As July 1 gets closer and closer, Canes fans interest in the start of free agency has never been higher. Even with a acquisition of Jordan Staal this past Friday, there is a hope that the Canes are not done in their quest to find a scoring winger. Most years the only time the Canes were brought up in free agent talk was when a player left. Watching Aaron Ward, Matt Cullan, Ray Whitney and Eric Cole leave for big money/long term contracts served as a kick in the gut for Caniacs. This year promises to be different. Whether Eric Staal moves to the wing to play alongside his brother, or a free agent is brought in, a second area that I think needs to be addressed is toughness. One of reasons Jim Rutheford sited in paying such a high price for the younger Staal, was the need for the Canes to go into tough buildings in Philadephia, New Jersey, and New York and compete. Too many times last year, especially early in the year, the Canes were pushed around. The Canes got “harder” to play against by adding Staal, but there is another player who would help change the type of team the Canes are perceived to be.
The player that I hope the Canes would target is Brandon Prust. The 28 year old has been called a lot of things, but soft is not one of them. He would provide the Canes with a solid 16 minute winger to put on the 3rd/4th line. Prust led the Rangers with 156 PIM and 144 hits. His goal production in 2011/12 fell to 5G and 12A but he scored 13 goals in 2010/11 to go along with 160 PIM and 161 hits. He would help the Canes on the penalty kill as well, where he scored 7 short handed goals for the Rangers the last two years. Adding Prust with Staal would help improve the Canes 23rd ranked penalty killing.
Is Prust enough to help the Canes make up 12 points in the standings? Not by himself. Will teams still take runs at Jeff Skinner? No doubt. But with a guy like Prust, there would be a price that teams would have to pay for such non-sense.