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|'Canes getting serious with new acquisitions|
|Written by HPT Staff|
|Monday, 02 July 2012 18:54|
With their day one signings, the Carolina Hurricanes showed that they're willing to spend to remain competitive in the NHL's Eastern Conference and, while they may not land any of the big fish, it's the thought that counts in this case.By Ron Mills
Special to HockeyPrimeTime.com
These aren't your older brother's Carolina Hurricanes - or your father's Hartford Whalers, for that matter.
This is a franchise with a new philosophy and a new attitude. No longer content to dumpster-dive for players, the Hurricanes are trying.
They have become serious.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford spent Canada Day locking up Jordan Staal to a 10-year, $60 million extension. He brought back defenseman Joe Corvo (one year, $2 million) and re-signed goaltender Justin Peters (two-year deal) and forward Brett Sutter (one-year deal).
Corvo not only fills an immediate need by being a right-handed shot who should complement a stay-at-home stalwart like Tim Gleason, but also most of his career success has occurred with Carolina, an undisputed fact contrasting failed stints in Ottawa and Boston.
Peters was Cam Ward's backup two years ago, and they showed so much faith in Peters that Ward started 74 games, triggering Rutherford to sign Boucher after the 2010-11 season.
Has Peters improved enough during his stint with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers? He played 28 games for the Checkers last season, posting a .908 save percentage and 2.77 goals-against average. He was the AHL's Goalie of the Month in November with a 5-1-1 record, 1.63 GAA and .949 save percentage.
Rutherford's on-ice personnel decisions are diametric to the franchise's history.
In previous years, Rutherford had to be content with watching the parade of top-notch free-agent talent march on by. No offers. No discussions. Cherry-pick a third- or fourth-rate free agent or two. Hope a player called up from the AHL impresses in camp, makes the NHL roster and makes a difference. Or find a Jeff Skinner every year in the draft.
Last year, the free-agent signings included Brian Boucher, Anthony Stewart, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Tomas Kaberle. Boucher spent much of last season injured and is projected to miss the next 4-6 months because of an unspecified shoulder injury. Stewart played, but wasn't effective and was placed on waivers shortly before the end of the season. Ponikarovsky was dealt midway through the season in a blatant salary dump.
Then there was the reach for Kaberle: a three-year deal worth more than $12 million. This was after Erik Cole was lured away by the Montreal Canadiens last year in free agency, frustrating Corvo into wanting out. Rutherford shipped Corvo to the Boston Bruins, prompting the signing of Kaberle.
That didn't work out, though the Hurricanes may be forever grateful that Montreal and then-GM Pierre Gauthier took that horrendous contract off Carolina's hands in a deal less than halfway through the season.
Those signings were reactive. The Hurricanes' recent transactions have been proactive.
Rutherford had said to anyone who was listening for months that he was seeking a top-notch forward to skate with captain Eric Staal. He said it before the end of the regular season, and his stance didn't waver in the weeks leading up to the first day of free-agent signings.
Rutherford talked the talk and backed it up by dealing for Eric's brother, Jordan, at the Draft after the latter had declined a contract extension offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Ray Shero, reportedly for 10 years and $60 million. Rutherford was subtle, but had let Shero know he was interested should Jordan Staal's situation with the Penguins change.
Less than twenty-four hours after word had gotten out that Jordan Staal declined the Penguins' offer, a deal was done. Shero and Rutherford needed less than three hours to consummate the deal. The price wasn't cheap for Carolina. Brandon Sutter is a stellar third-line center who is possesses the kind of hockey acumen one might expect from a guy whose father and five uncles were all quality NHL players. Young defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 overall pick in the draft were a little more than throw-ins or deal sweeteners.
But when a team has a chance to acquire a Jordan Staal, it cannot hesitate. That he was willing to sign a long-term extension to play with his brother for a few years isn't at all surprising.
Carolina has long been able to sell what it has off the ice: the quality of life in Raleigh and the Triangle area of North Carolina, and the fact that numerous former players - Ron Francis, Rod Brind'Amour and Glen Wesley, for starters - sing the praises of working for the organization after hanging up their skates and living in the area year-round. Additionally, Rutherford has been a more-than-fair general manager to players. Corvo is back for a third stint with the organization. Cole was brought back in a deal less than a year after being shipped off to the Edmonton Oilers. Burning bridges isn't in Rutherford's makeup.
What was surprising was that Rutherford was not and is not close to being finished constructing the 2012-13 Carolina Hurricanes.
He legitimately kicked the tires on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Parise isn't going to Carolina, and Suter could be too pricey for the Hurricanes. But that doesn't matter.
Rutherford told the media that if the Hurricanes don't land Suter, they will look at potential trades.
Make no mistake, no team ever won a Stanley Cup because it made the biggest splash in the free-agent market. But watching the parade always go by with no chance to ever ride the float can be deflating. And, for a change, the Carolina Hurricanes are riding the wind.
Photos by Getty Images