As the National Hockey League (NHL) trade deadline had come and passed on Monday afternoon, during a 3 p.m. press conference held at the RBC Center in Raleigh N.C., Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford announced, “open for questions, no trades.”
It couldn’t have come as straight to the point and as bluntly as that.
In beginning to answer questions from the local media, Rutherford indicated that ‘we have some work to do’.
Being okay with it
Many fans and followers of the team expected and hoped that the team would take a chance on making some significant moves to improve the team’s makeup and performance, particularly in moving current expiring contracts tied to defensemen Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek.
In responding to how he felt in not making any moves, Rutherford stated “No actually, I’m more than okay with it.”
Rutherford went on to allude to the fact that he has liked the positive changes that coach Kirk Muller has made in improving the team’s performance and work ethic on the ice, but at the same time understands the ‘small margin for error’ that exists when considering the team’s current makeup.
Injuries and depth
“We certainly have to add another player or two for our team to get to where we need to get to be a top tier team going forward next year,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford alluded to the fact that Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers was a sign that the team has come far, but not far enough in terms of the depth of personnel it currently possesses.
With the team’s current injury situation that includes Joni Pitkanen, Tuomo Ruutu, Chad LaRose, and now Patrick Dwyer, all players Rutherford alluded to who would have made a difference in Saturday’s outcome, he pointed to the fact of how difficult it is for the team to win without such depth available currently.
“Just Dwyer alone in the third period would have made a difference when you’re trying to shut a team down,” Rutherford said.
Foundation is set
Even in trying to sign a ‘top flight’ forward to play with Eric Staal in the future, Rutherford alluded to the fact of how the bargaining situation involved with the current CBA makes it difficult to do so.
“It’s going to be difficult to find that player,” Rutherford said.
When asked about being requested to consider hockey trades, Rutherford was adamant that the team’s foundation that has been developed so far around players like Staal, goaltender Cam Ward, and forwards Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter would not be compromised.
“We’re not trading the Brandon Sutters or the Jeff Skinners and guys like that,” Rutherford continued. “We’re not talking hockey trades. We’ve built a structure now that we’re getting close to get back to where we should be.”
However, he did indicate that a big move to get what the team needs is the overall goal in deal-making for the future but only if it makes sense.
“It’s going to be that big move that we really need to make, if it comes available,” Rutherford said.
No moves, no surprises
In making his statements and openly acknowledging that he will be listening if the right offer is made to him to push the team up to the next level, Rutherford’s lack of action during ‘pressure times’ like the NHL trade deadline goes along with how he has managed the team to date.
As one of the NHL’s shrewdest and patient deal-making executives, it seems that Jim Rutherford was not going to compromise his or the team’s style of making player personnel moves on Monday more than he ever has or will.
As forward-thinking as he is and maybe not as radical as some would like him to be, the many moves he has made during the season, particularly in bringing Muller in, allows him to still stand tall at the end of the day and still say, “we’re making some progress.”
The Hurricanes will put forth their best work ethic with a less-than-healthy lineup while continuing to battle for respect and in playing for a long shot attempt at making the playoffs when they host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
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