s feathers.
“If they go into tomorrow then they’re obviously making the choice to go somewhere else,” he said. “We’ve given our best offer within our budget to try to keep them, and at this point it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”
Contrast that quote with one about Jussi Jokinen, which I’ll point to later in this post.
Rutherford has also pledged not to be aggressive in the FA market and might wait until August to sign anyone. He went as far as to tell Puck Daddy that the only thing he’d be signing on July 1 would be a birthday card to his cousin. ...
LaRose had a good season and an impressive playoff run. He’s certainly not a household name around the league, but I will guarantee that every GM in the league knows his name and he might find a few suitors tomorrow. On the other hand, he might not be able to get an offer greater than whatever Carolina’s final offer was.
I won’t cry any tears over Erik Cole. I wasn’t excited when he came back here at the trading deadline, and knowing his history, nobody should be surprised that he wouldn’t accept Carolina’s offers. He’s been overpaid and isn’t as effective a power forward as he used to be. Is it the injury? Is it his age catching up to him? Maybe a little of both. However, the main reason, in my opinion is that he’s a one-trick pony. By now, everyone in the league knows that he has that one power move where he charges down the middle of the ice, swings really wide to the right after crossing center ice, then swoops in through the slot, trying to hold off his defender with his left arm. He used to finish that move off by shooting and scoring, or by drawing a holding penalty. Now, he doesn’t even shoot at the end of that, let alone score.
While Cole brings a hard-working ethic to the table, and while he’s a well-liked guy in the room and in the community, he goes extended periods with no offensive production. He still relies too much on that one move that everyone has figured out. Most importantly, he pulled an unforgivable disappearing act in the playoffs this spring. Going back to 2002, as I’ve written before, Cole has been a really terrible playoff performer when he’s not playing against Jose Theodore. In 43 career NHL playoff games, he has just six goals and eight assists. Unacceptable. Of those 14 points, seven (4/3) came in a six game series against Jose Theodore and the Montréal Canadiens in the 2002 ECSF.
Jussi Jokinen was an absolute stud in the playoffs and could have easily played hardball at the negotiating table, but he actually took a pay cut to stay in Carolina. This unselfish behaviour impressed Jim Rutherford and will make him even more of a fan favorite.
“I think when you look at Jokinen’s situation he clearly did not want to go anywhere else, and that’s how you get these done prior to July 1. He worked really hard with us on his contract to make that fit within our team, so we appreciate what he did as a player and we appreciate what he did in the negotiations. I expect him to have a really good year this year.”
I would bet that we’ve seen the last of Erik Cole, but that he’ll end up settling somewhere for less than what the Canes offered. I’ll also bet that, barring some eleventh hour negotiation, Chad LaRose will be wearing 59 for a different team in the fall.
I don’t like the “wait until August” approach. By then, there won’t be anything worth writing home about. Carolina will have no choice but to bring up some of the kids from Albany. The other obvious option would be to trade for a top nine forward.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have tendered qualifying sheets to RFAs Tuomo Ruutu and Anton Babchuk. Both will be expected back in Raleigh in the fall.
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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.