Hurricanes not shy about spending money to win
By Joedy McCreary
RALEIGH ó The Carolina Hurricanes increased their payroll by more than 20 percent this season so they could keep the nucleus of the team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago.
That bump of about $8 million was enough to produce exactly three more wins, four more points in the standings and a second straight postseason stuck at home.
Thatís not to suggest owner Peter Karmanos Jr. should blow up the roster and start from scratch. A fluky goal here, a lucky bounce there, and itís the Hurricanes, not the Washington Capitals, who are preparing for a playoff series against Philadelphia.
And even with two aging defensemen considering retirement and a surprise midseason pickup eligible for a big free-agent payday, the Carolina lineup might need only a few tweaks this offseason to resemble a contender again.
iThis teamís capable of winning games,î center Eric Staal said. iThatís the toughest part of being where weíre at right now. Weíre capable of winning games. Weíre capable of doing some damage, and now weíre waiting for next year. It sucks that way, but all you can do is look forward.î
For a team that finished 43-33-6 and near the middle of the NHLís pack with a mid-range payroll of about $48 million ó up from about $39 million in 2006-07 ó the bulk of the lineup should be back when preseason practice begins in September.
Carolina has about $37 million already committed for 2008-09 with the leagueís salary cap expected to rise to around $55 million, up from $50.3 million this season.
Staal ó a point-a-game scorer who is the teamís unquestioned top player ó is due a $500,000 raise and will make $5 million next season before he is eligible for restricted free agency in 2009-10. Starting goaltender Cam Ward also will receive a $500,000 pay increase to $2.5 million.
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