As far as day one of free agency goes, it wasn’t too frenzied for the Carolina Hurricanes.
And that’s just fine for Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis and Co.
“We’re constantly talking and looking at things,” he said in an afternoon press conference. “Do I think anything will happen by the end of the day? Probably not, but you never know when the phone rings.”
What the Canes did do was sign three of their own players and add a depth piece for Charlotte. They also made official the buyout of the remaining three years of Alexander Semin’s contract.
Just after midday, the Hurricanes re-signed center Riley Nash to a one-year contract worth $1.15 million, re-signed defenseman Rasmuss Rissanen to a one-year, two-way contract and inked defenseman Jaccob Slavin to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Later in the afternoon, the team signed winger T.J. Hensick to a one-year, two-way deal. Hensick, 29, led the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs in scoring in the 2014-15 season with 29, led the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in scoring in 2014-15 with 60 points (19g, 41a) in 75 games.
“We’re a better roster today than we were a week and a half ago,” Francis said. “Are there areas I’d like to improve? Absolutely, and we’ll continue to work on that.”
Areas of improvement could include a depth signing up front or on defense, but Francis added that he was in no rush.
“I’m real comfortable being patient at this point. There will be guys still on the market on July 15 or August 1,” he said. “We still have a lot of options ahead of us before we get to opening night.”
Francis said he and his braintrust have recently explored a number of player acquisition options but nothing that made sense at this time.
“We looked at a lot of different trade scenarios and some of the free agents. Our message hasn’t changed in the sense that … if we’re adding a guy through free agency or a trade, it’s the right piece,” he explained. “It’s tough to find a deal that is the right term and right money for the right player, quite honestly, for me on this day.”
After placing forward Alexander Semin on waivers Tuesday, the Hurricanes officially bought out the remainder of his contract, which will cost the club $14 million over the next six years ($2.33 per season). It was a costly move, one on which owner Peter Karmanos Jr. ultimately signed off, but a move that was made for the betterment of the team moving forward.
“The biggest thing for me was the day-to-day effort that it takes to be a professional hockey player. It wasn’t there in practice, and it wasn’t there a lot of nights in games,” Francis said. “You can’t play this game unless you’re willing to work hard. We’ve demanded that from our players from day one of the Bill Peters regime as head coach. When you come to practice, you’re expected to work. When you come to play, you’re expected to work. It just wasn’t happening in Alex’s case. … We want guys that want to be here and want to compete hard every day.”
As captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward enter the final year of their contracts, talks of their future have swirled. But on Wednesday, there was nothing new to report on either.
“Eric controls the situation since he has a no-move clause,” Francis said. “At this point, Eric has given me every indication that he wants to be part of our organization and here in September. He believes in what we’re doing and the direction we’re going. He likes our coach and wants to be part of the solution.”
The direction in which the Hurricanes are pointed and the solution the team is seeking is a foundation of hard work and compete. It’s a multi-year process that doesn’t happen overnight or on one hyperactive day of the NHL calendar.
“We have a vision and a plan. We want to build from a foundation,” he said. “We want to develop our prospects so that when they’re ready to step in, they’re there.”
Additional Assorted Tidbits from Francis
On the scouting staff: “We have plans to add a few pieces. We did add another pro scout and amateur scout, and we’re looking at possibly doing some things, especially on the European front to get some more people on the ground over there. Those will hopefully happen in the next few weeks.”
On the coaching vacancy in Charlotte: “We should have that in place by the end of this week.”
On Noah Hanifin and his future: “I get the sense that we could get a deal done. … It’s our belief that we should get something done.”