Monday's re-signings of three players for Albany (AHL) more or less completed the restocking of the River Rats, but the Canes would still like to add one more center for organizational depth.
One name under consideration? Jeff O'Neill.
Yes, that Jeff O'Neill.
The Canes have talked to O'Neill and Jeff Taffe, Rutherford said, but both are holding out for one-way contracts.
O'Neill sat out last season after the Maple Leafs decided not to re-sign him. Carolina traded him to Toronto in August 2005, only a few months after O'Neill's brother Donny died in a car crash. The loss left O'Neill a mess and he seriously considered retiring then. After scoring 19 and 20 goals for the Maple Leafs, he did.
Taffe split time between Pittsburgh and the AHL last season. He has 20 goals in 45 career NHL games.
Last spring, O'Neill told a Toronto radio station he was playing in an adult league and considering a comeback. He also attended a Hurricanes game last season as a fan.
"He's trying to work his way back but with him sitting out a year, his opportunity would be on a two-way contract, probably starting in Albany," Rutherford said. "Maybe even at center ice. He played there in junior. At this time, we're experimenting with a few things. Based on his career he feels the same way (as Taffe) — he would like one-way contract somewhere. If he can't we're willing to talk with him."
O'Neill still ranks third in franchise history in points (416), fourth in games played (673) and goals (198) and fifth in assists (218). His 41-goal season in 2000-01 has only been exceeded once since, by Eric Staal in 2005-06. No one has scored more goals in the Carolina Era than O'Neill's 176.
As for the rest of the Albany roster, Monday, the Canes re-signed forwards Pat Dwyer and Joe Jensen and defenseman Mark Flood to one year-contracts. Earlier, they signed center Dwight Helminen to a one-year contract to replace the departed Keith Aucoin.
Restricted free agent Brandon Nolan remains unsigned because the Hurricanes have concerns about the concussion he suffered in February.
"We're going to look at that in August," Rutherford said. "He's dealing with his injury and he's not totally recovered. We'll give that another month and see where he is. Certainly, if he's healthy, we'd like to bring him back. He made a lot of strides last season."