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Burnin' For You - Which Free Agent Does Carolina Covet?

Obviously, the Carolina Hurricanes are in desperate need of defense. Earlier this week we looked over the team's roster, reviewed possible trade scenarios, and examined where the Canes stood concerning their budget limitations.

We also mentioned in that article that we thought the new salary cap would be about $56 million. Yesterday, the NHL made it official and announced that the salary cap for this season would be $56.7 million. The low end of the cap is $40.7, meaning that teams must spend a minimum of that amount. Of course that low number is meaningless to the Canes since they are over $44 million already.

Today, let's take a look at a listing of defensive free agents and attempt to guess who Jim Rutherford might be targeting on July 1st.

This listing is in no particular order-

Brian Campbell
Wade Redden
Mark Streit
Michal Rozsival
Brooks Orpik
John-Michael Liles
Rob Blake
Ron Hainsey
Steve Montador

Mark Eaton
Adam Foote
Bryan Berard
Brad Stuart
Paul Mara
Bret Hedican
Dmitri Kalinin

Jason Smith
Andreas Lilja
Sean Hill
Marek Malik
Karel Rachunek
Aaron Miller
Dick Tarnstrom
Wade Belak
Jim Vandermeer
Mike Commodore
Petteri Nummelin
Patrice Brisbois
Andrei Zyuzin
Nolan Pratt
Keith Carney
Jaroslav Modry
Luke Richardson
David Hale
Jeff Finger
Jason Cullimore

The names in bold are those who I think are most likely to be targeted by Carolina. But first let me review some of the blueliners who, in my humble opinion, will not be signed to play in Raleigh.

There will be a huge bidding war for Brian Campbell. There is just no way that he will be able to fit in the Hurricanes budget.

Last year, Wade Redden's game took a nosedive and Ottawa is no longer interested in him. The Canes probably won't be interested either, at least not for the dollars that he will want.

I get asked quite often for my opinion concerning Brooks Orpik. Okay, here goes. Personally, I wouldn't touch Orpik with a ten foot pole, and it has nothing to do with that cheap hit on Erik Cole. There is no denying that the defenseman had a great playoffs this past season and did an outstanding job in the Finals against the Wings, but what else has he done?

He's scored one goal in the past 2 years. He was healthy scratched by his coach at one point this year because of uninspired play. But the blueliner will command a long term contract in excess of 3, maybe 4 million a year based upon 3 months of performance. In my opinion, he shouldn't get it.

In some ways he reminds me of Mike Commodore. "Commie" had an outstanding playoffs in 2006. He was hitting everything that moved and was a real force in front of the net. At one point he looked like he would command too much money when he hit free agency and the Hurricanes wouldn't be able to afford him. How times have changed.

I just have a feeling that Orpik will sign a big, fat contract and you will never hear from him again. Time will tell on that.

I doubt that the Canes would be interested in Rob Blake or Adam Foote anymore than they would be interested in the Canes. Marik Malik, Bret Hedican, and Sean Hill should all be absolute last resorts.

Who will the Canes target?

John-Michael Liles is probably at the top of the list. He earned 1.4 million last year while scoring 6 goals and 26 assists, totals which were lower than previous years for him. The Avs are reportedly still trying to sign him, so he might not be available come "D Day".

If he can be signed in the 3 million a year range, the Canes just might bite. That's a big "if" though because several other teams seem interested as well.

Mark Streit had a breakout year for the Habs last year while scoring 13 goals and 62 points. He's a proto-type offensive defenseman who only earned 600K last year. Streit is pretty much a wild card because it's very unpredictable how much a team might be willing to risk on him.

He could very well end up in Carolina's price range though if they were willing to give him a long term deal.

Michal Rozsival is an under-rated, steady defenseman who played for the Rangers the past couple of years. Last season he earned 2.3 million and scored 13 goals with 25 assists. He shouldn't be looking for huge money and might be in the right price range.

Ron "Hollywood" Hainsey is another Montreal refugee who found his game elsewhere. (Sergei Samsonov can relate). He earned 900K in Columbus last year while scoring 8 goals and 24 assists. He won't be at the top of the wish list, but he wouldn't be a bad pickup either.

Brad Stuart has supposedly been on Jim Rutherford's radar screen before, so he just might be again. But don't hold your breath, Stuart will be looking for a big payday if he can get it. Signing him would be a long-shot.

Steve Montador, Jason Smith, Dmitri Kalinin, and Mike Commodore could all be at or near the bottom of the wish list. Don't look for them to be signed on July 1st because it will take a few days for the teams who couldn't get their first choices to regroup and select from the left-overs, so to speak.

I still believe that Carolina will attempt to obtain their badly needed defensive "stud" by way of a trade. Still, they need to pick up at least one other defenseman, and they will do so using free agency if they can do it at a reasonable price. How much are they willing to spend? We will find out shortly.

Blue Oyster Cult, (back by popular demand)