According to this article posted on WRAL.com earlier tonight, negotiations have broken down between the Canes and Erik Cole and Chad LaRose. Cole was offered a two year deal while LaRose was offered three, but both offers were rebuffed. Jim Rutherford was quoted as saying that the Canes will now do the same thing the players are doing, test the market.
These players are not your run of the mill journeymen who have bounced their way around the NHL. Other than Cole's brief hiatus to Edmonton for a few months last season, both of these athletes have been in this organization since the very beginning of their NHL careers. Cole was drafted by Carolina in 1998. LaRose was passed over by the entire league and was never drafted. He was given a chance by management and was signed as a free agent.
When Jim Rutherford traded for the return of Cole in March, he made the comment that Cole "belonged in Carolina". He also alluded to the fact that it would be nice if he spent his entire career here.
LaRose got his break playing for a Peter Karmanos owned team, the Plymouth Whalers starting in 2002. Chad worked his way up from the Florida Everblades, to the Lowell Lock Monsters, and then eventually made it to the Hurricanes.
That's a lot of history between two players and an organization.
While one can never begrudge a player for trying to maximize their earnings while they can, perhaps these players and their agents should look at the big picture. Ask Glen Wesley. Ask Ron Francis. This organization can be loyal to a fault, if they like you and you do right by them.
For instance, do they really need five coaches? One might have thought that Kevin McCarthy would be the odd man out after Ron Francis was brought behind the bench and Tom Barrasso was given the extra responsibility as assistant coach as well as goalie coach. But with 17 years in the organization, McCarthy was simply moved upstairs and his input is still valued.
I can not recall all of the details of the past contract negotiations between Rutherford and Francis and Wesley. But I do remember that after negotiations had stalled, Rutherford and Francis met at PF Chang's once and "The Franchise" left his agent behind. The two were able to hammer out the numbers and agree on the essence of a new deal over lunch.
It seemed like Wesley would always be given a contract offer later in the summer, after the budget details had been worked out. The redhead never seemed to test the market while he waited. (publically anyway). He trusted Jim Rutherford and the feeling was mutual.
Now look where these loyal players are.
Agents are not paid to take loyalty into consideration when they are negotiating new contracts. They get paid by the dollar. But sometimes it's necessary to look at the intangibles. The cost of living is cheap in Raleigh, how much is that worth? How much is loyalty worth?
Perhaps sometimes you have to ask your agent to stay home and then sit down and have lunch with your GM. A face to face meeting with the person you are attempting to compromise with can work wonders.