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Monday, June 29, 2009

Carolina drafts big and re-signs a biggie

Posted by on Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 6:20 PM

click to enlarge Photo by Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes
  • Photo by Gregg Forwerck, Carolina Hurricanes

This just in: Jussi Jokinen is the first of Carolina’s free agents to scratch the j’s and dot the i’s – at least in spirit – from his summer abode in Europe. Jokinen signed a two-year contract that will pay him $1.5 million next season and $1.9 million in 2010-2011 after a jaw-dropping postseason in which he scored seven goals, three of which were of the game-saving variety. Jokinen will look to replicate that success in the regular season. Anton Babchuk and Tuomo Ruutu have yet to accept offers, though Carolina still has its hooks in the restricted free agents.

While looking through a few posts from the postseason, I’ve started to notice that I often supplant my own opinion with “’Canes fans.” This is not only ridiculously conceited, but I have no way of telling whether it’s true. So from now on, no more!

According to Jim Rutherford, contract negotiations with Erik Cole and Chad LaRose have come to a standstill. “I” – and maybe ‘Canes fans too, I’ll have to take a poll and get back to you – want Cole and LaRose to be re-signed. However, with free agency less than 48 hours away, the chances of them hitting the open market appear to be great. (30 days has September. April, June, and November…yeah, that’s right.) The ‘Canes went through an awful lot of trouble to get Cole there and back again last season and while he had a dry postseason, Cole has a niche carved out on this team that, as we found out, cannot be easily filled. And then there’s home-grown former Plymouth Whaler sparkplug LaRose, who had a breakout 19-goal 2008-2009 season but wasn’t expected to go anywhere. Both are holding out for more money, and both could find themselves elsewhere come September.

Will they get what they’re looking for on the open market? Probably not. Though the salary cap rose last week, teams are clinging to their wallets a little more tightly these days. There are some big names in the pool and once teams are done signing them, there’s a chance there won’t be the paydays Cole and LaRose are looking for. Perhaps JR and the UFA’s will come to an agreement before then – we’ll see.

The contracts, or lack thereof, of Ryan Bayda and Dennis Seidenberg haven’t made news, but those two need contracts or they’ll be gone on Wednesday as well.

And now, let’s step back a few days to the NHL draft, which took place on Friday. Carolina and Buffalo seemed to be two teams that favored size above all else, drafting big guys to fill out their future farm teams. Carolina’s first round pick was a bit of a head-scratcher. The Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL’s Philippe Paradise was expected to go late in the second round and could have possibly been around when the ‘Canes picked again. However, Carolina wasn’t about to wait around. The team took Paradise 27th overall, passing over several highly-touted prospects, including potential second-generation NHL winger Carter Ashton and defenseman Simon Despres.

Why? Obviously, the ‘Canes staff saw something they liked. One of our most frequent and vocal readers, CaniacGirl, theorized it was all in the glasses.

[image-2]

He does look as though he could be the French-Canadian nephew of Ron Francis, who made the draft announcement. But he’s a good skater with a hard shot, and while a secret lovechild explanation certainly would be juicy during these slow summer months, his ability to move the puck is probably the real reason for his high draft number.

Brian Domoulin, taken 51st, could be the large, two-way defensive prospect the ‘Canes have been looking for, but he’ll be at Boston College for the foreseeable future.

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