Tracking the Storm

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.

Paul Branecky
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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 - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72