Every year when free agency starts I am watching hopefully for Jim Rutherford to sign a big-time free agent. I have come to realize that getting the bigger names available can blow up in your face because the teams usually overpay with long-term contracts that are hard to shed.
I am not picking on the Rangers—they are just the first team that comes to my mind as an example. They signed Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to these long-term, high-dollar contracts that have really handcuffed the GM because they are hard to move. Teams don't want to take on those multi-year contracts. They also have eight of the 25 free agent busts listed on SI.com. I'm glad there aren't any Canes on that list.
Rutherford signed Corey Stillman in '06 and he was a key component in winning the cup that year. It wasn't a big splash in the free agency world but it helped our team tremendously. Rutherford so far has re-signed Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, and Jussi Jokinen. I bet he will sign someone off of the FA list, but he won't break the bank to do it.
Carolina doesn't have the luxury of spending to the cap, but Rutherford has managed to keep a competitive team in Raleigh. The Canes lost in the Cup Finals in '02, won the Cup in '06, and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champs in the Eastern Conference Finals in '09. Not bad for a small market team from the south!