Conroy to test open market; Canes gear up for free agency

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  1. kingsfan

    kingsfan Yes my liege!

    Mar 18, 2002
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    It appears contract talks with center Craig Conroy have hit an impasse, leaving the Carolina Hurricanes center headed to the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

    "We did our best, but the negotiation process wasn't as clear as we felt it could have been which led to a misunderstanding of Craig's desires, and thus we end up here," said Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Trent Allen.

    What wasn't clear was the fact Conroy was seeking a long term deal which the Hurricanes were offering a shorter term thinking it was in Conroy's best interests.

    "We thought Craig would prefer a two year deal, giving him the option to test the market again at a later date and still be a high end player. We were unaware he'd have preferred more years," said Allen. “We’d have definitely offered a third (year) for sure, and maybe a fourth. I can't say for sure because a fourth year is something we hadn't looked into."

    The loss of Conroy may leave the Hurricanes looking for a forward on the open market. In deals done since Allen took control of the team this off-season, Carolina has dealt away forwards Keith Tkachuk and Lee Stempinak in addition to losing Conroy. Those losses were partly stemmed by a trade with the Islanders to add center Jarret Stoll, but Carolina may be targeting a goal scorer on the open market.

    The team currently has Steve Rucchin, Alexander Ovechkin, Stephen Weiss, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Craig, Stu Barnes, Joffrey Lupul, Cody McCormick, Martin Gelinas, Darren McCarty, Scott Thornton and Stoll under contract for forwards, but other than Ovechkin and potentially Lupul, none are considered goal scoring threats. Other than Lupul and Ovechkin, only two other players scored 20 goals with the Hurricanes last year, Tkachuk and Rucchin. Rucchin isn't expected to duplicate his feat again.

    "We expect a huge season from Ovechkin and we know Joffrey is capable of more too," said Allen. "But yeah, we did deal away some of our goal scorers, and we will need to replace that output somehow.

    Considering the Hurricanes could be pushing against the cap, a cheaper alternative could be to sign prospect Alexander Radulov, who was acquired in the Tkachuk deal. Radulov was the talk of the hockey world following a 152 point season in junior, including 11 points in one game.

    "He is a heckuva prospect, there's no doubt about that. We will have to decide shortly if we want to sign him now or wait a little longer," said Allen. "He's chomping at the bit to get over here though."

    On defense, the club appears to have a standing top six of Dion Phaneuf, Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Craig Rivet, Milan Jurcina and Sandis Ozolinsh. Tom Poti, who finished the year with the Hurricanes, was dealt away after the club decided they didn't want to resign him, with his role being filled by Rivet, who was another piece in the Tkachuk trade. A change could be coming however, as Ozolinsh's $5.25 million dollar salary is a hindrance for a team looking to stay under the cap and yet still make improvements.

    In net, the club will once again have Rick Dipietro as their starter, with David Aebischer a more than capable backup.

    Assuming the Hurricanes don't sign Radulov or any free agents in the off-season, the clubs projected payroll for the upcoming season is approximately $41.8 million. Allen has said in the past he'd like to enter the upcoming season with a payroll under $40 million, meaning there's a strong likelihood the team will be making some changes.

    "Every team, even the Senators (the Cup champions) need to make changes every year. If you don't, you fall behind, and we know we need to make changes. We went into the playoffs last year with the belief a veteran laden team would get us through and that obviously didn't work out. So are going with a different approach, looking for guys with more hunger," assessed Allen. "That said, we know we can still go into next season with the team we have and be very competitive and be a legitimate threat once again, so we don't have our backs to the wall, being forced to do something we don't want to do."

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