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Big Decisions to be Made Soon

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
One would think a sweep would be over before you knew what hit you, but for some reason, that doesn’t seem to be the case today.

Paul Branecky
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Maybe it was the spread out schedule and the two separate two-day breaks, but that one seemed to take forever. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t sting as much today as we might have expected.   Not that you ever count this team out, but there were a few days built in there to really process what was going on and the odds that this was going to happen. Not necessarily today – I felt like the Canes would win last night and extend it for at least one more game – but eventually.

I’m not sure what the mood is around Caniac nation, but it hasn’t taken long for those of us around the office to step back and look at the big picture that was the 2008-09 season. It was a way better run than most anyone could have expected. The date I always look back to is Valentine’s Day, when the Canes lost their second straight at home in spectacular fashion. Given how far away the playoffs looked at that point, making it to the Conference Finals was pretty impressive.

When you’ve got a shortened summer on your hands (and thank goodness, because the last few offseasons took forever), it’s never too soon to think about next season, which the Canes will do in the next few days.

There are some significant decisions to be made, with the head coach topping the list. Paul Maurice wasn’t guaranteed anything past the end of this year, and I remember him answering a question near the end of the regular season on how tough it must be to coach under those circumstances.

Instead, he said, “I always looked at it as a really good opportunity to hit a home run.”

Round the bases sir, and we’ll most likely see you at training camp.

After that, it’s Erik Cole. Although he isn’t the only potential unrestricted free agent, he’s probably the one that will demand the most salary, even if it ends up being a bit less than what he’s making now. Once the Canes and Cole decide on their futures, the team can look at allocating funds to fellow UFA’s Ryan Bayda, Chad LaRose and Dennis Seidenberg. One would think that LaRose will return, but he’ll certainly need a raise after his breakout campaign.

Then there’s restricted free agents Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Anton Babchuk, who can’t walk away on their own but will still need new contracts. The first two seem like locks to come back, but Babchuk will be an interesting case after a season that featured both extreme highs and extreme lows.

Today is going to be pretty quiet, but Jim Rutherford’s annual end-of-season press conference, expected to come either tomorrow or Friday, is always interesting. In the past few years he hasn’t been shy to clearly spell out his priorities for the summer, whether it’s re-signing specific players or identifying needs that he’d like to fill via a trade. We’ll have plenty of coverage there, so don’t go anywhere just yet.

Quick update: Rutherford's press conference will be held on Thursday at 2 p.m.  It will be a joint session with Maurice, which isn't the usual format - the GM and coach have done it separately in the past.  Make of that what you will.

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