Zach Parise is eligible for UFA status in July, but can still re-sign with the Devils before then. (Getty Images)
After years of settling for the scraps in the NHL's unrestricted free agent market, the Carolina Hurricanes could turn their sights on bigger game this summer.
On Wednesday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported Hurricanes management believes the team is ready to move into contender status and will pursue New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise or Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter if they opt to test this summer's free agent market.
Landing Parise or Suter, let alone signing both, would be a bold move by Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford and certainly a big step above the second-tier signings he's made in recent years.
With more than $42.336 million invested in 17 players for 2012-13, the Hurricanes have the cap space (assuming the cap ceiling doesn't decline significantly in the next collective bargaining agreement) to pursue Parise and Suter this summer, though it would likely eat up at least $15 million to sign both. Landing just one of them would likely cost more than $7 million per season.
The problem might not be the money, but rather selling either guy on the idea the Hurricanes are poised to become Stanley Cup contenders.
Regarding his contract talks with the Devils, Parise has let it be known that “being competitive and having a chance to win the Stanley Cup” was important to him. These factors are bound to carry over into free agency if he chooses to field offers from teams other than New Jersey.
Suter hasn't tipped his hand as to what his plans are, though he's repeatedly said how much he enjoys playing in Nashville. If, however, he decides to move on, playing for a Cup contender could also be key to where he ultimately signs.
It’s not impossible for Rutherford to sign either guy, but it'll certainly prove a test of his powers of persuasion.
GOMEZ A GONER?
Could this season be Scott Gomez's last with the Montreal Canadiens?
TVA Sports' L.A. Lariviere took to Twitter early Tuesday morning to cite a report from former Hab Patrice Brisebois that claimed Gomez is aiming to return to the New Jersey Devils following this season and told friends he'll be bought out of the remaining two years of his contract with the Canadiens.
Gomez, 32, was selected 27th overall by New Jersey in the 1998 draft and played his first seven NHL seasons there. He had his best campaigns with the Devils, capturing the Calder Trophy in 2000 and winning two Stanley Cups.
If Gomez is bought out by the Habs, Lariviere claimed some sources think Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would consider offering him a one-year, low-salary contract.
This came as news to Gomez, who told Montreal Gazette columnist Dave Stubbs a buyout has never been brought up by management.
If the Canadiens bought out Gomez under the current CBA, it would take four years until he completely came off the books, as buyouts are calculated at two-thirds the remaining value of the contract over twice the remaining term.
The cap hit for a buyout would be $3.5 million for 2012-13, $4.5 million for '13-14, then drop sharply to $1.6 million per season for the final two years.
It's been rumored the next CBA will contain an “amnesty buyout,” whereby a team could buy out the remainder of a player's contract without it counting against its cap.
But that scenario is far from a sure thing.
ESPN.com's Scott Burnside last week reported NHL GMs aren't expecting to have another amnesty buyout period at the start of the next CBA as they did at the beginning of the current one.
Rumor Focus appears Tuesdays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.