Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford has said all along that he’ll give his young forwards every opportunity to make the team. That appears to be especially true with two of his most recent acquisitions: Jeff Skinner
and Riley Nash
Following the team’s recent conditioning camp, which served to pleasantly confirm previously-held beliefs about the group as a whole, Rutherford believes those two will have an excellent chance to be with the Hurricanes when they open the 2010-11 season in Helsinki.
”At the conditioning camp, you could see a special skill level in certain players,” said Rutherford. “Clearly, Skinner and Nash were guys that really stood out. It wouldn’t surprise me if both of these guys made our team.”
Skinner, 18, was drafted seventh overall by the Hurricanes at June’s NHL Entry Draft. Nash, a bit older at 21 but a first-round pick himself, was acquired from Edmonton in exchange for a second-round pick one day later.
One of those players would likely take hold of the vacant third-line center spot, which will also be sought by the likes of Zac Dalpe and Jon Matsumoto. There’s also expected to be at least one spot open on the wings, where more experienced players like Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman will be looking to make their mark.
Yet another scenario has Jussi Jokinen centering the third line. If that were to occur, Rutherford said he expected the versatile Finn to remain a key offensive contributor on the power play in addition to his solid two-way play at even strength.
“It’s not like we’re in a situation where we’re not going to be able to cover our lineup,” said Rutherford. “When you look at the two natural centers that are really good ones in Staal and Sutter, after that it’s wide open for anybody.”
Of course, there’s still the small matter of whether or not Nash wants to pursue that opportunity at this time. Although the player said last week that he’s hoping for a quick decision about potentially leaving Cornell prior to his senior year, Rutherford said he’s not expecting to know anything in the next few weeks.
”It’s a decision that he has to make, but at the same time if a player is going to look at a depth chart and look at an opportunity to get your pro career started, this is about the best timing or opportunity that he or anyone else would have,” said Rutherford.
The confidence in Nash, Skinner and the rest of the team’s stable of young prospects has the Hurricanes remaining quiet on the free agent front for the time being. Rutherford said that he hoped to know more about the potential return of defensemen Brett Carson and Alexandre Picard in the coming days, that he’s still in touch with Tim Conboy and that he’s expecting to re-sign Justin Pogge quickly, perhaps even by the end of the day on Thursday.
In the case of Carson and Picard, Rutherford said that the one-way deals offered to each player prior to July 1 were no longer on the table following the signing of Joe Corvo, but that he would still consider bringing them back on two-way contracts.
“We wouldn’t be looking at one-ways at this point,” he said.