Rutherford: Hurricanes in better position to compete
Posted January 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — With his team unofficially preparing for a season that is likely to begin in the next two weeks, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday that he believes the 'Canes are built to compete in a compressed regular season.
Citing the return of defenseman Joe Corvo and the addition of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, Rutherford told Mike and Mark on 620 The Buzz that the organization's depth is as good as it's ever been.
"Clearly, we have a stronger team and we've given ourselves a better chance to compete," he said. "This team is pretty young, and I think that is going to be an advantage this season and for the long run."
According to an email from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Monday, a 48-game regular season is the most likely option, with Jan. 19 being a likely start date once the league and players ratify a deal they agreed to early Sunday morning.
The NHL and the players' association are working on a memorandum of understanding, which could be completed soon, then voted on by owners and players. The basic parameters call for a strict salary cap, an extension of player benefits and a 50-50 split in revenue between the players and owners.
Rutherford said Carolina head coach Kirk Muller and assistants John MacLean and Rod Brind'Amour have a unique perspective on how to help the Hurricanes manage a compressed schedule because they too went through one in the 1994-95 season after a 103-day lockout.
"I don't think it changes anything for Kirk," Rutherford said. "He has his job to do, and he has a really good coaching staff. He and John both went through the shortened season and John played on the team (New Jersey) that won the Stanley Cup that year."
As for the product Rutherford hopes to put on the ice in 2013, he said there are still moves to be made early in the season with the goal of making Carolina "grittier."
"We'd like to make some adjustments to our team, add a little more grit," he said. "One more guy on the third or fourth line, maybe two guys."
He also squashed rumors that forward Alexander Semin, signed to a 1-year deal in July for $7 million, wouldn't return to the team after he went to Russia to play in the KHL during the lockout.
"He'll be back, there is no question," Rutherford said. "He is looking forward to it."
Veteran center Tuomo Ruutu will not be on the ice at the beginning of the season after having hip surgery, Rutherford said.
Another important decision Rutherford will have to make in the next week will be choosing goalie Cam Ward's backup. Brian Boucher, who is healthy after injuring his shoulder in June, will likely battle for the job with Justin Peters and Dan Ellis, players who have spent time with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers during the lockout.
"That position will be very competitive all year," Rutherford said. "Those guys go through different stages, so it'll be about who is hot and who is stopping the puck at that time."
Hurricanes players continued their informal preparation for the season Monday, meeting at Raleigh Center Ice for a workout that had a different feel. Training camp could start as soon as this weekend.