by Kate Shefte
No cutesy quips or memory-soaked remarks about his manic approach to working out or the primal scream he let out while lifting the Stanley Cup in 2006 — an image etched in the memory of North Carolina sports fans — will sum up what Rod Brind’Amour did for the Hurricanes over the last decade. From coming in (and not expecting to stay) under stressful circumstances to the few, frank words he uttered a few hours ago regarding his retirement, Brind’Amour did it his way.
“Get ready for the obvious,” Brind’Amour said wryly. “I will no longer be playing hockey, for the Hurricanes or anyone else.”
The former captain’s imminent retirement, while regrettable, was completely and totally necessary — like the proverbial band-aid that just needed to be ripped off. Though he insists he’s in the best shape of his life, the former two-time Selke winner was a baffling combined -52 in his last two seasons. They had already removed his captaincy and handed it to Eric Staal and the team was clearly looking to embrace a youth movement, but there were a few more pieces left to move. Going into tomorrow’s opening of free agency, Erik Cole — who was on hand at the press conference to support his former linemate — is an elder statesman on the Hurricanes team at just 31.
After his retirement, the Hurricanes bought out Brind’Amour’s contract and will pay him $2 million over two years. But according to Rutherford, it won’t free up any cap space. He is supposed to earn $3 million this season, and since he was 35 at the time he signed that contract, it remains on Carolina’s tab.
There was talk he might try another team for one final year if the ‘Canes bought him out, but Brind’Amour insisted that was never an option. It all happened as it should have, and his jersey will surely be up with his friend and mentor, Ron Francis, very soon.
This isn’t to say Brind’Amour’s gone for good. Though he spoke wistfully of “the things you don’t see on TV,” saying the camaraderie and sense of “brotherhood” were the things he’d miss more than the actual playing, Rutherford let him know he could stay on in any capacity he wanted. The ‘Canes GM said after Brind’Amour’s wedding and honeymoon next week, they’ll sit down and talk about what role he’ll play next year, if any. Glen Wesley, who beat Brind’Amour to retirement, is helping out with the team’s young defenseman…will Brind’Amour be on the ice any time soon?
One would assume that no matter what he does, his new office will be somewhere near the weight room.
“With my competitive nature, I’m probably going to do more than what they want me to do,” Brind’Amour said. “It might take a little while to figure out what that is. I’m open for everything.”
Samsonov is rumored to be on his way out. Whitney will test the free agency waters tomorrow. All that’s left of the Hurricanes are the bare bones, the pieces they’re looking to build on and a few with a little contract time left over, and Rutherford will have to fill out the rest tomorrow. Though he admittedly eschews free agency because often a team winds up paying too much, Rutherford's squad is looking a little thin. Unless he wants to pull up a lot of Charlotte Checkers (saying that will take some getting used to) or get to signing some RFAs, he’ll need to keep his phone charger on his person over the next few days.
Right now, this team looks like a hot mess. Brind’Amour retiring honorably was a good step, as was drafting undersized, potentially underrated Jeff Skinner seventh overall a few days ago. But Rutherford has been here many times before, and over the next few days we’ll see if we need to batten down the hatches for another year of lengthy losing streaks.