While teams like Chicago are in a one year sprint for the Stanley Cup, Jim Rutherford is playing a long view chess game. If one looks at the UFAs whose salaries end this season, it shows how much salary flexibility Jim Rutherford will have for next season.
The end game seems to be that Rutherford at the end of this season will have more than ample salary to make the team younger, bigger, faster, and hungrier. The core team of the Hurricanes will be comprised of players who are thirsty for another Stanley Cup and are willing to make the superhuman team effort that is required. This season's big, ugly flop is setting the stage for the Hurricanes to obtain a budding superstar such as Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, or Kirill Kabanov. Of the UFAs, Cullen, Whitney, Corvo are high salaried players who are playing key roles with the team. One wonders how many will be re-signed as opposed to being traded.
My guess is that Cullen is re-signed and that Corvo is traded. I can't tell if it is my heart overruling my brain, but my guess is that Whitney will be re-signed for another year and then will go into coaching or management with the Hurricanes. I predict Aaron Ward and Wallin will not be renewed. I am also guessing that Walker, Yelle, Ryan, Conboy and Leighton will not be re-signed. Those $500,000 salaries begin to add up to being able to afford more skilled players.
If Corvo is traded for a skilled, young power forward, the team will be significantly improved. After all, despite the focus on the problems with Aaron Ward and the defense, the reality is that the Hurricanes are also afflicted with a pathetic power power -- 29th out of 30 in the NHL. The inability to score on the power play is at the root of much of this year's misery.
Next year, I believe Boychuk, Tlusty, Bowman, and either Taylor Hall, Tyler Sequin, or Kirill Kabanonv will be playing for the Hurricanes. I also think Corvo's trade will bring in a scoring power forward. I think Babchuk will be signed next year and will be utilized to bomb slap shots on the power play.
Here's the chart for the UFAs, taken from figures given by www.nhlnumbers.com:
1. Scott Walker $2,500,000 2 goals 2 assists 4 points
2. Ray Whitney $3,500,000 8 goals 12 assists 20 points
3. Matt Cullen $2,800,000 7 goals 9 assists 16 points
4. Stephan Yelle $ 550,000 2 goals 1 assist 3 points
5. Michael Ryan $ 500,000 0 goals 0 assists 0 points
6. Joe Corvo $2,750,000 4 goals 8 assists 12 points
7. Aaron Ward $2,500,000 0 goals 5 assists 5 points
8. Nic Wallin $1,725,000 0 goals 3 assists 3 points
9. Jay Harrison $ 500,000 1 goal 2 assists 3 points
10. Tim Conboy $500,000 0 points 0 assists 0 points
11. Mike Leighton $500,000
12. Manny Legace $500,000