Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said today he has met with forward Tuomo Ruutu to discuss Ruutu's future with the team, and said a decision should be reached next week.
Rutherford said Ruutu, due to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, expressed a desire to stay with the team.
"These meetings are to see where the player is at, what they think of the team, whether he likes being in the organization, those things," Rutherford said. "Tuomo is a player we really like, and he said he likes being with the team. That's an important first step and we had a good meeting.
"The next hurdle may be the bigger hurdle, but at least we know we're on the same page."
The "hurdle" will be the length of contract and the dollars involved. Ruutu, who leads the Canes with 17 goals, has a $4.4 million salary this season.
Rutherford said he did not discuss contract details with Ruutu but now would begin that process with Ruutu's agent, Bill Zito. Ruutu, who turns 29 this month, is believed to seeking a long-term deal.
Rutherford had not negotiated a contract with a Hurricanes player during the season until this year, when he re-signed defenseman Tim Gleason to a four-year contract extension worth $16 million.
"We have now made re-signing Tuomo a priority," Rutherford said. "If we're not able to agree, both sides need to have some leeway and some options. We need to make a decision and he needs to make a decision."
Ruutu still could be traded before the NHL's Feb. 27 trade deadline. Rutherford said he would not put a number on the amount of teams that have inquired about acquiring Ruutu but said, "There has been significant interest in Tuomo."
The Canes are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks that had a controversial ending. Jussi Jokinen was tripped by the Ducks' Corey Perry behind the Carolina net in overtime, but no penalty was called. Moments later, Perry scored the winner.
Rutherford said he talked with league officials about no-call by the referees a couple of times Thursday and had a conversation with Terry Gregson, the NHL's director of officiating.
"I don't want to get into the details but I feel fine with how the league is handling the situation," Rutherford said. "I'm very satisfied with the way the league responded. It's unfortunate the game was decided the way it was."
One upside to the game Rutherford mentioned was the play of forward Anthony Stewart, who was placed on waivers Monday by the Hurricanes but went unclaimed. Stewart responded with one of his better games Wednesday.
Stewart, signed to a two-year free-agent contract last July, has been used primarily as a fourth-line winger under coach Kirk Muller.
"That's all part of that process," Rutherford said of waivers. "Kirk talked to (Stewart) about playing a certain way. He has not quite responded to that. Sometimes, these can be wakeup calls."