Well, it’s finally here: Free Agent Day in the NHL. This is like Christmas in July for Canes fans. This year it looks like there will be something under the tree for Caniacs. Fans got an early present on draft night when Jim Rutheford pulled off a trade for Jordan Staal. For most, it was bitter sweet because Brandon Sutter left Raleigh for Pittsburgh. The only pain today will be knowing that ticket prices will be going up for all of us in the next year or two. So what did we ask for and what are be going to get? Here is what I hope is under the tree and what I expect to get.
Help on the Blueline- I would love to get Bryan Allen back. I know he’s not Ryan Suter, but I never expected to get a player of that caliber anyway. The Canes need to balance the blueline out. Having Allen back will give the team three players ( Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison being the other two) who can play the tough minutes/game that you need for an 82 game schedule. Allen, who plays just over 19 minutes a game, was only -1 on a team that gave up 237 goals, 6th worst in the league. By all accounts the 6′ 5″ 227 pound d-man is a good teammate who has teammates backs on the ice.. Sadly, I have a feeling that Allen will get an offer for more money and for a longer term than the Canes want to give. This could be the last time the 31 year old can “cash in” on a free agent deal. So what will the Canes get? I figure the team will sign another veteran blueliner further down the FA list. I look for a Sheldon Brookbank/Carlo Colaiacovo type veteran. Of course Jim Rutheford has surprised us before. Perhaps we sign Ryan Suter. I’m not getting my hopes up.
3rd/4th Line toughness-Last Sunday I talked about Brandon Prust and the Canes need for more toughness. Although I would love to see Prust in a Canes uniform, I have little hope that the Canes GM has money in the budget for such a player. It’s been reported that the Ranger tough guy is looking for a hefty raise from his $800.000 salary along with multiple years. I figure that this is an area that will be addressed later in the year with a journeyman player. Whoever fills this roll, let’s hope that they can play more than 3 -4 minutes like Troy Bodie.
Scoring winger-This is the position that Canes fans have talked most about since the end of the season. Who can the team add that will play top 6 minutes, add scoring, help on the power play and have some shootout skill. The one name that I keep coming too is a familiar one. I look for the Canes to re-sign “The Wizard” Ray Whitney. As much as I tried to look at other alternatives, I couldn’t get away from the fact that you know what you are getting from Whitney. In the last six season, Ray has averaged 24 goals and 68 points. Last season he scored 8 PP goals, second only to another former Cane, Radim Vrbata. Whitney would not come cheap.Reports say he is looking for a multi-year contract for more than the $3 million he made that last 2 years in Phoenix. A two year contract for Whitney seems less of a gamble than a multi year deal might be for a P A Parenteau, who may or may not be a flash in the pan, or a Dustin Penner, who seems to have a lot of Anthony Stewert in him.
3rd Line Center-This is another gift that I don’t think will be under the Caniac tree. The center to replace Brandon Sutter on the 3rd line, might have been appearing at the Raleigh Ice House for the past 4 days. With Paul Gaustad signing a 4 year contract with the Predators ( he would have looked great on the 3rd line), I think the Canes are prepared to give 23 year old Jeremy Welsh a crack at filling that role. Fans at the Ice House saw a player that looks physically ready for the NHL. He stands 6″ 3″, weighs 210, and comes with a team friendly salary. I look for this story to play out in training camp. If Welsh is not NHL ready, the team has options under contract (Ruutu-Skinner-Jokinen), who can play center.
Canes fans have waited since April for today. Do we get anything new besides Jordan Staal? What do you want? What do you think will happen? Should be a interesting day. Is is noon yet?