Jul 13, 2011, 6:32 PM EST
With the way Eric Staal has become the face of the Carolina Hurricanes and his teammate Jeff Skinner is the new fresh face of the NHL, it’d be easy to forget that there’s other talented youth in Raleigh making things happen there. Luckily for restricted free agent Brandon Sutter, Canes GM Jim Rutherford keeps him well in mind as well.
The Hurricanes re-signed Sutter to a three-year, $6.2 million contract good for a $2.067 salary cap hit over that time. Over the past two seasons, Sutter’s career has blossomed in a big way. Two seasons ago he had a career year scoring 21 goals and finishing the year with 40 points. Last season, a lot of faith was put upon Sutter’s shoulders as he was named an alternate captain of the team and had a slight let down finishing the year with 14 goals and 29 points.
With all that, Rutherford says that Sutter’s importance to the team is huge.
“Brandon is one of the cornerstones of our franchise moving forward,” said Carolina president and general manager Jim Rutherford. “He is an extremely intelligent player who can perform in all situations, and has already grown into a leadership position for the Hurricanes at a very young age.”
With the likes of Staal, Skinner, and Sutter the Hurricanes are in a great place as Staal and goalie Cam Ward are the old men of the bunch at 26 years-old. With Skinner at 18 and Sutter at 22 that youthful corps of players are going to have a lot of time to grow together. If they can get some help along the wings and get a little deeper still, this is a team that could be a real headache to deal with in the Eastern Conference for years.
As it is, they’ll need to see Sutter’s offensive numbers take a jump back up again next season. What he brought to the ice two years ago was outstanding goal-wise but the arrival of Skinner relieved some of the pressure on him to pour it on offensively. Getting back to being a 20-goal guy with the ability to feed his linemates will make Carolina a much more electric team to watch. With Tomas Kaberle there to anchor the power play as well, perhaps the Hurricanes can stop teasing about making the playoffs and finally get over the hump.
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