Hurricanes Could Get Scoring Help From Familiar Faces

When the Carolina Hurricanes removed former general manager Jim Rutherford from his position, Canes fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. It was well past time to move on from JR and his particular managerial quirks. The most noticeable being his incessant need to recycle players from the past. Matt Cullen, Cory Stillman, Aaron Ward, and Erik Cole are just a few of the names that left Carolina for greener pastures, only to find themselves back in a Hurricanes’ uniform later in their career. Hell, Joe Corvo had 3 separate stints with the Canes, even when his services were redundant at best.

When Ron Francis was selected to replace Rutherford, there was hope that the endless recycling of players would come to an end. But one of his first moves as general manager was bringing back Tim Gleason, who the Canes had traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs the season before. With the lack of free agent signings last offseason and the relatively quiet offseason this year, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Hurricanes recycle players out of necessity, as those players are often the only ones willing to sign with the team.

The Cycle Repeats Itself

This past season, the Hurricanes moved Andrej Sekera, Tim Gleason, and Jiri Tlusty at the trade deadline, knowing that their playoff hopes were well out of reach. While many Canes fans would have loved to seen Sekera return to the team, the Slovakian defenseman opted instead to sign a 6-year, $33 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers. The signing was probably for the best, as with their limited budget Carolina probably couldn’t have afforded that kind of contract. Gleason still remains a UFA, but after being traded from the team for the second time in two years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him avoid the Hurricanes’ organization for a while.

“At some point you get tired of being a suitcase,” Gleason said. “But it’s part of the business. That’s all I could tell you.”

That leaves Tlusty, a player with an inconsistent past with the Hurricanes. During the lockout-shortened season of 2012-2013, Tlusty dominated on the top line with Eric Staal and Alex Semin. In 48 games, Tlusty scored 23 goals and the chemistry he showed with the two star players was undeniable. However, with a 19.7% shooting percentage that year, there was no doubt that those numbers would be unsustainable. Since then, he’s scored 30 goals in 130 games, making him a far less desirable piece to acquire. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

With Carolina’s forward corps as thin as it has been in years, any kind of scoring help is greatly needed, even if it means recycling a player that may not find his former glory.

An Added Bonus

The Hurricanes are quite familiar with Tlusty’s agent, Rick Curren, as he also represents Staal and Cam Ward, two core players that the Canes are currently in negotiations with for contract extensions. That familiarity may benefit Carolina in the long run, as Curren also represents a UFA that would look great in red.

Christian Ehrhoff could fill the hole in the top defensive pairing that Sekera left when he was traded. A Justin Faulk-Ehrhoff pairing would certainly look a lot better than pairing Faulk with anyone the Canes currently have under contract. In addition, Carolina, somewhat surprisingly, has a lot of defensive depth, especially after taking Noah Hanifin with their 1st round pick in this year’s draft. But they lack any real veteran presence on the blueline, someone who could ensure the transition to the NHL is a smooth one. The issue of money may rear its ugly head again, as it’s unlikely the Canes could outbid most teams when it comes to acquiring the veteran defenseman’s services.

Recycling for the Right Reason

There’s one more name available in the market that the Canes could take a look at. Veteran Erik Cole’s future is up in the air after suffering a spinal contusion with the Detroit Red Wings last season.

“It stems back from my neck injury in 2006,” Cole said. “When I ran into the player in the Arizona game, I bruised my spinal cord. A spinal contusion is something that you have to let heal and obviously, it’s a pretty serious occurrence. Doctors feel I need to look out for my well-being as a person, not just as a hockey player.”

Cole was drafted by the Hurricanes in the 3rd round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He spent 9 years with the organization before hopping around the league to Montreal, Dallas, and Detroit. While with Carolina, he was part of the notable “BBC” line during the Canes 2002 Stanley Cup run. He still owns a house in Raleigh, NC and spends his offseasons there.

If there was any one time the Canes needed to recycle a player, this would be it. Cole may not be able to play another game for the Hurricanes, but he should retire in a Carolina uniform under a Carolina contract.

Bringing it All Together

Though the new season is still a couple of months away, Carolina’s forward corps is looking a little iffy, especially considering they were ranked 27th in the league in Goals Per Game last year. Tlusty isn’t going to solve that problem on his own, but his familiarity with most of the Canes roster could give him a leg up over the likes of Chris Terry and Andrej Nestrasil. If he happens to bring Ehrhoff with him along the way, all the better for the Canes.

By signing Tlusty, Francis may be criticized for recycling players and may draw unfavorable comparisons to Rutherford in the process. But at the moment, the Hurricanes don’t have a lot of other options remaining.