Whitney, Babchuk may return to Hurricanes
CHIP ALEXANDER – Staff writer
RALEIGH — It appears winger Ray Whitney and defenseman Anton Babchuk will be with the Carolina Hurricanes next season, general manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday.
And Rod Brind’Amour ? Still pending.
Rutherford said no decision has been made on whether Brind’Amour , who turns 40 in August, would return for the final year on his contract or retire after 21 seasons. The two have met once to discuss the plans for next season and will meet again in June, Rutherford said.
“We wanted to give it a little more time from the regular season,” Rutherford said.
Whitney, 38, will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. But Rutherford said Whitney, in a meeting, expressed his desire to stay with Carolina and that the Hurricanes told him they wanted him to sign a new contract and stay.
“We are trying to make the team younger, and at some point he does want to win again,” Rutherford said of a player who helped the Canes win the Stanley Cup in 2006. “But at the end of the meeting he made it clear that ideally he’d like to stay. Now we have to get down to how the contract fits.”
Whitney, the Canes’ third-leading point producer this past season with 21 goals and 37 assists, is competing in the IIHF World Championship in Germany. He is serving as captain for Team Canada and scored Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to the Czech Republic.
Babchuk , 26, has been something of a prodigal son for the Hurricanes’ organization since coming to Carolina in a January 2006 trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. Refusing a qualifying offer from Carolina after the 2008-09 season, he spent this past season playing for Avangard Omsk in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
But the Hurricanes retained his rights, and Rutherford said he was very optimistic Babchuk is headed back to the NHL – for a second time.
“We want to sign him and bring him back,” Rutherford said. “We are moving along in the process.”
Babchuk first bolted for Russia after the 2006-07 season, in which he initially refused a reassignment to the Albany River Rats of the AHL and was briefly suspended by the Hurricanes. He returned to the Canes for the 2008-09 season on a one-year contract, using his big shot to produce a career-high 16 goals and 35 points.
Babchuk was a restricted free agent after the ’09 season but had no arbitration rights. He turned down a one-year, $1 million offer from the Canes, reportedly was paid $1.5 million by Avangard Omsk and played in the KHL All-Star Game.