The Hurricanes also turned up the heat in the negotiations, stripping the all-star center of his captain's title. Ron Francis will be Carolina's captain for the 1999-2000 season.
"We don't view this as leverage or boiling point," Todd Reynolds, one of Primeau's agents, said. "Keith wants to be the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, but if they are going to take the `C' from him and give it to somebody else that is their decision."
Primeau, who scored 30 goals last season for the Southeast Division champions, turned down a two-year deal worth $7 million plus incentives. The club previously had a five-year, $20 million deal on the table.
Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford had set a Friday noon deadline on the club's latest offer, made Wednesday. After the offer was declined, Rutherford and coach Paul Maurice made Francis captain.
"Unfortunately, a bad decision has been made here that cost the player money, and as time goes on it's going to cost more," Rutherford said.
Primeau and his agents are asking for $5 million per season.
The restricted free agent balked at the five-year deal because it would have taken him one year past when he could have filed for unrestricted free agency.
Teams can match offers given to unrestricted free agents or receive draft picks as compensation, while unrestricted free agents can shop on the open market.
"We have very strong support from owner (Peter Karmanos) and this is about making a franchise viable," Rutherford said. "It's not about winning a few extra games because you have one more player in the lineup. That will not change (the offer)"
Reynolds said Primeau was miffed at the team's last-ditch offer to sign him before the start of the season.
"That is probably a good description," Reynolds said. "We told (Keith) the numbers and he didn't have any chance to get excited. It's something we still want to get done
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed