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George Zoran
Top Prospect

55 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2006 :  10:03:18  Show Profile
With 80 points, the Carolina Hurricanes are tops in the NHL. They are definitely the biggest surprise team this season and much of its success should be credited to the team’s general manager Jim Rutherford. Through his success in the NHL entry draft, solid free agent signings, and strategic trades, he has built this team into a Stanley Cup favorite. Even more amazingly he has achieved this success while keeping salaries well below the cap – a must in the new NHL.

In the age of the salary cap, it is important for teams to focus more energy on their scouting systems. Under the new CBA, “Entry Level players will be subject to a maximum annual of $850,000”. (

Because of the cap on rookie salaries, landing an impact player at the draft is more important than ever. Carolina did so in the 2003 entry draft when they selected Eric Staal second overall. He is fourth in NHL scoring and his price tag is an attractive $942,000. Compare that to scoring leader Jaromir Jagr and his $8.36 million salary. Getting that type of production at a discount price is the number one key to success in the salary cap era.

Successful drafting has allowed the Hurricanes to have seven of their own draft picks on their current roster – Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Niclas Wallin, Josef Vasicek, Andrew Ladd, Eric Cole, and Niklas Nordgren. And let’s not forget that Carolina landed future star-defenseman Jack Johnson in the most recent entry draft.

Rutherford has also signed a number of free agents that have fit right into his line-up including the recent additions of Ray Whitney, Cory Stillman, and Frank Kaberle whose combined salaries register in at $4.5 million. Moreover, his ability to retain the services of veteran’s Rod Brind’Amour and Glen Wesley provides a solid leadership base.

Rutherford can also deal with the best of them. Acquiring Justin Williams from Philadelphia for Danny Markov was a great move, and stealing Martin Gerber from Anaheim for Tomas Malec and a draft pick was genius. And Carolina’s recent acquisition of the highly sought after Doug Weight may be his best trade to date. Even after acquiring Doug Weight and adding his $5.7 million salary, the Canes are still $9 million under the cap. This leaves a lot of room to make another splash at the trade deadline.

Rutherford’s ability to build Carolina into a winner should be used as a benchmark for other GM’s around the league. His success in the draft, in trades, and in signing free agents should be highly praised. Congratulations to the team that everyone overlooked prior to the start of this NHL season.

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