As July 1 draws ever nearer – next Wednesday, to be exact – Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford isn’t feeling overly optimistic about how negotiations with the team’s unrestricted free agents are progressing.
Based on what was said at the conclusion of the season, it seemed as though Erik Cole and Chad LaRose
, the team’s top two internal priorities, would be back in the fold with time to spare. However, there is still some considerable ground to make up before that happens.
“It doesn’t look like it now,” said Rutherford when asked if he expected to sign Cole and LaRose before they can shop their services freely to other teams. “We’re not making a lot of progress with any guys at this point. I do have some meetings set up this week, so I’ll have a better idea when I get back to the office on Monday as to where we are on these contracts.”
Although those players could still be signed by Carolina after July 1, Rutherford said that he viewed that day as a hard deadline, making it unlikely that those players would return if talks don’t move forward rather quickly..
“There is that potential, as we always deal with, that the players come to the point where they have their free agency and it’s their time to have the leverage,” he said. “Certainly if we can’t come to an agreement by July 1, then we’re going to wish those players well and they’re probably going to move on.”
The team is also in discussions with depth forwards Ryan Bayda and Michael Ryan, although no agreement seems imminent. Rutherford said the team has already come to terms with the fact that defenseman Dennis Seidenberg will move on in the coming weeks.
If Cole and LaRose don’t return to the team, Rutherford said that he would look to replace them via trade. That could happen as early as this weekend’s entry draft, which typically sees some significant moves made around the league, although Rutherford said he didn’t envision that happening just yet.
“The only thing that will come into play this weekend is that we will test the waters as to what players are available for trade,” he said. “I don’t see us making a trade at this point.”
The Canes could also do some shopping of their own via free agency next week, but that isn’t being viewed as the most desirable route due to the same financial difficulties that they are currently facing with their own free agents.
“The way to replace these players is in a trade, because with the player we’re trading for we’d know what his contract status is,” said Rutherford. “[Free agency] would be just as expensive or more, because it’s really just another group of players that are trying to do the same thing our players are by making the best financial deal they can.”
Negotiations with restricted free agents Anton Babchuk, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu will not begin until July, as they are unable to leave freely to another team.