Tim Gleason had just finished up a skating session at Raleigh Center Ice when the discussion turned to the Canes' defensemen and some signings this summer.
To wit: Joni Pitkanen re-signed with the Canes for three years at $4.5 million a year. Carolina later signed free agent Tomas Kaberle to a three-year deal for a total of $12.75 million.
Asked his thoughts about the signings, Gleason smiled and quipped, "Yeah, there's not much money left for anybody."
Spoken like a player who is in the final year of his contract, no? But Gleason quickly waved that off, noting Pitkanen and Kaberle will help the the team and that a priority this season would be the corps of defensemen giving the Canes a tougher, better back end.
"Those guys are going to be a big part of this club and can skate a lot of minutes," Gleason said of Pitkanen and Kaberle. "They're consistent players and well-respected. I think they bring a lot to the table for us."
Like many of the Canes, Gleason still is smarting from the way last season ended. Carolina fought hard to get in position to reach the playoffs, only to lose the last game to Tampa Bay 6-2 and miss out for a second straight year.
"But I wouldn't put it on one game," Gleason said. "Those last 20 games, we fight to the end and you have to win that one game and everyone puts so much pressure on that one game. But realistically it's the whole season. You want to be in a position where you set yourself up where you don't have to win that last game, do or die.
"I think it's huge, the two or three months before Christmas, to get ahead of the game this year and almost be comfortable in a way the last 20 games. If we can work on that right out of the gates, I think we'll be better off."
The Canes were 15-14-4 at the Christmas break last season -- a record Gleason wants to significantly improve on.
"Let's come out the gates and be 10 games above .500, not at .500," he said. "That's the key."