RALEIGH, N.C. -- Justin Faulk was an alternate captain in his first game of the preseason against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
In that sense, nothing has changed for the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman. Despite rumors that he might soon be traded because he is in the final season of his six-year contract (average annual value of $4.83 million) and has yet to agree on a new one, Faulk is approaching training camp as if he'll be with the Hurricanes all season.
That includes remaining one of their leaders.
"I can't come in here and not work hard or not be a good teammate and not communicate with guys and joke around and have fun," Faulk said Thursday. "I have to treat it the same. I am here today, and I was yesterday and whatever, and I have to treat it as wherever I'm at, I'm going to be the same."
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Faulk declined to discuss the status of talks with the Hurricanes about a new contract. The 27-year-old's future in Carolina was already unclear before the Hurricanes signed defenseman Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract (AAV of $4.05 million) on Sept. 6. That fueled speculation that Carolina would soon trade Faulk to reduce its logjam at defenseman, and there were reports he rejected a trade to the Anaheim Ducks.
When training camp opened last week, Faulk still was with the Hurricanes.
"It doesn't matter whatever stuff is out there," said Faulk, who was an alternate captain last season after he and center Jordan Staal were co-captains in 2017-18. "I'm not the only one who has seen it or heard it, nor are you or guys in the room. It's not like there's any secret. That stuff has been floating around, but I still have to do my thing and treat it as if nothing is out there and I'm still here because, realistically, I am. I'm sitting right here and going through the same thing as everyone else."
Faulk was a big part of the Hurricanes' success last season, when they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009 and reached the Eastern Conference Final before losing in four games to the Boston Bruins. Faulk was second on Carolina with an average of 22:25 of ice time during the regular season and 25:29 during the playoffs behind defenseman Jaccob Slavin (23:02 during the regular season and 26:10 in the playoffs).
Faulk's 35 regular-season points (11 goals, 24 assists) were second among Hurricanes defensemen behind Dougie Hamilton's 39, and he had eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 15 playoff games, sixth most on Carolina and second among its defensemen behind Slavin's 11.
Video: NYI@CAR, Gm3: Faulk scores after exiting penalty box
But even if Faulk is not traded, the addition of Gardiner potentially could push him off the top power-play unit and out of the top two defense pairs.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour credited Faulk for handling the situation like a pro and not allowing it to be a distraction for him or the team.
"He came in and had if not the best then close to the best numbers in his training, his fitness test," Brind'Amour said. "So definitely, it's been business as usual. That's how we've approached it. We've had talks about it that, 'I don't listen to that. You shouldn't listen. If it happens, it happens.'
"Everyone's in the same boat. I just told him this: [While playing for the Philadelphia Flyers], I was on the trading block for eight years. The year it didn't happen is the year I got traded. It is part of [the business], and he's been really professional about going about his business."
Without naming names, Faulk pointed out he's not the only Hurricanes player in the final season of his contact and eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020. Center Erik Haula and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk are in the same situation.
So Faulk said he doesn't view it as something that's hanging over him or something that will be in the back of his head if he's still with the Hurricanes when they open the regular season against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 3.
"Yeah, people are sitting here and talking to me about it, but there's other guys that are going through the same situation," Faulk said. "Maybe their name's not being floated in trade rumors and stuff, but guys are in here playing for contracts and are on the last year of their deal, and it's big years for multiple people in this locker room.
"So it's not sitting in my head in that sense. I'm here, I have to put in the work just like the other guys who are under contract or not for next year. I'm treating it the same as anyone else is."
Brind'Amour is approaching it as if Faulk will remain with Carolina. And as long as Faulk is, he'll be one of the Hurricanes' leaders, his being an alternate captain Wednesday serving as evidence of that.
"It's funny. I know it's out there, but when we come in, nobody's thinking about that," Brind'Amour said of Faulk possibly being traded. "The players don't. He's been our leader for a long time, one of them, and he's not going to not be that. As long as he's here, he'll be big part of this team."