Six weeks ago, the Carolina Hurricanes looked like they might have been the league's biggest seller come today's NHL trade deadline. But other than a minor January trade that sent Alexei Ponikarovsky to New Jersey for a pick and prospect, the Canes look similar to how they did when the calendar flipped to 2012.
Tim Gleason? Re-signed to a four-year, $16 million extension. Tuomo Ruutu? Back in fold for four years as well, getting a $19 million contract to stay in Raleigh. All that was left was to see if unrestricted free agent defensemen Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek would remain in Carolina, or if a surprise move happened.
In the end, the big news was no news.
((UPDATE 5:45 Zach Boychuk recalled on emergency basis for Patrick Dwyer))
Carolina GM Jim Rutherford said that he got calls about the defensemen, mostly Spacek, but that he wasn't disappointed that he couldn't add assets to a team that will likely miss the postseason for the third straight season.
"I'm more than OK [with how the deadline went]," Rutherford said. "We've got some work to do here, and we certainly have to add another player or two for our team to get to to where we need to get to to be a top-tier team going forward next year.
"But with that being said, we have taken some strides forward as a team in many areas. And when Kirk [Muller] came in one of the things I talked about was I really wanted to see a good work ethic on a game-to-game basis. And that's something we have gotten of late."
Rutherford stated that the team would attempt to re-sign Allen in the offseason as both parties have expressed interest in him remaining in Raleigh. But while Allen's addition has been good both on the ice and in the locker room, the top priority was to add firepower up front.
"We need another top-flight forward to play with Eric Staal," Rutherford said. "If we can maintain what we have now and add that player, we're getting real close to being a really good team this year."
But Rutherford admitted that may not be easy. With teams re-signing many of their own — Carolina included — the list of available players is shorter than in the past. While Rutherford said the team would pursue such a player this offseason — either via trade or free agency — he conceded that it could be difficult to find what they're looking for.
• Rutherford updated the status of several injured players. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen skated for the first time today since being injured and should be back in two-to-three weeks. About the same time frame is expected for Ruutu (2-3 weeks) and Patrick Dwyer (a couple weeks), while Chad LaRose should be ready in about a week. Cam Ward practied today and Rutherford said he should play this week.
Full audio of Rutherford's press conference can be found here and video can be seen here.