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Carolina re-signs Chad LaRose to two-year deal; Erik Cole and Jussi Jokinen ready to hit free agency?

Jun 29, 2011, 1:41 PM EDT

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Chad LaRose AP

Carolina signed up one of their burly forwards that can score today but it’s not the one many Hurricanes fans may have been hoping to see.

The Hurricanes locked up Chad LaRose to a two-year, $3.4 million deal to keep him in Raleigh. LaRose is a valuable depth contributor to the Canes success as a sometimes winger, sometimes center and last season he finished with 16 goals and 15 assists. He’s been a loyal soldier in Carolina now for six seasons and has amassed 144 points in 406 games in his career in Carolina.

The guy many Carolina fans are hoping to hear is coming back, however, is Erik Cole. Cole has been discussing things with GM Jim Rutherford but it appears that he’s headed to free agency on July 1.

Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer has the details there.

Cole’s agent, Steve Bartlett, confirmed today that Cole would like to test his market value at age 32 and explore what teams might be interested in signing him.

“Erik wants to see what the options are on July 1st,” Bartlett said via email. “That is in no way a slam on the Hurricanes or his appreciation of the role they have played in his career. He has never really explored free agency in his career and feels that he is at the age when it makes sense to see all offers before deciding on what he wants to do.”

Cole had 26 goals last year for Carolina and has been a valuable member of that franchise for a while now. Rutherford also says that discussions with Jussi Jokinen aren’t going so well either and he too seems destined for free agency on Friday. Of course, he also said the same thing about LaRose and he’s back in the fold so who knows.

Either way, losing both Cole and Jokinen would be tough blows for a team that came so close to making the playoffs last season. The emergence of Jeff Skinner and the great play from Eric Staal helped carry them as did Cam Ward‘s goaltending, but losing depth and key players like Cole and Jokinen would be tough to replace in free agency for the Canes.

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