PITTSBURGH — The Carolina Hurricanes spent much of a busy Thursday discussing potential trades and talking to potential draft prospects.
For now, the Canes have not made a trade. They still own the No. 8 overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
That could change before Friday night, when the draft begins at Consol Energy Center. But for Thursday, it was standard pre-draft business.
"As far as a trade is concerned I'm not overly optimistic about anything happening here," Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said. "When a player is available during the season you might have one or two teams you're competing against. But there are a lot of teams here looking to make deals.
"We can make a trade if we want to make a trade. Teams ask about Justin Faulk, Brandon Sutter, Jeff Skinner. But that doesn't make any sense. Those three players are getting better and better. We'd like to add a player to upgrade our team without giving up a core player, but that's tricky to do."
The Canes are believed to be one of the teams eager to make a deal for All-Star forward Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets in what would be a mega-trade. But Columbus general manager Scott Howson said Thursday he was not close to making a deal.
Howson has not named the teams he has been negotiating with on Nash. He said he was not giving up on getting a deal done in Pittsburgh.
"I think a lot of things can happen between now and when the draft is over," Howson said. "Obviously our goal is to do what's best for our hockey club and that's how we'll keep operating."
Adding a new wrinkle to the trade front -- and likely complicating Howson's task of trying to deal Nash -- was news the past few days about Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and Jordan Staal of the Penguins. According to TSN, Ryan now could be available for the right trade. And there were news reports Thursday that Staal, due to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, had rejected a 10-year contract extension offer from the Pens.
In terms of the draft, prospects such as Mikhail Grigorenko, Griffin Reinhart, Matt Dumba, Morgan Rielly and Filip Forsberg said they were interviewed by the Canes contingent. Others -- Radek Faksa, Cody Ceci, Jacob Trouba, Olli Maatta -- said they were not, although they talked to the Canes at the NHL prospect combine in Toronto.
"It was about a half-hour and they asked a lot of questions, which was good," Rielly, a defenseman for Moose Jaw (WHL), said of the interview.
Rielly said Ron Francis and Cory Stillman led the questioning. Francis is vice president of hockey operations and Stillman recently rejoined the Canes organization as director of forwards development.
Rielly and Forsberg, a Swedish forward, said Francis and Stillman used video takeouts as part of the interview process, both saying the Canes were the only team to do that.
"It was pretty cool," Rielly said. "They showed, say, video of a two-on-one and asked me how I would play that. That was kind of neat.
"They were the only team so far to do it, which is kind of awesome. It shows that they care about their prospects and they're here to do a good job."
Added Forsberg, "It was like they asked you questions to test your hockey sense."
Grigorenko said he has had three interviews in Pittsburgh -- with Carolina, Buffalo and Toronto. If there's a player who has faced a host of questions -- from NHL teams, NHL media, Internet sleuths -- it has been the Russian center who came to North America last season to play for Quebec in the QMJHL.
"Some teams are hard on you and want to see your reaction," he said. "Others try to be more funny. Some want to talk to you a lot."
Grigorenko recently has faced questions about his age, about whether he is 20 and not 18. His birthdate is listed as May 16, 1994, and Grigorenko said the age issue has been more puzzling and disappointing than troubling.
"I had never heard about this and don't know from where it (came)," he said. "It's just some people's opinion and they talk about it. I know the team that drafts me will not care about my age. They will just draft me."
Grigorenko and forward Nail Yakupov, the likely No. 1 overall pick, were asked again Thursday about the KHL issue and whether they might be tempted to go back to Russia to play. Both again said their dream was to play in the NHL.
Forsberg, with a smile, said it was a little intimidating to have Francis, a Hockey Hall of Famer, doing the questioning at his 20-minute interview.
"I used to play with him on all the NHL games like EA Sports when I was growing up, and here he was sitting right next to me at the table," he said.