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Choices, Choices, Choices…

Posted By Johnny G On Jun 14 2012 @ 8:23 am In Carolina Hurricanes | No Comments

Now that the Stanley Cup Final is in the books and the Kings have hoisted the cup, all teams turn their attention to picks, trades, tweaks and CBA’s.

Where does Jim Rutherford even start?

To recap; Rutherford has stated his expectation to go after a top line forward as well as iron out the bottom six forwards.  The Hurricanes have already committed to spending more money, how much?  We will get to that in the CBA discussion.

Most every summer Jim Rutherford has shopped for budget forwards hoping to find that has-been with a few games left in him, or the diamond in the rough, this would actually be a great summer to do that.  Beyond Zach Parise there are few forwards that are sure-fire top line players.  Guys like Dustin Penner and Alexandre Semin are high end talents but they come with the dreaded ‘inconsistent’ lable.  Would $6million on either of those two be money well spent?

I feel the top six forward Jim Rutherford is looking for may have to come via trade.  Jordan Staal’s name is a fixture in the Canes rumor mill and seems to be a very viable option.  Rick Nash’s name pops up and some have said Carolina is on his list of destinations.   The benefit to making a trade is that Jim Rutherford knows the contract he is getting.  Free agents will have multiple suitors and the prices will sky-rocket well over the player’s actual worth.  The drawback to the trade scenario is that you have to give something up in order to get something.  Any bids for Jordan Staal or Rick Nash may mean parting with a Brandon Sutter or similar player.

Talks of trades lead us to the draft in Pittsburgh where the Hurricanes hold the number eight overall pick.  Rutherford seemed to suggest he would not trade that pick, or look to move up.  The only scenario where that happens is if the deal of a life-time pops up, and it may.   Respected TSN analyst Bob McKenzie suggested recently that many teams will be busy at the draft.  This tends to happen during times of (CBA) uncertainty as teams have a bit of a free pass to hit the reset button.  My guess is that the Hurricanes pick at number eight, while discussing other moves and possibly making them next weekend in Pittsburgh.  I feel that the Canes cannot go wrong with the number eight pick, as most players in the top ten are gems and should all excel at the NHL level.

The CBA expires on September 15th and both sides have yet to begin discussions.  The consensus seems to be that there is no room for any sort of work stoppage.  I expect the debates to get heated though both sides will find some common ground and get it done well before September.  As it stands today the salary cap is set to go up to $70million while a percentage bump from the NHLPA will see it rise as high as $73 million.  The cap floor may be as high as $57 million, meaning as the Hurricanes stand currently at just under $46 million they would need to spend $11 million just to reach the cap floor.  There are many who expect the new CBA to set the cap closer to where it currently is this year in the mid-low $60million range.  Unfortunately we really don’t know where the final number will stand, though the cap ceiling is likely not part of Jim Rutherford’s concern for the Hurricanes.

Jim Rutherford is doing the right thing by publicly stating that he will make a splash for a top end forward to play with Eric Staal.  Staal needs to high end talent to compliment his natural ability and lead this team… it also sends a great signal to the fan base that the team is looking to move up in the world.

Rutherford has not spoken much about his plans for the blue-line as that may be a much bigger, though less flashy, concern for the Canes.  My belief in hockey has always been to build from your goaltender out.  We all know that Cam Ward is solid, though we could solidify his back-up, but the Hurricanes defense has been consistently one of the worst in the league.  The Hurricanes are in a tough spot defensively as rising stars Ryan Murphy and Brian Dumoulin are expected to have a say in the line-up for training camp.  Next to Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain the Hurricanes could be looking at four defenseman under the age of 24.  This also leaves two spots for another four defenseman.   This is quite a conundrum for the hurricanes blue-line as the expectations of Murphy and Dumoulin (and 2012 draft pick?) make it hard to plan for training camp beyond ‘we’ll see how they play.’  That is not how you go into July with such a crucial position in need of a rebuild.

The top-tier defenseman in free agency is Nashville’s Ryan Suter.  Experts seem split as to whether he will stay in Nashville of test the free agent market and head to a city like Detroit.  I expect Rutherford to make a bid for Suter though the competition with be vast.  A player I am keeping an eye on is RFA, and teammate of Suter, Shea Weber.  I have been seeing reports that if Suter goes Weber may want to go as well.  Nashville will not let both players go without a fight but assuming Weber is qualified by Nashville and then shopped the Hurricanes will have to make a serious push for him.  At age 26 the 6’4”  230lb Weber is a solid yet versatile defenseman and considered one of the best in the league.

Of course at this stage of the off-season it is always great to shoot for the ‘stars.’ The truth is that free agent pool will be great to help us retool the bottom six forward lines and build depth but the elite talent will have to come via trade.  Who is available via trade?  We will likely not know until after they are traded.

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