Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said today that it's possible the team could re-sign both Joni Pitkanen and Jussi Jokinen before July 1.
Rutherford indicated significant progress had been made over the weekend during the NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn. An announcement could come as soon as Monday, he said.
Pitkanen and Jokinen are due to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and Rutherford has said in recent weeks that re-signing the two Finns might be problematic, noting the two sides were far apart in both cases. But the opportunity to meet with their agents during the draft weekend apparently changed things.
"I wasn't very hopeful and I really didn't think there was a lot of hope, based on what I was hearing," Rutherford said today. "But to have face-to-face meetings here with their agents has worked out well and I'm at the point now that I do have hope that we're going to be able to sign both players."
Rutherford said he hoped to close some of the deals on Monday. He said he has remained hopeful all along that the team would re-sign both Erik Cole and Chad LaRose.
"I thought we had a better chance of signing those guys than the first two," Rutherford said. "I don't have a final position on them yet but that's supposed to come on Monday also."
If Jokinen is re-signed, that probably will mean the Canes will not look to bring back Cory Stillman, who was obtained in a trade with the Florida Panthers last season. Stillman also may decide to retire.
Rutherford said the pending re-signings would not preclude the Canes from looking to pick up a free agent or two. They're still looking for an experienced backup goalie and experienced fourth-line center who can kill penalties and is strong on draws.
Rutherford said a budget for next season has not been set. The NHL salary floor will be $48.3 million, and Rutherford said the Canes would be "a little bit higher than that."
"We're getting that payroll to a point it makes it harder to make our business work the way it should," Rutherford said. "I would suspect it will probably be a couple of million dollars over the floor."