Ken Medlin

Canes changing perceptions

Posted July 5, 2013
Updated July 6, 2013

Jim Rutherford was at his cryptic best on day one of free agency.

When asked if the Canes (and the city of Raleigh) had lost any appeal for free agents, Rutherford smiled and suggested quite the opposite.

That's when he told the gathered media of a telephone conversation he had just finished with the agent of a top remaining free agent. Rutherford said the agent told him: "My client may take a one-year deal at a lower number just to come and play for you guys." He didn't name the player, of course, and  Rutherford cautioned everyone in the room that a deal was not likely to happen. But it speaks to the perception of this region as a good place to play.

The Canes are too close to the salary cap this year to spend big on a free agent - that's why the deal would have to be under market value, We can only speculate as to the player's identity (look at the top free agents still unsigned after the first wave of free agency - Jagr or Iginla, maybe? Someone else?) but regardless, here's a top player who wasn't enamored with his original offers that wouldn't mind spending a year in North Carolina

Things have come a long way since the days when Keith Primeau sat out an entire season rather than play for the Carolina Hurricanes.

In truth, that holdout had more to do with dollars than area codes, but things are a lot different now in terms of how the hockey world perceives the 'Canes and the city of Raleigh.

We may never know the identity of this mystery free agent, but his supposed interest in Carolina as a fall-back destination if longer-term deals fall through really says something.

This will never be Toronto or Montreal - or New York, Boston or Detroit - in terms of a "destination city" for NHL stars, but Raleigh and the Canes are becoming desirable, even for free agents.

It helps that the Canes are spending money now, as evidenced by the extensions for Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner and others. They're no longer priced out of players automatically. Rutherford said a year ago that Jordan Staal's desire to play in Carolina opened a lot of eyes around the NHL, even considering his family tie to the team. Adding Semin - and then extending his contract - opened even more eyes.

Winning a Stanley Cup, and making two other deep playoff runs in the last dozen years, certainly helped matters. The climate (this year's rain aside) proves attractive as well.

And then there's the smaller media presence. I've witnessed the post game interview scrums in Toronto first-hand. It's a mob scene. Step ladders are standard-issue gear there, so reporters can stack 3-4 deep around a player. I don't know if the microscopic scrutiny was a contributing factor to Mike Komisarek's lack of success with the Maple Leafs, but it certainly couldn't help matters. Regardless, he sounds pretty happy to move to the Hurricanes.

Komisarek and goaltender Anton Khudobin may wind up being the extent of the Hurricanes' free agent acquisitions this year. Or there may be a big fish still out there willing to nibble on smaller bait to spend a year playing in a friendly environment. Either way, the Canes are in a better position now than they once were in terms of league-wide perception.

Now let's see a few more wins this winter...

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  • Sauras69 Jul 9, 4:52 p.m.

    The Canes have made a bunch of trades since 09. I hope these new guys can do the deal.

  • Cragsdale Jul 9, 11:21 a.m.

    was just looking at ESPN NHL signings page.. did I read hat right.. Corvo signed with the canes on July 3rd? must be losing my mind I guess...

  • jbengel Jul 8, 11:45 a.m.

    There are a handful of free agents still available that could probably be had for the kind of money JR discussed ($3-3.5M). Mikhail Grabovski and Damien Brunner are names that keep circulating, along with Dustin Penner, who could probably be had for even less than that. The question I'd have about any of those is whether you could sign them to a 1-year deal. Of those 3, Penner seems the one most likely to bite on a deal like that. He needs a bit of career rehab, and Carolina has a long history of that going back to Gary Roberts. Two names that haven't been mentioned are Peter Mueller in Florida and Vinny Prospal in Columbus. Those two could use a jump start, and might fit the time/money criteria JR described as well.

    Forget the Jagrs and the Iginlas and guys in that bracket. They'll have no problem finding short-term lodging, and for significantly more money.

  • kheffn Jul 6, 9:16 p.m.

    I'm glad to read that some players in the NHL have realized we're not Mayberry anymore, and... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    Don't sweat Ellis leaving too much. Scott Burnside at ESPN commented

    "And then there was the... View More

    — Posted by kheffn

    Hey, thanks for the info - was watching Sports Night on TWC, and they said what you said. Good... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    2006 even longer :-)

  • Gunnstigator Jul 6, 7:09 p.m.

    I'm glad to read that some players in the NHL have realized we're not Mayberry anymore, and... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    Don't sweat Ellis leaving too much. Scott Burnside at ESPN commented

    "And then there was the... View More

    — Posted by kheffn

    Hey, thanks for the info - was watching Sports Night on TWC, and they said what you said. Good news. Yeah - we NEED to make the playoffs this year! 2009 seems like a LONG time ago.

  • kheffn Jul 6, 6:03 p.m.

    I'm glad to read that some players in the NHL have realized we're not Mayberry anymore, and... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    Don't sweat Ellis leaving too much. Scott Burnside at ESPN commented

    "And then there was the signing of backup netminder Anton Khudobin, formerly of the Boston Bruins. Lots of folks believe Khudobin, the former ECHL goaltender of the year, has NHL starter stuff. Pending Cam Ward’s durability, Khudobin might be among the steals of the free-agent market."

    I've also seen comments by several people in Boston saying they hated to see him go. I don't know much about Sekera. I guess we'll find out if he's a top fore D.

    I think we're all hoping for a playoff year this year.

  • caniacman Jul 6, 3:32 p.m.

    Samson had his chance here the problem is that Samson is just a career AHL player. Samson leaving doesnt say anthing, he got a 2 way deal just like he would have here.

  • curiousinralnc Jul 6, 3:07 p.m.

    Nah the Canadiens were a dynasty. 24 cups. Nobody is ever going to catch that. Not even the... View More

    fyi...the Yankees have won 27 World Series!!...

    and Rutherford was probably just saying that about the mystery man wanted to come here for a lower # just to keep interest in the area as now being they are in the new division things will only be for the difficult the team to get out the usual bottom of the standings

  • Gunnstigator Jul 6, 2:57 p.m.

    I'm glad to read that some players in the NHL have realized we're not Mayberry anymore, and would welcome playing for the Canes. I remember Brindy did NOT want to come to Raleigh and play for the Canes, and he planned on getting the first plane out of RDU when his contract was up. Look how that changed!

    I hope the Canes do land this "mystery man" - that would be terrific to get a good player who's willing to sign a one year deal.

    Ellis won't be Cam's back up this season as he signed with another team, I was disappointed to see that.

    I'm hoping for a better season, but it's going to be more difficult with the realignment putting better teams in the Canes' division.

  • wlcat609 Jul 6, 1:41 p.m.

    Another Cane changing his perception - just checked the UFA Freeagent info on www.tsn.ca....found that Jerome Samsone has 'jumped ship' and signed with Winnipeg today. Think this is a result of the Canes management continually bringing in free agents and trades for players and not bothering with the farmhands down in Charlotte. Looks to me like Samsone just got tired of waiting in the Cane's organization - and he was one of the BETTER ones in Charlotte!

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