Hurricanes management needs to make off-season decisions soon, Andy Sutton’s future with the Anaheim Ducks, and Mike Grier talks aboutreturning with the Buffalo Sabres.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Luke Decock reported Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford still hasn’t made his annual, season’s end “state of the team” news conference, but he’ll have to start making off-season decisions soon, especially regarding his top pending UFAs Erik Cole, Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose and Joni Pitkanen. Rutherford has indicated he wants to bring back Cole, but the question is for how much and how long. It appears unlikely Rutherford can afford to re-sign Pitkanen, who earned $4.5 million this season. He could be left making two difficult choices with Larose and Jokinen. The latter has found a home with the Hurricanes but Rutherford might only be able to afford a moderate raise for Jokinen, who could test his value on the free agent market. The toughest decision could be LaRose, who earned $1.8 million this season but only scored 30 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It certainly appears Pitkanen won’t be back, not because Rutherford doesn’t want to re-sign him but can’t afford to. Cole’s asking price will certainly determine if he remains with the ‘Canes or moves on, but I wouldn’t rule out his taking perhaps a little less than market value to remain with the team he’s had his best seasons with. As Decock suggested, it might be possible the Hurricanes could replace LaRose with a younger, cheaper forward. If it comes down to deciding between Jokinen or LaRose, the latter could be the odd man out.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Eric Stephens reported Anaheim Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton considered this season the worst of his career, which saw him miss considerable time with a broken thumb, and struggle throughout the remainder of the season. Stephens reports the Ducks intend on bringing back Sutton, who has another season remaining on his contract, unless they can work out a trade, but it would be difficult to find a trading partner willing to take on his $2.25 million salary. They could buy him out but ownership is cool to that option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sutton will return with the Ducks next season, where he’ll have a chance to redeem himself and his potential value in next summer’s UFA market.

BUFFALO NEWS: John Vogl reports veteran Sabres forward Mike Grier hopes to return with the club next season, and his teammates (including Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek) hope he’ll be back, but he said his health and Sabres management will determine if he’s back or not. The 36-year-old said if he returns next season it’ll be with the Sabres, and if not that could be the end of his NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’ll be an affordable re-signing if Sabres management wants him back, but of course that’ll depend on potential additions via trade and free agency.