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December 28, 1999 - Primeau, 'Canes appear deadlocked

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Tuesday, December 28
Primeau, 'Canes appear deadlocked
Associated Press

  RALEIGH, N.C. -- The chances of Keith Primeau missing the rest of the NHL season look stronger than ever.

The Carolina Hurricanes say they have made their final contract offer, and Primeau says he has thrown it in the trash.

Keith Primeau
Keith Primeau has said he won't play again for the Hurricanes.
General manager Jim Rutherford said by telephone from Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday that he tried "pretty hard" to trade his all-star center during the last month.

"I said we weren't going to move him, it was more based on other teams calling and checking," Rutherford said. "I didn't call people to see because I didn't feel it was right. But I've talked to three or four teams on a more serious basis and they didn't express enough interest to make a proposal that made any sense."

Rutherford sent Primeau a letter saying Tuesday would be the final day to sign a two-year, $6 million deal. Primeau said he tossed it out.

"I refuse to make an apology for doing what I think is right for me and my family, without coming off as bold or crass," Primeau said Tuesday. "I am doing what is in the best interest of me and my gang."

Primeau is married and has four children.

Primeau, the team's leading scorer last season with 30 goals, has missed Carolina's first 37 games because of the dispute that has lasted since he became a restricted free agent July 1.

"What are we going to do, keep sitting here week after week?"' Rutherford said. "They think some miraculous thing is going to happen. I guess that would be the best way to phrase it. We don't think anything will."

Primeau and co-agents Don and Todd Reynolds are asking for a four-year, $17 million deal. Those numbers, a bit lower than Primeau's initial asking price, were floated by Don Reynolds during a meeting with Rutherford and Primeau two weeks ago.

"We did compromise our position and give them a new proposal, and that wasn't met. They didn't want to do that," Don Reynolds said.

Primeau earned $2 million last year, when the nine-year veteran played in his first NHL All-Star Game. Now, he says he will not play for Carolina again.

"It's just a deal that hasn't worked out," Reynolds said from Canada. "I think it would be healthier for Keith if he moved on. I think the team feels that way and we do too."

Reynolds said he has been contacted by numerous clubs about his 28-year-old client.

"The only part of the deal we control is what numbers Keith would be prepared to play for with a new club," said Reynolds, hinting that Primeau might take less money elsewhere. "We would want to be a deal maker, not a deal breaker."

Even if Primeau sits out the season, his free-agent status would not change. If he is offered a contract by another club, the Hurricanes have the right to match it or be given five No. 1 draft picks. Rutherford has said the team would match any offer for Primeau.

"Nothing will change in the offseason other than the fact that he has decided to give up the opportunity to make $3 million," Rutherford said.

Carolina headed into Tuesday night's game with Nashville in second place in the Southeast Division, 11 points behind the Florida Panthers.

Last season with Primeau, the Hurricanes were three games above .500 at this stage of the season. They are one game below the break-even point without him.

"We are going to continue on with the team we have and any further changes we feel are necessary would be based on the team we have," Rutherford said.

"What else can they do?" Reynolds said. "You can't blame (Rutherford) for saying that -- and the team has done well. They are to be congratulated."