High Stakes Poker Between Canes and Free Agents

Professional poker player Phil Hellmuth should take note of what's going on in Carolina this week.

It's just two days before free agent signing day and the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in a bit of a pickle.   The team still has several openings to fill on their roster and most importantly, the club has yet to re-sign two of their top five scorers from last season. 

Erik Cole and Jussi Jokinen accounted for 104 points between the two of them last year but they reportedly both want to test the free agency market on Friday.  That's bad news for Carolina because there is not exactly a robust market of forwards out there and those two free agents are considered by many to be among the best available. 

Postulating, posturing, and out-right bluffing is in full effect. 

Jim Rutherford says he is ready to move on, but who will he replace Cole and Jokinen with?  Alexei Ponikarovsky?  Radim Vrbata?  There are not a ton of viable choices out there.  After the jump, we'll take a look at the some of the available free agents the Canes, as well as other teams, have to choose from.

(sorted by previous salary cap number)


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Brad Richards   $7.8M 72 28 49 77 1 24 7 0 3 272


If the Hurricanes truly wanted to turn themselves into annual contenders, they would bank the money they were offering to Cole, Jokinen, and LaRose and make a strong play for this superstar center who has previously mentioned Carolina as a preferred destination.   But, this is a small market with small market thinking and Richards will probably draw close to his $7.8 million again. 

(Just a crazy thought, Staal was moved to wing in the Olympics and was one of Team Canada's leading scorers.)

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Simon Gagne  $5.2M 63 17 23 40 -12 20 7 0 3 154


Gagne has been injured off and on the past couple of years, but when he's healthy he's still dangerous on the powerplay, which the Canes found out first hand this past season.  Is he worth $5.2 million per year?  No, but that won't stop someone from overpaying him an amount somewhere between three and four million.  It should not be Carolina.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Alex Kovalev   $5.0M 74 16 18 34 -6 44 6 0 3 151


At age 38, this player is getting a bit long of tooth, but he might get one more NHL contract before retirement.  Doubtful he would fit in here or even want to come here.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Teemu Selanne   $4.5M 73 31 49 80 6 49 16 0 5 213


Selanne is age 40 but proved last season that he still has some game.  But it's probably Anaheim or else back to Finland for this scoring machine, although it might be nice to see him in Carolina for a year. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Tim Connolly  $4.5M 68 13 29 42 -10 20 6 0 3 151


He's worn out his welcome in Buffalo.  If the Canes can't find anyone else, here is the type of player you are looking at coming in, although it won't be for $4.5 million. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Jason Arnott  $4.5M 73 17 14 31 -6 40 4 0 1 169


The 36-year-old still has game, but his better days are behind him.  Not a valid substitute for either Cole or Jokinen.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Michal Handzus  $4.0M
82 12 18 30 -5 20 4 0 3 94


After a couple of disappointing seasons in Los Angeles, another player who will be taking a pay cut in order to stay in the league. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Michael Ryder  $4.0M 79 18 23 41 -1 26 8 0 6 165


Ryder has had an up and down career while in Boston.  Again, if given the choice, I would choose Cole or Jokinen.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Steve Sullivan   $3.75M 44 10 12 22 4 28 3 0 1 79


Another older player, (36) on the downward slope, but might be a decent pickup at a cheap price. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Cory Stillman  $3.533M 65 12 27 39 5 24 3 0 2 116


Stillman, (37) has managed to stay out of the drama so far as he is (reportedly) deciding whether or not to retire.  Would be a decent last minute option, but again he won't be able to replace production of Cole or Jokinen.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Marco Sturm  $3.5M 35 5 11 16 6 23 1 0 1 57


Sturm was picked up off of waivers last year by the Caps and contributed a bit.  The oft injured forward should not be on Carolina's list.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Alexei Ponikarovsky  $3.2M 61 5 10 15 1 36 1 0 1 94


 A couple of good years while with the Leafs but a major disappointment in "La La Land".  He would be a major reclamation project at a cheaper price if the Canes got him, not a player to count on. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Radim Vrbata  $3.0M 79 19 29 48 5 20 10 0 2 240


Vrbata has had a couple of up and down seasons since leaving the Canes a few years ago.  He might bring some of what Jokinen does. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Erik Cole  $2.9M 82 26 26 52 -1 49 3 1 9 201


How much could Cole get on the open market?  It sounds like he wants to find out. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Jamie Langenbrunner  $2.8M 70 9 23 32 -18 45 1 0 3 153


Again, this player has seen better days.  Former Devils captain was moved out of town for some reason and ended up in Dallas.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Chris Clark  $2.6M 53 5 10 15 -3 38 2 0 0 83


Good team guy but not in Jokinen or Cole's league.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Tomas Fleischmann  $2.6M 45 12 19 31 2 18 3 0 2 98


If Cole and Jokinen both fall through, maybe this player is on the phone list?

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Sergei Samsonov  $2.533M 78 13 27 40 -2 14 4 0 1 123


Yes, he is available.  No, he won't be coming back. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Vinny Prospal  $2.48M 29 9 14 23 4 8 2 0 0 61


The "Other Vinny" has had injury problems. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Todd White  $2.375M 18 1 1 2 -2 2 0 0 0 11


Speaking of injury problems, another player to stay clear of.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Antti Miettinen  $2.333M 73 16 19 35 -3 38 8 0 4 168


A possibility at the right price. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Chuck Kobasew  $2.333M 63 9 7 16 -6 19 0 0 1 74


The Canes have reportedly always liked this player, but he won't replace Cole and Jokinen's scoring. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Andrew Brunette  $2.333M 82 18 28 46 -7 16 8 0 3 117


This player would be a decent pickup at the right price. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Scottie Upshall  $2.250M 82 22 12 34 -7 52 2 0 2 191


Another player who could come close to filling the gap. Would be on my list if Cole and/or Jokinen are gone. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Nikolay Zherdev  $2.0M 56 16 6 22 5 22 1 0 1 135


Once highly regarded top 10 draft pick is now an enigma.  Too risky for Carolina. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Ethan Moreau 37 1 5 6 -9 24 0 0 1 56


Probably will retire this year.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Mike Modano  $1.75M 40 4 11 15 -4 8 1 0 0 79


Stayed a year too long.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Radek Dvorak  $1.7M 66 7 15 22 2 24 0 1 3 109


A slim possibility if all other options fail.

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Chad LaRose  $1.7M 82 16 15 31 -21 59 2 1 0 176


Will be hard-pressed to match that contract. 

 


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2010 - Jussi Jokinen  $1.7M 70 19 33 52 3 24 8 0 1 136


Previous 30 goal scorer made the same money as LaRose the past two years and deserves much more now.   Could get a huge payday.

 

In review

There are not very many players listed above who make you want to jump and shout.  Scottie Upshall would be on my short list of forwards to contact, but there are more players closer to retirement in that group than not. 

There are also a few interesting RFA's who were not qualified, but none are experienced enough to be counted on to consistently replace Jokinen and Cole's scoring.

Remember my article from a couple of weeks ago asking readers to make a choice between Cole and Jokinen?  It might just come down to that for Rutherford.  If neither of these players are re-signed by Friday morning, look for the Canes to step up and make a major play to keep at least one of them.  They simply can not afford to let both players go, for a number of reasons. 

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