Rutherford: "Restricted Free Agents Will Be Qualified"

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - MAY 07: Justin Krueger (L) of Germany and Chris Kreider (R) of USA compete for the puck during the IIHF World Championship group D match between USA and Germany at Veltins Arena on May 7, 2010 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Krueger may rebuff the Canes and play in Europe next season. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes still have several restricted free agents needing contracts and time is becoming an issue.  If the Canes do not come to terms with those players by July 1, the club needs to submit "qualifying offers" to the league office beforehand in order to keep them in restricted status.  Otherwise, they become unrestricted free agents and would be at liberty to freely negotiate with any team. 

Some of you will recall last year when (at that time) Chicago GM Dale Tallon failed to get the proper paperwork to the league office on time causing five of his RFA's to legally hit the market.  He signed those players anyway, but the Hawks ended up paying much more money than they needed to and worse yet, risked losing them.   Kris Versteeg was one of those players.

The gaffe probably cost Tallon his job in Chicago, but he recently landed on his feet and is now GM in Florida.

On Saturday, I asked Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford if the team was planning to qualify all of it's RFA's and then we discussed a couple of them specifically.

Defensemen Alexandre Picard and Brett Carson will most definitely be qualified as will goalies Justin Peters and Justin Pogge

I asked if Casey Borer would be included in that group and Rutherford responded, "Yes, Borer will also be qualified.  At this time we plan to qualify all of our RFA's."

When asked about the difficulty signing these players, Rutherford responded that they all wanted one-way deals. 

"We want to sign these players to two-way contracts and they want a one-way.  It's just negotiations that are ongoing and will remain in process until something is completed." 

With the team in full budget mode, the two-way deal versus a one-way becomes very important, but it's also important to the player.  When looking at Jerome Samson's recent deal, he makes five times the amount in the NHL that he makes in the AHL.  Plus from the player's perspective, they want to put as much pressure on the team as possible to keep them in the NHL.   

But from the club's perspective, they want to make sure they do not overpay anyone.  Tim Conboy had a one-way deal last year, but played most of the time in the AHL.  The Canes want to make sure they don't make that mistake again.

The two-way deal is actually a pretty fair way to go because the player earns exactly the amount they deserve, depending upon the league they play in.

We will be watching this closely as July 1 approaches. 

I also asked about Justin Krueger, the defenseman out of Cornell who played so well for Team Germany during the WC's this spring.  Tony MacDonald told me earlier that the Canes were high on him and wanted to sign him.

"It looks like Krueger wants to play a year or two in Europe and develop there," Rutherford told me.  "We're still trying to get something done, but Europe is a real possibility for him". 

Krueger might make more money in Europe right now than he would get from Carolina and if he considers himself to be an AHL level player, it might make more sense for him to play there.  But if he wants to someday make it to the NHL, maybe he should consider the more typical career path?

The Canes lose their rights to him in August.

Finally, another writer spoke to the GM about the goalie situation around the league.  He asked Rutherford if he had ever seen so many quality goaltenders on the market.

"No actually, I have not." said the GM.  "There are several very good goaltenders on the market and many of them will probably still be there come September.   We think we have a very good young goaltender in Justin Peters, but if we see someone we like in September that fits our budget, we might just go and get him."

Manny Legace fans, take heart.

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