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Clean Sweep: Free Agents All Hope to Return

Friday, 05.29.2009 / 12:18 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Clean Sweep: Free Agents All Hope to Return
Note: If you haven't seen them on the front page, we have videos of each player that met with the media following the exit interviews.  They can all be found on our CanesVision Online player.  Huge thanks to Eric Bridenstine for camping out with us over the last two days.

The Hurricanes split up their player exit interviews over two separate days, and it just so happened that every pending free agent not named Jussi Jokinen met with Jim Rutherford on Friday morning.

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That brought about a quick-fire single-file line of players with open-ended futures to came through to meet the media either before or after their meetings with Rutherford.  Fortunately, it wasn't that hard to sort them out, as each player declared either his intention or hope to stay in Carolina.

That group includes unrestricted free agents Ryan Bayda, Erik Cole (more on his situation here), Chad LaRose and Dennis Seidenberg, as well as restricted free agent Tuomo Ruutu.  Restricted free agent Anton Babchuk did not meet with the media.

The next question is whether or not the Hurricanes feel the same way, as there are a number of young players coming through the system and only so much money to be given to a group that will, for the most part, demand significant raises.

One would think that LaRose, 27, would be a lock to come back given the mutual appreciation between the player, who scored a career-high 19 goals this season after being given more ice time on scoring lines, and the organization, for which he has ties to back to this youth hockey days in the Compuware family in the Detroit.

"I want to continue what I have going here and hopefully continue my relationships with everybody here in the front office," said LaRose.

"I've come a long way," he added.  "I started playing more in January in a top-three line role, and Coach Maurice put me in a lot of situations that really helped me grow as a a player.  I thank everyone here for the opportunity that they've given me, and it's really helped me grow in my career."

Another player needing a new contract is Ruutu, although as a restricted free agent there is less urgency.  The Canes and Ruutu, now 26, were in the same situation last summer, but could only agree on a one-year deal after some difficult negotiations.  That ended up working out for the player, who scored a career-high 26 goals and was probably the team's most consisent forward throughout the most injury-free year in his young career.

"I really like it here, and I really hope I can be back," he said.

Incentives for Ruutu to return include the Finnish connection mentioned yesterday with Jokinen ("We're proud to be here and represent Finland," said Ruutu), and the extremely positive relationship he has with the team's fans, even if the latter can be difficult to comprehend at first.

"Every time you get a chance to hit you have to hit because you know they love it and they're going to cheer for it" he said.  "When (my parents) came over they were a little surprised at what was going on because they were booing at you, but I told them it's not booing."

As depth players, Bayda and Seidenberg's status is a little more up in the air.  Tim Conboy has a one-way deal with the Hurricanes next year, which isn't great news for Bayda if Conboy spends most of his time at forward, which he has for the majority of his time in the NHL, instead of his more natural spot on defense.  Also, a young player like Zach Boychuk or Drayson Bowman could demand a spot with strong showings in training camp.

Seidenberg is in a similar postion, as Brett Carson and Bryan Rodney both held their own in brief NHL stints last season and could very well fight it out for an open spot on defense.  The Hurricanes could do a lot worse on their third pairing.

Then there's Babchuk, whose career-high 16 goals ranked tied for fifth in the NHL among defensemen.  However, he did not score in the playoffs and was a healthy scratch at times due to his inconsistent defensive play.  As a restricted free agent, the team retains his rights and could offer him in a trade if they decide not to keep him.

To make a long story short, declarations of hope or intent are only the first part of the process.  There's still plenty of work to be done over the coming weeks.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81