The Hurricanes did not present restricted free agent defensemen Brett Carson and Alexandre Picard with qualifying offers prior to Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, meaning that both players will now become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
General Manager Jim Rutherford said he attempted to negotiate one-way contracts with each player but was unable to come to an agreement. Qualifying offers are defined as 110 percent of the previous season’s salary for players who earned less than $660,000 (Carson earned $522,000) or 105 percent for players who topped that mark but checked in at less than $1 million (Picard earned $850,000).
Rutherford also said that he was unwilling to go to arbitration with either defensemen, which would have been the next step if the players rejected their qualifying offers and negotiations stalled.
”We don’t want an arbitrator to tell us what we should pay them,” said Rutherford of the decision to let each player go to the open market. “This games us more flexibility with our defense going forward. We could take the money we had budgeted for both of these players and possibly use it on one player in free agency.”
Rutherford acknowledged that he had made Picard, who was acquired from Ottawa along with a second-round pick in exchange for Matt Cullen, available to other teams via trade about one month ago but was unable to make a deal. He also said that he did not know whether there was still a possibility of re-signing either player as an unrestricted free agent.
“I never close the door on anything,” he said.
Rutherford said that this past weekend’s acquisition of Bobby Sanguinetti from the New York Rangers made his decision easier, as he believes the new addition can compete for a job on the Hurricanes right away. Even without Carson and Picard, the Hurricanes would still be able to field a defense featuring Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain and Jay Harrison, with Sanguinetti and the expected re-signing of Anton Babchuk rounding out the top six. Casey Borer and Bryan Rodney could then provide depth at the minor-league level.
“We’re not in a position that we have to go out and add defense if we don’t want to,” he said.
The Hurricanes did make qualifying offers to Borer, Rodney, Nicolas Blanchard, Nick Dodge, Justin Peters and Justin Pogge, meaning that all of those players’ rights will remain with the organization past July 1 even if they do not sign the original offer. Babchuk, who played in Russia last season, did not require an offer to remain property of the Hurricanes and is expected to sign a new deal shortly after July 1.
As for the team’s unrestricted free agents, Rutherford said that Manny Legace, Brian Pothier and Ray Whitney are still expected to hit the open market, as are depth players Mike Angelidis, Steven Goertzen and Michael Ryan. Negotiations are ongoing with forward/defenseman Tim Conboy and defenseman Zack Fitzgerald.