Free Agent Market Update

Will Jokinen AND Pitkanen return to Carolina? (Flickr Photo via douglasgallery30)

The draft just finished a few days ago and the Carolina Hurricanes have already shifted their attention to free agency.

General Manager Jim Rutherford has made gigantic strides in signing the team’s unrestricted free agents. The deadline to sign unrestricted free agents is Friday, July 1 when other teams can reach out to negotiate contracts. Forwards Erik Cole and Chad LaRose were most likely to re-sign with the Hurricanes during this weekend’s festivities. But now, Rutherford said he is closer to signing Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen. That would be amazing news for the Hurricanes if they can avoid their stars testing the free agent waters.

At this point, the Hurricanes must retain Jokinen to maintain two producing lines. I can’t imagine a Canes team without fan-favorite Jussi on the roster because he brings so much to the offensive department and is a good fit in Maurice’s system. Besides, it wont be as much fun singing the National Anthem without him. “Oh say can JUSSI. By the dawn’s early light.” You get the point.

“We didn’t think we were going to have a chance on Pitkanen and Jokinen, but I’m actually hopeful that we have a chance at both those guys now,” Rutherford said.

The Hurricanes have made a lot of progress on their free agents despite having limited communication with their agents. The Hurricanes expect to announce a few signings on Tuesday or early Wednesday, which will give them some time to spare before Friday’s deadline.

It seems unlikely that the Hurricanes could bring back both Jokinen and Pitkanen unless they take generous price cuts. As of now, Cole and LaRose are almost locks to come back next season and Cory Stillman’s future is still up in the air. I personally think his time in Carolina is limited because his decision relies heavily on what the Hurricanes decide to do with Jokinen.

Rutherford even mentioned he had two potential trades lined up during the draft to ship either Pitkanen or Jokinen away, but both of them fell through after the Hurricanes made more progress in re-signing their stars.

Monday afternoon, the Hurricanes said they will not present qualifying offers to Jiri Tlusty or Troy Bodie as both Hurricanes will become free agents on Friday. However, that does not mean their Hurricane careers are over. Carolina can still re-sign them and they wont have to worry about arbitration.

“We still have interest in them. It’s just part of the process,” Rutherford said.

The Canes said they would be interested in offering Bodie a two-way contract to keep the options open for a minor league assignment. Tlusty would receive a one-way contract should he return, but he is very low on the Hurricanes’ priority list.

The Hurricanes have extended qualifying offers their other restricted free agents, that includes Brandon Sutter, Derek Joslin, Brett sutter, Bobby Sanguinetti, Brett Bellemore and Oskar Osala.

It’s hard to predict the fate of AHL players this early because they are usually addressed last. However, Rutherford did say that goalie Justin Pogge will be moving on so the Hurricanes will be searching for an experienced back-up goalie during free agency. He also mentioned that he is looking for a fourth line center or third line wingers. Prospects Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson and Zach Boychuck will all be in the mix to compete for starter roles next season.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Hurricanes’ moves shape out. First, lets make sure the Hurricanes re-sign their role players before focusing on free agency. Then they can have fun and see who is available.

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