Please be sure that have a look around Canes and Coffee today. The site is taking on a decidedly “the future is bright” theme today. Cory Fogg has an update on the Canes prospects tearing up the Canadian junior playoffs, and Jordan Futrell has chimed in with the first of two Charlotte Checkers preview articles as I write my Daily Cup of Joe.
Please also help us ready for the 2017-18 season by taking a short reader survey and also considering a modest contribution for our ‘coffee fund.’
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes an early shot at playing Nostradamus and predicting at least a few events for the Carolina Hurricanes offseason.
1) The Hurricanes will sign Steven Lorentz to an entry-level contract
With the signing of Warren Foegele and Spencer Smallman, Lorentz is the last player from the 2014 and 2015 draft classes who must either be signed or be given up in terms of contract rights. (Luke Steven and David Cotton are still in college, so their rights extend farther out.) Lorentz has received strong reviews in his ‘Midterms’ check in and also in Cory Fogg’s update on Hurricanes prospects in the Canadian junior playoffs.
As a seventh round draft pick, there is little certainty that a player will progress even to the AHL level, but I think Lorentz will for 3 reasons. First, he gets high marks for all of the intangibles that give a 21-year old a chance to learn and improve at the rate necessary to become an NHL player. He has improved. Seventh-round selections are very often raw potential with minimal polish. To make it to the next level, they must make significant strides in the 2 years before the team has to make a decision. Lorentz has made that progress. His 61 points in 66 games are decent for a depth forward, and his leadership role and physical improvements are also significant. Finally, the Hurricanes have the room at the forward position at the AHL level right now.
So why isn’t the deal done like Smallman’s and Foegele’s? It is just a hunch, but I am thinking that the Hurricanes wanted to see what kind of exclamation point Lorentz would offer in the playoffs, and he has. If I am right that the Hurricanes do intend to sign him before his rights expire early this summer, I figure 1 of 2 things is going on. First could be that his agent is working hard at his job trying to get Lorentz a slightly more favorable contract (bigger signing bonus, higher AHL salary, etc.) than is the norm for a seventh round draft pick. The range on later (round 4+) draft picks’ entry-level deals has been a signing bonus of $70,000-$80,000/year and an AHL salary of $65,000-$75,000. It might be that there is a small sticking point in terms with Lorentz drafted lower but playing just as well. I also think there is a decent chance that the deal is more or less done, but that an official announcement is being withheld while Lorentz stays heads down with motivation in the playoffs.
Prediction and probability: I predict that Steven Lorentz is ultimately signed and will put the probability at a pretty high 75 percent.
2) Jaccob Slavin is the first player without an expiring contract to re-sign
I wrote up the timing and roster-wide significance of Jaccob Slavin’s next contract on April 6. The short version is that based on Slavin’s budding offensive game in the second half of the 2016-17 season, I think the risk is high that he puts together a much bigger scoring total in 2017-18 and bumps up to a completely different pay grade. Based on that, I think Francis eliminates this risk by re-signing him this summer. In the process, Francis also puts a ceiling/baseline in place for the other young defensemen who must also be re-signed over the next couple years.
The potential sticking point could be terms. If Slavin’s agent pushes for a salary that fully values his 2016-17 season and even wants full credit for his offensive upside even though it really kicked in for half of a season, then it could make sense for Francis to just wait instead of paying full price early.
Prediction and probability: I think Slavin signs either in May/early June (before Francis gets busy with other stuff) or otherwise late July/August (after he finishes being busy with other stuff). Price and term are hard to guess, but I think it is either 4 years at $4.5 million per year or 5 or 6 years at slightly more. Because the deal does not need to happen until the summer of 2018, I peg the probability at a modest 50 percent.
3) Eddie Lack departs
Eddie Lack finally put together a better stretch of hockey in March which offers some reason for optimism. I think the departure of goalie coach David Marcoux also offers a change that could boost Lack’s play. But at the same time, I just think it is too risky to bet 1 of the 2 goalie slots on Lack who has not put together a good season with the Hurricanes in 2 tries. Francis would be making a really risky bet if he wanted to play the hope that the goalie coach change or a second restart is enough to help Lack find a higher gear, and I think he knows this.
Prediction and probability: I see 2 ways this change happens. First is that Francis acquires a goalie related to the expansion draft. I wrote about the expansion draft wild card in detail on March 29. I think there is a reasonable probability that Francis can include Lack as part of a deal to acquire a goalie from Las Vegas, and if that does not happen, then I think Eddie Lack gets bought out. I put the probability that Lack is not with the Hurricanes starting the 2017-18 season at 70% and think the odds are somewhat higher that this is accomplished via a buyout.
4) I think we see one more coaching staff addition
With the pressure to finally make the playoffs in 2017-18 increasing, I think Francis/Peters reach outside of Raleigh to make one more coaching addition. (This is in addition to replacing goalie coach David Marcoux whom Francis already said would not be re-signed.) Best guess is that the addition/change comes in the form of adding an additional specialist likely with a decent resume and volume of NHL work. Best bet is that this addition comes in the form of one of those funky consultant type titles like “specialist,” “advisor” or similar.
Prediction and probability: I do think someone with one of those funky titles is added to bolster the brain trust, but because the staff is full, I put the odds at only 40 percent.
5) Francis actually adds a defenseman of significance
With the number of good young defensemen already at the NHL level and the promising prospects who seem nearly ready to join them, the top priorities this summer rightfully focus on the forward and goalie positions. But after seeing Hainsey/Faulk struggle for more than half of the season in the second pairing and the revolving door next to Noah Hanifin in the third pairing, I think Francis will make a move to have a little bit too much on the blue line rather than again risking having too little. The math will be tricky. Francis will not want to spend a fortune, nor will he want to add a player with a long-term contract that commits money into a time frame that will hopefully be filled by the rising youth. Ideally, he is looking for a proven #4/#5 type defenseman who has a reasonable salary and is signed only through the 2017-18 season. This shores up the 2017-18 roster and gives Francis the ability to reevaluate his needs at the end of the season after seeing how the next wave of kids progress.
Prediction and probability: Rather than digging deep into the bargain bin with another round of Nakladal, Dahlbeck and Tennyson type of moves, I think Francis actually goes and gets a slightly higher-end defenseman who can hopefully can either play in the top 4 if necessary or otherwise lead and stabilize a third pairing even if it includes youth next to him. I am in the minority on this one for sure, so I will hedge my long shot bet by calling it only a 35 percent probability.
What say you Caniacs?
What do you think of these predictions? Which make the most sense, and which are very clearly a sign of writing Canes stuff too late at night?
What predictions do you have for the front half of the offseason?