The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed three players before Friday’s free agency officially opens, but there are still doubts about two forwards.
Just a few weeks ago, the Hurricanes told the media that defenseman Joni Pitkanen and left wing Jussi Jokinen would most likely test the free agent market to see which teams are interested in them.
Apparently the Hurricanes changed their off-season priorities.
Tuesday night, Carolina locked up Pitkanen with a three year contract worth $4.5 million per year. Pitkanen led the team and was ranked 13th in the NHL averaging 25 minutes of ice time each game and he knows how to move the puck in the offensive zone.
He led all Hurricane defensemen with 30 assists and 35 points. I believe a strong factor in Pitkanen’s re-signing is that the Hurricanes realized they do not have any standout blueliners besides #25. The organization is loaded with offensive talent in the minor leagues.
The brightest news for Caniacs is that Pitkanen didn’t receive a pay raise so it gives the Canes a little extra cap space to reach out to their unrestricted free agents.
And that they did. Besides Pitkanen, the Hurricanes re-signed forwards Chad LaRose and Patrick Dwyer to two year contracts. LaRose’s contract is worth $1.5 million a year and Dwyer is expected to make $600 thousand a year.
The Hurricanes have retained their third line, but the more important issue is what’s going to happen to Jussi Jokinen and Erik Cole?
Cole and Jokinen were both top five on team offensively and they each recorded 52 points. Cole led the team with nine game winning goals and Jokinen was second on the team with eight power play points.
“For Erik and Jussi, this is about money to them,” said Rutherford.
Unlike previous years, Rutherford thinks that the players who test free agency will most likely sign with other teams.
Cole’s agent said the 32-year-old skater has never tested the market in his career so he wants to see what other teams have to offer. His agent followed up to say this move is not intended to disrespect everything the Hurricanes have done for his client. Cole just wants to keep his options open because he can always negotiate with Carolina.
For all of us Caniacs, let’s stay optimistic that the Hurricanes can agree to terms with Jokinen and Cole before Friday. If they do test the market, there is still a chance they will return to Carolina, but it’s likely a contending team will be able to offer a larger contract for more years.
The Hurricanes need both forwards to re-sign with the organization if they want to make a playoff run, otherwise, there will be AHL Checkers like Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe playing third and fourth line minutes.
If the stars both end up leaving Carolina, Rutherford said Eric Staal would likely center the top line with Tuomo Ruutu and Rookie-of-the-year Jeff Skinner. Brandon Sutter would be asked to center the team’s second line like he did during his rookie campaign two seasons ago.
Cross your fingers Caniacs because this team would be a wreck without its two stars.