"I do know we're trying as hard as we ever have at this point to be involved in acquiring a top player."
While signing a top-forward like New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise would boost the offense and the game of captain Eric Staal, frontloaded and hefty salaries, like the one Parise is expected to command if he hits the open market on July 1, appear to have the Canes ruled out of the bidding.
"I've felt all along we might have to go the trade route to improve our team," Rutherford said. "We're in the mix in a lot of conversations."
Most recently, the Hurricanes have been added to the list of interested teams in Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash and could give up their first-round, eighth overall pick in the NHL Draft on Friday.
Rutherford would also be willing to part with some roster players and a few of their top prospects, though Staal, Jeff Skinner, Cam Ward, Brandon Sutter and Justin Faulk remain untouchables.
"We will get involved in free agency," Rutherford said. "But it appears the best chance we have to improve our team will be through trades."