Following his exit interview with GM Jim Rutherford, Erik Cole seemed confident that he would re-sign with the Hurricanes this summer.
As an unrestricted free agent, Cole can sign with another team as early as July 1 with no compensation to Carolina. The Hurricanes will have the right of first refusal until then.
"I would expect that this is where I'll be (next season)," he said. "This was the organization that I first came in with, and there's a lot of loyalty there."
Even before he answered the direct question of whether or not he thought he would be coming back, Cole spoke of next season as though it was already a foregone conclusion that he would be a part of it.
"There are some positive things to build on," he said. "The team will have to make some decisions on what we need to do to be better. Whatever happens, I hope that I'm a part of it."
Cole made it clear that his family would play a role in his decision. Even before the team re-acquired him from Edmonton at the trade deadline, his family was already planning to return to their home in Raleigh on a permanent basis.
"This is an area that we see ourselves living in for the long-term after hockey," he said.
Even though Cole has publicly stated his desire to return, there is still work to be done to make that a reality. The team's management will have to agree on an appropriate valuation of the player, who performed very well at the end of the regular season but went without a goal in 18 playoff games.
"Erik Cole's playoff performance would not eliminate him as being part of our team next year," said Rutherford at a Thursday press conference. "We still need that type of player and he's still a good player."
Besides the obvious knee injury he sustained in Game 1 of the Pittsburgh series, Cole was coy about whether or not he had been playing with any additional ailments.
"I had a couple of different minor injuries is all I'll say."
Now, it's time for the business side of the equation to go to work.