As a shortened and hectic offseason approaches, Last Word on Hockey is looking ahead towards how teams will deal with the reality of a flat salary cap. In terms of building a franchise, the offseason is the most crucial time of the year for front offices. However, due to COVID-19, the short-term future of how this operates has seen sweeping changes. This series attempts to examine what choices teams may have to make. We’ll operate going from worst to best. Today’s piece focuses on the Carolina Hurricanes offseason.
Carolina Hurricanes Offseason Primer
Salary Cap Outlook
Going into this summer Carolina has $29 million in cap space to play with. With all of that space general manager, Don Waddell could, in a perfect world, re-sign all of his guys to extensions. With the flat cap coming into play, however, and some players wanting significant raises this likely won’t happen. However he delegates the cap one thing is clear: one of his young restricted free agents is due for a massive pay bump. Even after that contract is signed the team will have plenty of space to sign crucial free agents to fill gaps in their roster for next season.
Pending Free Agents
The team has four restricted and seven unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason. Carolina’s restricted free agents consist of forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Warren Foegele. Also in the group is defenceman Jake Bean and Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic. The unrestricted free agents, their most important to focus their cap towards, includes Dougie Hamilton, Jani Hakanpaa, Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, Cedric Paquette, and goaltenders Petr Mrazek, Alex Nedelkjovic and James Reimer.
As stated in the previous section, Carolina has a lot of space to play with. If one of these players wants more money than originally planned, there is little to nothing stopping Waddell from sweetening a few negotiations with a few extra dollars on a player’s contract. With the competitive outlook from owner Tom Dundon, shelling out extra bucks to keep key players might pay off.
Major Likely Re-Signings
An instant lock for re-signing is scoring machine Andrei Svechnikov. The price and term that the tea is trying to lock him in for is unknown, but locking him in for a long deal would be beneficial in keeping their cup dreams alive for a long time. Conversely, the team has alternate captain Jordan Martinook on their list of free agents. He’s a good depth forward who brings a rough edge to the team’s bottom six. He’s a vocal voice in the locker room and a fan favourite as well. A short, cheap contract in Carolina would make sense, and Martinook seems to enjoy being in Raleigh as well. Linemate and UFA Brock McGinn could also sign an extension in Carolina. He had a breakout season this year and proved himself to be a valued middle-six forward on the team. With that being said the right price from another team could just easily draw him away.
Deadline acquisition Jani Hakanpaa could see him get a two or three-year extension with Carolina. In his short time with the team, he played well as the shutdown defender in a sheltered role. With the potential departure of Dougie Hamilton, a pay raise and more ice time could show the best parts of his game come to light next season. Similarly, Jake Bean will, without a doubt, receive a contract with the team. The rookie finally had his chance at the NHL and didn’t disappoint in a limited role. Of the goaltending trio the team has, Alex Nedelkjovic is the most likely to receive a contract. The Calder Trophy finalist played well for his first season in the NHL and shows major upside to his game. In a split tandem role next season he could really thrive in Carolina.
Major Likely Departures
Norris calibre defenceman Dougie Hamilton is truly the only major piece that is likely to leave this summer. The blueliner was given access to talk to other teams before the free-agent market opens up in late July. The likely scenario is a sign-and-trade deal with another team. Unless Carolina throws a Connor McDavid level contract at him, Hamilton’s days in Carolina seem to be over. Similarly, goaltender James Reimer might be on the way out the door. He played well in the split role he had with Mrazek and Nedelkjovic this season. Playing well, however, isn’t going to keep you on a cup-contending roster. There are plenty of options on the market, including Mrazek, that can fill Reimer’s role on the bench. At 33 years old age might catch up to him fast, and holding onto an ageing goalie isn’t always a great option.
Potential Free Agent Signings
Signing a goaltender would be the most beneficial to the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason. Signing Ned isn’t an if, it’s a when. Having the right goalie to mentor the young netminder into the starting role is going to be crucial to a long Stanley Cup window for Carolina. Possible options could be Frederik Andersen from Toronto, one of the Arizona Coyotes goalies, or possibly Jonathan Bernier. Outside of the crease, however, there aren’t too many holes that would need to be filled by a free agent signing. A depth forward or two couldn’t hurt, and the same would go for another blueliner in case one of their current expiring contracts doesn’t re-sign and leaves room in the lineup.
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