-- Carolina Hurricanes
General Manager Jim Rutherford doesn't feel the need to be reading the morning headlines to catch up on all the NHL transactions of late.
He knows the phone lines are heating up with all the negotiations taking place among the League's 30 general managers leading up to and including the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
"I think everybody is active right now in talking," Rutherford told NHL.com. "Certainly when you're in a race and trying to make your team better, you're trying to either stay ahead or gain some ground. Making a deal sooner than later is more effective. But at the same time, some of the premium deals, where you get a team that may pay more for a player, sometimes comes at the deadline. So you could look at it two ways. My preference with those two in mind is to do a deal earlier than later."
Does it mean Rutherford is preparing to strike while the iron is hot at a time when his team sits eighth in the Eastern Conference with 26 wins and 59 points?
"I feel good about our team," he said. "We have a team that, like a lot of teams in our situation, there's not a lot of margin for error at this point in the season. We certainly have a team that on most nights is perfectly capable of playing well against teams even if we come out on the wrong end of the score. We have a chance to win games on most nights against most teams."
Carolina coach Paul Maurice
likes what he sees in his group heading down the stretch with 28 games remaining in the regular season.
"I think the most important thing is you want to feel like you're moving forward as a team," Maurice said. "I feel we are. Clearly we've made a big transition in one year, taking five years off per man in experience. I do like the fact that in the process of building for this year, we also want to win right now and we're trying to build a foundation that we could win for a long time. They're taking their lessons and they're getting better. I'm happy with a lot of the pieces we have in place."
Those pieces will be put to the test on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center when the Hurricanes play the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers
, a team that has beaten them eight straight times. Carolina's last victory over Philadelphia occurred Nov. 28, 2008, 3-2 in overtime, in Philadelphia.
Rutherford offered an emphatic "nope" when asked if he had any interest in acquiring either Dustin Penner
or Ales Hemsky
of the Edmonton Oilers
. Both forwards, nearing the end of their contracts, are rumored to be on the trading block. Hemsky admitted to reporters on Wednesday that for the first time since becoming an Oiler in 2002, he thinks he could be dealt. Penner, meanwhile, has one season left before he's eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Rutherford knows all about pulling the trigger on a huge deal that would ultimately play a vital role to a Stanley Cup run. He did it just prior to the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy.
"I think there's an advantage to getting a player sooner than later because I've experienced that in the year we won the Cup (in 2006)," Rutherford said. "The player most sought-after was Doug Weight
. Everybody was going after him, but we jumped in early and made the deal and got him out of the marketplace.
"We got him in here to get adjusted to our team and he made a difference," Rutherford continued. "We also got (Mark) Recchi at the deadline and he also helped."
Still, the centerpiece of Rutherford's multi-player deal with the St. Louis Blues
on Jan. 30, 2006, was Weight, who was acquired with left wing Erkki Rajamaki
in exchange for forwards Jesse Boulerice
, Mike Zigomanis
and Magnus Kahnberg
and Carolina's first-round pick in 2006.
As a member of the Hurricanes, Weight, who would represent Team USA in the 2006 Winter Games in Torino 12 days after his trade to Carolina, chipped in with 16 points in 23 playoff games. He missed Games 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Final due to a shoulder injury. But despite losing Weight, the Canes managed to defeat the Edmonton Oilers
en route to the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale