In the first 90 minutes of free agency, the Carolina Hurricanes signed three players, two of which played with the organization last season and one of which has played with the team twice before.
The Canes signed defenseman Joe Corvo to a one-year deal, bringing him back for his third stint in Raleigh.
“He made it real clear this is where he wanted to be,” said Jim Rutherford, the Canes’ president and general manager. “We feel he still has some good hockey in him.”
Corvo, 35, is coming off his ninth season in the National Hockey League in which he played in 75 games for the Boston Bruins. He recorded 25 points (4g, 21a) and was a plus-10 in nearly 19 minutes of average ice time.
In 220 career games with Carolina, Corvo has 36 goals and 75 assists (111 points). Corvo tied career highs in assists (29) and points (40) in his most recent season with Carolina. Rutherford noted that bringing back the Oak Park, Illinois, native for just a season doesn’t mean he won’t be re-signed beyond the 2012-13 campaign.
In signing Corvo, the veteran, right-shooting defenseman the team was seeking out to play alongside Tim Gleason, Rutherford said unrestricted free agents Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek will not be back with the Hurricanes. The team will likely carry eight defensemen, with Ryan Murphy and Bobby Sanguinetti in the mix.
Goaltender Justin Peters was re-signed for two years, the first year of which is a two-way deal and the second year being one-way. With Brian Boucher sidelined four to six months with a shoulder injury, Peters could become the Canes’ back-up goaltender as early as this season.
“We wanted to get him back to Charlotte. He played a lot of games, he played extremely well in Charlotte and he played extremely well when he came up with us,” Rutherford said. “So, now the door is open right off the start for him with Boucher being injured. He can make a case for himself that Boucher doesn’t get back in when he gets healthy.”
Forward Brett Sutter re-upped for one season with Carolina. The captain of the Charlotte Checkers, Sutter skated in 15 games for the Hurricanes last season, recording three assists.
The team isn't done, either. Rutherford said the Canes were contact with free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They have yet to reach out to other free agents, as they work down their list of desired players.
Despite attempts from Rutherford, head coach Kirk Muller, assistant coach John MacLean (who spent nine seasons as a coach with the New Jersey Devils) and potentially Eric Staal, the Canes are no longer in the running for Parise, according to Rutherford.
“I believe he’s going to go another way, but he hasn’t made his final decision,” Rutherford said on Sunday evening. “There’s a little disappointment, but certainly going in we understood there were a lot of teams involved. I feel we took a good shot at it. We did everything we could under our guidelines. I’m not surprised. Would have been great for us to get him.”
The Hurricanes will now look toward a potential trade to acquire another top-six forward, Rutherford said. But don't rule out the free agent market, either.
“There are still a couple other guys out there that we still have in our sights,” he said.
Should the Canes land Suter, who is not expected to make his decision until Monday at the earliest, Rutherford said they would look to make a trade to free up roster space on the blue line.
In any case, the fact that the Hurricanes pursued Parise and Suter aggressively demonstrates a clear organizational shift, one that might pay off in future offseasons should the team be successful on the ice.
And while Rutherford believes the team he has now can be successful, he's still after one more piece and won't rest until he gets it, whether it happens this week, next week or months from now.
“I’m comfortable with [our lineup],” he said. “I think we’ll be more competitive. But at the same time, to get to that level that we really want to get to to be a contender, I feel adding one more player is an important piece.”