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The Hurricanes unrestricted and restricted free agents

Published on April 22nd 2014

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Justin Peters played pretty well this season, but will he return next year? (Photo by James Gullory USA Today Sports)

The frustration of another Carolina Hurricanes season has passed, and now fans are beginning to wonder what player changes are going to happen this offseason.

Although big name players have been thrown around a lot in trade rumours, it is impossible to know if the Canes will actually deal any of the core players on the team this summer. As I have said numerous times I think this core is going to be left alone for now (Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin, the Staals, Andrej Sekera, Justin Faulk, Anton Khudobin.) These guys are going to get the chance to gel and improve together next year, and if we see another failed season - then huge changes could be on the horizon. There is a possibility however that Cam Ward will be traded this summer.

Therefore it looks like the only major changes we will see this year are going to happen via free agency and the draft. The Canes will indeed have the number seven pick in the first round of the draft, and will have the opportunity to draft a very good NHL prospect. Last week I discussed a few draft options for the Canes at that number seven pick here.

So which players on the Hurricanes will be let go this offseason? These are the players listed on their roster who are upcoming restricted/unrestricted this summer, and some will definitely not be returning for the 2014-15 NHL season.

FORWARDS

 

Jiri Tlusty - 16 goals, 14 assists, +2 rating in 68 games

Tlusty had more goals (23) and points in 48 games last season (38) then he did in 68 games this year.  Last year Tlusty, Eric Staal and Alex Semin all had outstanding regular seasons, only to completely disappoint this year. The difference is Staal and Semin have regularly been dominant NHL forwards, whereas Tlusty only has 142 points in 344 career NHL games.

Tlusty is a restricted free agent, and is coming off of a cap hit of $1.6 million per season. If the Hurricanes think he can perform to the level like he did in 2012-13 then he could definitely come back, but it would have to be at around his current cap hit. I really don't think Tlusty has what it takes to be a 50-60 point player at the NHL level, so if his rights are traded it won't be that big of a loss.

Andrei Loktionov - three goals, seven assists, -4 rating in 20 games with Canes

After being sparingly used in New Jersey, the Devils dealt Loktionov to Carolina in the Tuomo Ruutu trade at the trade deadline this year. Before coming to Carolina, Loktionov only had 12 points in 48 games with the Devils. But when he arrived in Raleigh he was given a top six role, and played on the power play resulting in some decent numbers.

Loktionov showed some flashes of being an extremely useful player for the Canes, and the restricted free agent is coming off of his $725,000 entry-level deal. Carolina should take a chance at resigning the Russian to a short-term deal to see what he can do in a full-season with the Canes.

Manny Malhotra - seven goals, six assists, 59.4% on faceoffs in 69 games

The second best faceoff man in the NHL was a valuable fourth line centreman for the Hurricanes this season. Malhotra brings valuable veteran leadership to the Hurricanes, and a guy who can win big draws for you when you need them.

Malhotra is an unrestricted free agent, and only had a $600,000 cap hit this season. I don't see the harm in bringing back Malhotra, especially considering he fills the fourth line centre role perfectly.

Drayson Bowman - four goals, eight assists, -2 rating in 70 games

The former two-time 40-goal scorer out of the Western Hockey League has never panned out as a sniper in the NHL, and instead has found himself in a bottom six role.

He has a miniscule 33 points in 176 NHL games after racking up 242 points (130 goals) in 265 WHL games. Bowman was a hell of a player in the WHL, but none of that success has followed him to the NHL. My guess is the Canes do not resign the restricted free agent and his $600,000 salary - unless he spends the year playing in the AHL for the Charlotte Checkers.

Radek Dvorak - four goals, five assists, 41 PIMS in 60 games

The long time NHLer was brought in to provide depth as a bottom six winger, but was largely ineffective all year. Dvorak is done as an NHL player, and my belief is that the unrestricted free agent will not be returning to the NHL next season.

Nathan Gerbe - 16 goals, 15 assists, -6 rating in 81 games

The shortest player in the NHL was the most pleasant surprise out of Hurricane's forwards this season, and will be a restricted free agent. Gerbe definitely deserves a raise on his $550,000 salary, but 31 points should only get him around a contract around $1 million per season.

Gerbe was thrown into a top six role with Jordan Staal for the bulk of the year, and scored some beautiful highlight reel goals during the season (between the legs on Steve Mason and the Flyers.) He has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer for sure, and is worth a low price contract to see if he can develop further.

DEFENSEMEN

 

Joni Pitkanen - spent the year on injured reserve with a heel injury

When healthy, Pitkanen could be relied upon to be one of the Hurricane's best offensive defensemen and play loads of minutes a night. But with his heel injury from last year still keeping him off the ice, and his career in jeopardy - we may never see Pitkanen on the ice again, let alone in a Hurricanes jersey.

Pitkanen's $4.5 million salary will be coming off the books, and is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Hopefully Pitkanen will someday return to the ice, but I don't see it being with Carolina.

Ron Hainsey - four goals, 11 assists, -9 rating in 82 games

The veteran stay-at-home defenseman had his moments (good and bad) as a Hurricane in his first year with the team.

Carolina signed Hainsey out of desperation once the team found out Pitkanen would be out the entire season, and he did play some great defense at times (led Canes defenseman in blocked shots.) However there were times when opposing players took advantage of Hainsey's lack of speed. 

He will be an unrestricted free agent, and had a $2 million salary this season. Depending on how free agency goes for Carolina, they could bring Hainsey back.

Mike Komisarek - four assists, -4 rating in 32 games

Why Carolina ever brought Komisarek into the fold is beyond me. Komisarek had a few good seasons with the Montreal Canadiens before tanking as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Komisarek has no offensive upside and is extremely slow and constantly gets caught out of position. He is an unrestricted free agent and is definitely gone.

Congratulations on making $700,000 this season for doing absolutely nothing.

Brett Bellemore - two goals, six assists, 169 hits

Bellemore was actually a pretty solid defenseman for the Canes at times this year. He was the most physical defender for Carolina all season, and although he lacks solid foot speed - he is the defensive defenseman that with improvement could be a good number five-six defenseman for Carolina in the future.

Bellemore is an unrestricted free agent, and made $600,000 this season. He could be brought back for dirt-cheap.

GOALTENDERS

 

Justin Peters - 2.50 goals against average, 0.919 save percentage, 7-9-4

When Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward went down with injuries early in the season, it was up to Peters to hold down the fort for Carolina. Peters filled in fairly admirably and kept the Hurricanes in the playoff race.

If Cam Ward does indeed get traded, Peters could be the backup next season. Until we find out exactly what the Canes do with Ward though, we just won't know where Peters sits.

He is an unrestricted free agent, and made a very cheap $537,500 this season. 

 

CHARLOTTE CHECKERS

The Canes have a lot of work to do with their AHL affiliate this summer. The Checkers have nine restricted free agents, and six unrestricted free agents to make decisions on this offseason.

Who do you think the Canes will let go via free agency this summer? Later on this month I will talk about possible free agents the Canes could pursue in the offseason.

Follow me on Twitter @LandonWesley for Puckrant playoff blogs and Hurricanes news.

 

 

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Landon WesleyPuckrant Contributor

Writer ForCarolina Hurricanes

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