Red and Black Hockey
Entries with the tag: free agency
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 Sunday, Canes fans were told that a player signing was imminent. We hoped that it would be Jussi Jokinen or Erik Cole. Of the seven UFAs, those are the two who are generally regarded by Caniacs as the most important. Today, we’re being told that they aren’t even close with any of the UFAs. With the free agent market opening in two weeks, the Hurricanes have decided to shop the rights to those players instead of letting them walk away.
I can’t even begin to guess who the trading partner or the player coming in this direction might be, Paul Branecky of Hurricanes.com says that a trade is close to completion. One that would have “a power-play quarterback who can play among the top four defensemen – an immediate Pitkanen substitute - ” coming to Raleigh. The Canes are looking to deal one of their two second round draft picks or even a prospect to make a deal happen.
Jim Rutherford says ““We’re exchanging ideas, and something could happen any time.”
Today, a guy named Dmitry Chesnokov, who is a contributor to the Puck Daddy blog, tweeted that Hurricanes prospect Oskar Osala has signed with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk “Petrochemists” of the KHL. He went on to say that the official announcement will be made once the Calder Cup playoffs are over (although he wrote “AHL season”). He was, evidently, getting his information from a Finnish rumor site.
We were surprised to see this, then relieved when Oskar himself contradicted the tweet. The flat denial could be a deflection so the Checkers can concentrate on their task at hand. They’re down 2 games to none in a best-of-seven series with the Binghamton Sentators. After losing games one and two at home, they have the task of having to win at least two of the three straight road games.
It might be an effort at diplomacy, but I believe Oskar when he says (tweets):
Once again: I haven’t signed with anyone for next season. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from around Europe lately but haven’t made any decision about next season yet. For the record this is the third team I’m rumored to go to this spring!
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.
The Hurricanes announced Monday afternoon that restricted free agent defensemen Alexandre Picard and Brett Carson have not been tendered qualifying offers, and will thus become unrestricted free agents on Thursday. Jim Rutherford said that he attempted to re-sign both players but could not reach an accord with either. He was worried that the players would take the team to arbitration and he was unwilling to take the risk of facing a binding arbitration outcome. This, and the draft day acquisition of Bobby Sanguinetti, will give the team a little bit of freedom to do something in the free agent market. More on this in a bit.
The other news out of Carolina is that these are the last two days for them to buy out the contracts of the septuagenarian Rod Brind’Amour and Sergei “Hold Me Closer Tiny Dancer” Samsonov.
All summer long, there’s been talk of the Canes adding size and toughness to the roster. They obviously had that in mind at the draft, but none of those players will be making the Hurricanes roster this fall. They’ve added right wing Steven Goertzen, who certainly adds size (6’2” 216 lbs), and he’s reputed to be a tough guy, but he doesn’t exactly bring NHL talent. Sure, he’ll be called up a couple of times, but he’s going to be dragging his knuckles alongside Tim Conboy in Albany.
The Canes need to re-sign Tuomo Ruutu, which is the important issue for the forward lines. There’s still a bit of work to be done on the blueline. The consensus all summer long has been that Dennis Seidenberg has become too expensive to be a part of the Canes future. Now there’s word that Anton Babchuk has, for a second time, worn out his welcome in Raleigh. Carolina has five NHL defensemen under contract, and will obviously need to get at least one more signed.
After a couple of rough days, the Hurricanes and Chad LaRose have finally come to terms. This is a two-year deal worth a total of $3.4M, Sharpie will make $1.5M in 2009-10 and $1.9M in 2010-11.
Perhaps LaRose found the market to be not as awesome as he figured it might be. Frankly, I’m surprised that he wasn’t snatched up quickly. I guess this ends any speculation about signing any forwards out of free agency.
Anyone who watched the Eastern Conference final series would say that LaRose was Carolina’s best skater in that series. In fact, he was one of Carolina’s best players throughout the playoffs. He finished the postseason with 11 points (4/7) points in 18 games. In the regular season, he set a new career best with 19 goals and tied his career best with 12 assists for a new career best of 31 points in 81 games played.
The rugged, versatile forward is much more than a utility guy who will do a good job as a top six fill-in. He’s a great teammate, a great guy in the room and a very popular player with the fans.
After a rollercoaster couple of days when we were told that the Hurricanes and Chad LaRose were miles apart, then told that they were getting close, we’ve now been told that it’s over. Jim Rutherford put his final, final, totally final, absolutely final offer on the table earlier this afternoon. LaRose’s agent said that they would call Rutherford back “in an hour”.
Rutherford’s phone still ain’t ringing. He assumes that it still ain’t LaRose. He assumes that LaRose has something else working and he claims that the Canes are working on signing someone else. There’s no indication of who it might be, but I suspect that Mike Zigomanis might find his way back to Raleigh before the dust settles. The Penguins have parted ways with him (and also with defenseman Rob Scuderi).——>EDIT<—— I should apologize for jumping the gun here. While the Pens have decided to move on without Mike Zigomanis, they have NOT made that decision about Rob Scuderi. The only thing they have done is allowed him to enter the free agent market, where he remains unsigned. They’re still trying to iron out a deal with him, and although some reports indicate that the Penguins are going to look elsewhere, they haven’t given up on those negotiations.
I had a few guys on my wish list, and they’re already gone.
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. ...
So we’ve got a few days before the Awards Show, then another week before the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Carolina will have the 27th overall pick, and most prognosticators are saying that Carolina will draft a defenseman.
A few days after the draft, the real fun begins. The free agent signing period. Carolina has never been a big spender in the FA signing period, and I don’t expect them to be this summer. Their primary focus will be on re-signing the guys they have, then picking someone up in the bargain bin. Last summer, they were inactive in the FA market, but made the blockbuster trade with the Oilers, sending Erik Cole that way for Joni Pitkänen.
This summer, while some people are dreaming up elaborate ways to get Dany Heatley here, I expect little if any activity from the Hurricanes camp. At least not as far as the forwards are concerned.