Eleven days after the start of the 2013 NHL free-agency market and the Carolina Hurricanes' first connection to a mysterious high-profile free agent, the 'Canes are still looking to add to their 2013-14 roster and little more than speculation has emerged about the mystery UFA's identity.
GM Jim Rutherford has continued his quest to improve the team's defense, even after the additions of established NHLers Andrej Sekera and Mike Komisarek and depth assets Mark Flood and Matt Corrente.
Meanwhile, a potential hole remains beneath Alexander Semin on the Hurricanes' right wing depth chart, and it's unclear whether or not the signings of Aaron Palushaj and Riley Nash will improve the bottom six enough.
As the dog days of summer roll along and a plethora of free agents linger on the open market, where can the 'Canes still turn for help and improvement?
A breakdown of five players who could yet be brought into Raleigh this offseason falls below.
D Ron Hainsey
Hainsey is the latest player to take a shift as the rumored "mystery UFA"—but, this time around, the rumors might finally be right.
Per Toronto radio host Josh Rimer via Twitter:
Hearing Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is focusing on landing a defenseman who takes less $. That's his #1 priority right now & nothing else.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) July 12, 2013
Been told 2 guys the Hurricanes are talking to are Ryan Whitney & Ron Hainsey. They'll only sign 1 of them, & less then their asking for.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) July 12, 2013
Raleigh ABC affiliate reporter Mark Armstrong also backed up Rimer's claims:
The 32-year-old defensive defenseman registered 13 assists and 123 blocked shots (third best in the NHL) in 47 appearances for the Winnipeg Jets last season. He hasn't scored a single goal since Mar. 12, 2011 yet could make for quite the shutdown pairing alongside a partner like Tim Gleason.
Fans should follow the Hainsey situation closely in the coming week for future connections to Carolina.
RW Jaromir Jagr
For a while, many experts were convinced that Jagr was indeed the Hurricanes' unidentified free-agent target. However, Rutherford confirmed to the press last Thursday that Jagr was not the man.
Nonetheless, the 'Canes may be interested in turning to the 41-year-old winger if other negotiations fall through. Agent Petr Svoboda has been quoted saying that "Carolina was on his list."
Jagr has connections to former Pittsburgh teammate Ron Francis and Czech Republic countryman/HC Kladno linemate Jiri Tlusty in Raleigh.
The future Hall of Famer would be a huge scoring boost to the Hurricanes offense, boasting 681 career goals and a 35-point campaign in 2013, but cost could be an issue—the 'Canes have only $5.4 million in cap space even without No. 5 selection Elias Lindholm yet on the books.
Former 33-goal scorer and Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow has received surprising little consideration for the "mystery UFA" status.
He certainly fits the high-profile characteristic, conversely, and (like Jagr) would greatly increase the Hurricanes' firepower at right wing.
Morrow tallied 25 points in 44 appearances for the Stars and Penguins in 2013 after recording 82 in 139 appearances for Dallas the previous two campaigns.
LW Dustin Penner
The Hurricanes have become an alarmingly small team, with only three roster forwards standing taller than a median 6'2".
Dustin Penner would definitely help to solve that problem. The 6'5", 245-pound giant recorded 14 points, 59 hits and 15 takeaways in 33 regular-season games for Los Angeles before tacking on another five points, 59 hits and a plus-four rating in just 18 playoff appearances.
He and Tuomo Ruutu could make for an extremely intimidating winger combo on the team's third line.
LW Lennart Petrell
Carolina's 28th-place ranking on the penalty kill last season (77.6 percent) has been addressed surprisingly little this summer.
Which player would you most like the Hurricanes to sign this offseason?
Lennart Petrell, while otherwise an unremarkable fourth-line winger, could eliminate that concern in a heartbeat. The 6'3" 29-year-old averaged 2:35 of shorthanded ice time per game with Edmonton last season, helping the Oilers field the league's ninth-best penalty kill despite ranking 19th in overall defense.
The Edmonton Journal's David Staples raved about Petrell's shorthanded work in a midseason column:
Petrell seems to have excellent judgement on the kill, knowing when to harass his man, but most often hanging back just enough to take away the best option for an opposing attacker. He blocks shots fearlessly and has a huge wingspan and an active stick to close down passing lanes.
Petrell could be a solid dark-horse addition to the Hurricanes' forward depth this summer.