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Carolina Hurricanes' GM Eric Tulsky cites need to be creative in 'complicated' offseason

Chip Alexander, The News & Observer on

Published in Hockey

RALEIGH, N.C. — Eric Tulsky held his first news conference Wednesday as the Carolina Hurricanes’ general manager and handled it in a professional, if professorial way.

“It’s an incredible organization and I’m honored to be trusted to lead it,” he said.

Tulsky’s predecessors as general manager were Jim Rutherford, Ron Francis and Don Waddell, and Rutherford and Waddell could be garrulous with the media. Tulsky is more like Francis, understated, more tight-lipped and predisposed to keeping things close to the vest.

The former chemist might not be as circumspect as he would with a pending patent, but it could be close as he fills what he calls an “executive leadership position.”

Tulsky, who had the “interim” tag removed Tuesday by team owner Tom Dundon, did not want to discuss any specifics about the players soon to be unrestricted free agents or potentially set to sign contract extensions.

“It’s a complicated off-season. I think we all know that,” Tulsky said. “There are a lot of free agents and we’re going to have to work to be creative in solutions to keep the team moving forward.”

Being creative is what Dundon is counting on from Tulsky. There are ways of working around the NHL salary cap, and Tulsky and his staff will do all it can to make it all fit together in the end, although it could mean some lineup fixtures no longer being around.

Defenseman Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei, for example. They’re both due to become UFA’s on July 1, when NHL free agency begins. So, too, forwards Jake Guentzel, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook and Stefan Noesen.

“It’s only two weeks away but two weeks is an eternity,” Tulsky said. “Right now, it’s really hard to forecast how it’s going to go.”

Defenseman Jaccob Slavin will be in the final year of his contract in the 2024-25 season. Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet, in his “32 Thoughts” podcast, speculated Slavin could be headed for an eight-year extension that would pay $6.5 million a season, which would be a bargain for the team.

“I don’t really want to comment on individual negotiations,” Tulsky said. “It’s a stressful time for the players. They’re not sure what they’re going to be doing next year or what their future looks like and I don’t want to add to that stress for them.

“We are in the process of talking to agents and working through deals and trying to figure out how things will work. We have truly a lot of outstanding players and people and we’re probably not going to be able to keep all of them, and that’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt us on the ice and hurt us in the locker room.”

 

Tulsky said any departures would open up “opportunity for some of the players we have to step into bigger roles on the ice and in the locker room.”

Tulsky said he would work closely with his staff and Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour in making personnel decisions, saying. “I don’t think a single decision gets made without at least three people having input and sometimes 10.”

One of those people is Dundon, who took over the team in January 2018 and soon named Brind’Amour the head coach.

Waddell, who resigned May 24 as president and GM, liked to quip about all calls and texts he received daily from Dundon, a hands-on owner. He jokingly alluded to them again when named president of hockey operations and GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, saying he still was receiving a few calls from his former boss.

From all accounts, Tulsky has Dundon’s full trust and respect. And Tulsky smiled Wednesday when the phone calls were mentioned.

“I work closely with Tom and he does call a lot,” Tulsky said. “Look, he feels strongly that there need to be good processes in place. and he wants to understand how we’re making decisions, and he will give feedback on those processes.

“I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s very good at questioning why things are being done in certain ways, and looking for ways to do them better. I value his input a lot. It has been extraordinarily helpful.”

Of note

The Canes’ prospects development camp likely will be held July 7-10, with the first on-ice sessions July 8. ... Tulsky said he had no update on the situation involving KHL defenseman Alexander Nikishin, whom the Canes drafted in 2020. ... Tulsky said no decision had been made on a new coach for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

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