Mike Maniscalco

Payroll, positioning force Canes' hand at deadline

Posted April 3, 2013

— The NHL trade deadline has as much to do today with where teams are at relative to the salary cap as it does with where a team is in the standings.

The Carolina Hurricanes, just four points out of first place in the Southeast division, have been in a tailspin the last 10 games. Whereas the deadline used to be just the thing to pull a team out of a slide, modern day deals are seen through a different lens, and what the Canes front office is seeing has them in a tough place.

"Based on the position we have put ourselves in the last two or three weeks, I wasn’t going to trade younger players or high draft picks for somebody that may or may not make a difference here in the last month," said president and general manager Jim Rutherford. 

Rutherford: It's hard to be confident Rutherford: It's hard to be confident

In years past, a deal would shake up the dynamic of a team. Wednesday, the team dealt Jussi Jokinen to Pittsburgh for a conditional pick, not to improve the on-ice product, but the bottom line. 

“It’s all about preparing our payroll," Rutherford said. "We spent more money this year, we just signed some new contracts and we were in a position that we had to move some money out.”

Penguins GM Ray Shero told TSN that Jussi Jokinen was worth adding to the Pens based on the cost to acquire him. That sentiment is what every front office boss was looking for today, bringing in talent based on cost. The Hurricanes will pick up some of Jokinen’s contract which makes it worthwhile for Pittsburgh and still sheds some of the financial burden on Carolina.

"The main point of Jussi’s deal wasn’t about him or him as a player," Rutherford said. "It was about what we are doing now and going forward payroll wise. We put him on waivers last week and at that point we were willing to not get anything back for him."

Fans are going to be upset that the organization did not make a deal to bring more talent into the Triangle. In reality, what did the Canes have to trade and how much salary can they take on?

There were 17 trades in the NHL on deadline day and a few big names with big contracts did move for what looks like nothing to the Hurricane fan base. 

To be in the race for a player like Marion Gaborik it would start with young defenseman Ryan Murphy, an NHL player and picks. You might think that making that deal is a no-brainer, but adding an aging player with a huge contract isn’t something that a team in Carolina’s position can easily do.

"How aggressive do you get on making a deal and how far do you want to go?" Rutherford propositioned. "Do you really want to trade one of your first or second round picks or trade(Zac) Dalpe? I think that would have been very risky for us. This is about as tough a position to be in. A team on a big losing streak. We know we are a better team than that we are playing and not having a deal that could give us a boost.”

Operating under a budget for a squad that has missed the playoffs the last three seasons make it harder to green light picking up a huge salary and giving up young players without the guarantee of post-season play.

So did that make the Hurricanes sellers on Wednesday?

First off, what did they have to sell? Second, the assets that could bring in a cache of talent aren't going anywhere.

The team is not going to move Eric or Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner or the newly signed Alexander Semin. Those are the players that will have to carry the team in the future. Plus a team will rarely fetch a return that equals giving up a franchise player.

“As much as I wanted to make a deal, there wasn’t any deal that made any sense," Rutherford said. "Overall, I don’t think there were as many players available that could really impact or make a difference in what we are doing.”

It is possible Joni Pitkanen could have been on the block, but Rutherford said the team had no interest in dealing him, so his injury had nothing to do with him staying put.

Add into the fact that a player’s salary has as much to do with a player being coveted as his goals. What a calculator spews out as the bottom line is more important than the stat sheet pointing out players’ production. So If the team wanted to sell, the trade partner had to be willing to take on a big contract and gone are the days that star player is swapped for star player.

Much like every deal in the NBA, the money has to match-up more than the talent. We probably aren't too far off from the 12-player, three-team and Keith Van Horne's expiring contract deals that will headline the NHL.

There were a lot of teams Wednesday that would have liked to improve its line-up, that for financial terms, simply couldn’t. Some teams were not willing to make deals because the asking price of players, prospects and picks was just too high. Carolina found both of those situations to be the case. 

The next logical question is can the current roster turn this around and end the playoff drought?

"Certainly we are not sitting here saying its over but the most frustrating part is that in the first part of the season we showed what kind of team we had and we are a very capable team and we played very well," Rutherford said.

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  • evenflow2005 Apr 4, 5:55 p.m.

    I would rather watch paint dry than go to another one of these games! It is even more BORING... View More

    — Posted by ellengraham5660

    Evidently you know nothing about hockey rules to come on here and make this comment. Thanks for your opinion and will see ya later.

  • Gunnstigator Apr 4, 3:02 p.m.

    To 'topdrum2000 and dbass - your comments are right on target.....+10

    And I'd suggest those that... View More

    — Posted by wlcat609

    Only thing in your post I want to comment on sir is simply that, the Canes aren't going... View More

    — Posted by Cragsdale

    I hope you're right - I'd hate to see the Canes leave. They may always be a small market team,... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I agree also that the team shouldn't go anywhere. I love hockey too much and want to be as... View More

    — Posted by jdpridg

    jdpridg - I was agreeing with the part about keeping the Canes here in Raleigh, not the "fair weather fans" part. I do think fans of all sports have a right to voice their frustration as well as happiness, depending on how the team is doing. I've never agreed with fans who call you out or call you a "fair weather fan" just because you say something negative. I've always been a realist here, and some folks seem to think unless you're "rah-rah" about your team, you're not a good fan. I don't feel that way, and never have. While I'm not happy with the way the Canes have performed the past three years, I still support them, and like you, want them to stay in Raleigh.

  • evenflow2005 Apr 4, 2:24 p.m.

    To 'topdrum2000 and dbass - your comments are right on target.....+10

    And I'd suggest those that... View More

    — Posted by wlcat609

    Only thing in your post I want to comment on sir is simply that, the Canes aren't going... View More

    — Posted by Cragsdale

    I also hope your right. But, look what happened to Atlanta. And Winnipeg has sold out every game since the move. Money and investments can move very fast from hand to hand. Lets just hope their isn't any Canadian cities that are itching really bad for a team any time soon. It's not that far out of reach to happen.

  • livefreeNC Apr 4, 1:45 p.m.

    What a sad state of affairs for a team with so much promise. Why can we make such positive moves as signing a Semin or Jordan Staal and turn around and search the bargain bin for bottom six and defensive players? Why do we quibble over dollars when we need somebody yet when times are better we pay undrafted barely NHL quality 4th liners 1.6 or 1.8 mil per year? I know it is all about the money and cap but how do we expect our key parts to perform when the accompanying players are not up to the job. I question too, how much coaching influence does JR exert over Muller. JR was a goalie and certainly should appreciate a solid defense but always seems to skimp here. Letting Seidenberg go still haunts us on the blue line. Why do we rush to ship reasonable performing young guys back to Charlotte just because the underperforming journeyman veteran is healthy again(save salary), why else would we play a guy like LaRose in the top six, much less give him powerplay time when he would have to work hard to crack the top 6 on any AHL team? Why do we struggle on the powerplay yet continue to use the same personnel in spots they can’t succeed. Joe Corvo is not most teams go to on the PP point. I guess when Cam when out we should have known that this season was toast, now JR seems to be officially throwing in the towel.

  • ellengraham5660 Apr 4, 1:02 p.m.

    I would rather watch paint dry than go to another one of these games! It is even more BORING than golf...................

  • atc2 Apr 4, 11:18 a.m.

    I also understand the payroll topic, but this is due to Rutherford or Rutherford and team who put these player numbers together. Perfect example: Cam Ward is not a $6M player of top 10 goalie. His pay should be approx $4M. Eric Staal is NOT a play maker and does not hustle for three periods (he should be paid no more than $6M). That alone is a $4M savings which brings in a solid two way defenseman. LaRose get's paid to much, Skinner is only a $4M dollar player, another approx $3M savings. What the H_LL is this GM thinking. Your overpaying to try to build a team and they do not play 60 minutes every night. Any other team would have gotten rid of their GM 2 years ago. I will buy season tickets as I have since DAY ONE in that awful city of Greensboro. But playoff tickets, no. This team is great on paper, but Rutherford and Francis do NOT know how to but a talented team on ice. These past 6 out of 7 years are on Rutherford now (I like him, but time to go)

  • SubwayScoundrel Apr 4, 11:02 a.m.

    As a long time STH, I understand the payroll issues and I understand why JR did not make a big move yesterday. There were few trades, they just payed big to J Staal and Semin, they have young guys coming up who will need to be paid. Jussi got traded since he makes a chunk, he is having a off year and they signed Semin. Pens got him for a song. For the Joni talk, people can say what they want about Joni on how he will not shoot or hit, but to this long time STH who sat through 2003 and other years when the canes could not get the puck up the ice, Joni can get the puck up the ice. It seems like everyone ignores that when they repeat the "anti-Joni" comments they heard from someone else. Like a bad rumor.

  • common tater Apr 4, 9:27 a.m.

    All this salary stuff is way over my head...the canes are paying part of his salary to play for another team?? All I can say is there are lots of other teams who can stay within budget and put winning teams on the ice. Maybe it's time for new management.

  • larryengel Apr 4, 9:20 a.m.

    So why is JR coaching who should do what on the ice? Is Muller just coaching as per JR's requests? That is not good but explains why Joni was on the ice so long this season and pre Muller, etc. Let the players play to their strengths, ie Jordan in front of the net as a screen and to get dirty goals. Is JR telling Skinner to not pass to anyone as well? Team has to get back to team play, like line #1. If we start winning again, "maybe" the front office will look at why... BTW, sure would have been nice to have picked up Clowe instead of NY for maybe #25. Oh well, team HAS shown they can win as a team...let them play as one JR & Muller?

  • itneverchanges Apr 4, 9:19 a.m.

    So Rutherford has thrown in the towel for this year!!!!!! WOW!?! How is a team supposed to get motivated when the management doesn't have faith in the team??? Easy they punch the clock, get the pay checks, and wait till next year!!!!! Jimmy boy better start giving away tickets to get fans in the seats for the product he is putting on the ice!! If he doesn't know how to manage a small market team then STEP ASIDE!!! You want us to spend our hard earned money on this when you don't even try to get a winner???? See you in a couple of years ...MAYBE!!! If you demonstrate that you care about winning and not only revenue!!!

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