The Carolina Hurricanes players, coaches and management held the dreaded exit interviews to end the 2011-12 season today in Raleigh. The biggest question of the day was not surprisingly in regards to the possible signing of a big NHL Unrestricted Free Agent this summer. Where is the money coming from? Who will go in order to make this happen? Should we take this UFA talk seriously?
I know we were all hoping the Hurricanes would be preparing for the first round of playoffs right about now, but instead we’re wrapping up the season and doing our best to look ahead to next. If your emotions can’t quite handle listening to the interviews in their entirety, here is a wrap up of the day.
The Hurricanes are still looking for a top line forward to play with Eric Staal. What else to do but sit back and watch? Jim Rutherford says there is money, and they are looking for player in the prime of his career, in his twenties. Caniac Nation awaits July 1st with baited breath.
We’re all aware of the Jeremy Welsh signing by now, the Union College player who got a huge entrance into the NHL in his first game with the Canes on Saturday, centering Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu. Welsh will head back to finish up school for now before he gears up to return for training camp. Jim Rutherford indicated it is management’s intention to sign D-Man Brian Dumoulin and have him in the Charlotte Checkers lineup by Wednesday night. Dumoulin’s team, the Boston College Eagles, won the NCAA National Championship just two days ago.
Rutherford also made it very clear that some of the current Canes players will not be on the roster next year, though was careful not to name names. Bryan Allen will be the big question mark come the end of June. Allen was offered a contract before the trade deadline, but it was rejected. Jaro Spacek is the only other UFA on the team. Jamie McBain is a Restricted Free Agent, but according to Rutherford, he would like to take care of a new contract for McBain in the next few days.
The Backup Goalie
Part of the strategy next year is to attempt to rest Cam Ward more, and rely on a backup to win more games. JR didn’t seem happy or confident in current backup goalie Brian Boucher, but seemed to like what he saw this season from Justin Peters. Could we see Boucher traded and Peters reinstated for a full season of backing up Cam Ward?
IIHF World Championship – Who’s in and who’s not?
Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward will play for Team Canada under a familiar face. Kirk Muller will serve as one of the coaches for the team. Staal and Brandon Sutter both turned down offers, with Sutter indicating he had some “healing up” to do and left it at that. Justin Faulk and Patrick Dwyer will play for Team USA with McBain apparently still deciding based on his contract issues. Rutherford mentioned the coaching staff would like McBain to go for the experience. Tim Gleason, Brian Boucher, and Chad LaRose got offers for the team as well. Jussi Jokinen will play for Finland (and possibly Tuomo Ruutu). Joni Pitkanen was asked, but apparently declined due to his recent return from injury. Rutherford expected Jiri Tlusty to play for the Czech Republic.
Rutherford announced that Rod Brind’Amour would likely become a full time assistant coach next season. More will be officially announced after some meetings between Muller and Rutherford on Wednesday.
Justin Faulk has been the talk of the town as a rookie D-Man for the Canes this year. Besides the fact that he has released the “Flow” for the season (yes, in case you haven’t heard, he cut his hair, eeeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkkk!) He led all Hurricanes skaters in ice time per game this year (22:50). He also ranked first among NHL rookie defenseman in ice time, power play goals (5), tied for first in goals (8), and second in points (22) in his 66 games with the Canes. We’ll see if Faulk gets the recognition he deserves with a Calder Trophy nomination. Jeff Skinner, on the other hand, had a rougher sophomore year. After missing sixteen games with a concussion, Skinner returned a marked man and surely didn’t take it lying down, and began to retaliate against those who targeted him. This resulted in not only several penalties but a two game suspension for kicking St. Louis Blues forward Scott Nichol. Skinner had also received a warning just 24 hours before from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a slewfoot incident in a game against the Washington Capitals. Muller expects Skinner to come out the other side of these troubles a more mature player, noting that fans should see a whole new Jeff Skinner next year.
Several Checkers players got the opportunity to show off their skills in the NHL this year including Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuck, Jerome Samson and more. JR was overall unimpressed by the development of some of these players, singling out Dalpe and Boychuck. He did say Bowman is clearly ahead of those players in his development. Rutherford later said on 99.9 The Fan with Adam & Joe that he isn’t giving up on anyone, and thinks Dalpe and Bowman have bright futures, and he’ll see what training camp brings.
The other bright spot for Canes and Checkers fans – if the Checkers make the playoffs (they essentially must win their last four games), Raleigh could get first round Checkers playoffs at the PNC Arena due to a conflict with the building in Charlotte. We could get playoff hockey in Raleigh after all Caniacs. Let’s Go Checkers!!!
So don’t take the depressed faces and voices of our Hurricanes too far into the summer with you Caniacs. There is a strong undercurrent of positivity among the players and staff and as always we’ll be there to encourage this team!
But dang it is going to be a long summer…..and we’ve only survived about 48 hours without Canes hockey.
Topics: Brian Boucher, Brian Dumoulin, Bryan Allen, Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, Chad LaRose, Charlotte Checkers, Drayson Bowman, Eric Staal, Jamie McBain, Jaro Spacek, Jeff Skinner, Jeremy Welsh, Jerome Samson, Jim Rutherford, Jiri Tlusty, Jussi Jokinen, Justin Faulk, Justin Peters, Kirk Muller, Patrick Dwyer, Rod Brind'Amour, Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuck