Over the coming days, the buzz in the hockey world will be over deals being discussed and completed leading up the the NHL’s March trade deadline. I have already touched on trade possibilities here and there starting all the way back in early January and posted a lengthy tome on the recurring buzz of potential deal of Matt Duchene for Justin Faulk.
I will undoubtedly write more as we push closer to the NHL trade deadline and also potentially gain more clarity on the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes.
But for today’s Daily Cup of Joe, I will instead turn inward and look at some contract decisions for players on the current roster. The vast majority of these decisions/moves will wait until summer though it is possible that Francis acts early on a couple.
Deals I would consider
Cementing 2 of the top 4 defensemen into the future
1-Jaccob Slavin for a 3-year extension at $3-3.5 million per season. Slavin is signed through 2017-18. There is no rush or requirement to do anything until the summer of 2018, but my guess is that Francis has seen enough of Slavin to commit, maybe get a modest discount by doing so early (i.e. before his scoring bumps up) and gain some cost certainty going forward.
2-Brett Pesce for the same deal. His contract situations is the same with his entry-level deal ending after the 2017-18 season. The duo is playing together. And Pesce is similar in age/experience.
I say identical deals of 3 years for $10 million total ($3.3 million/year) would be a discount worth committing early for. The risk in re-signing them early is that they stumble in 2017-18 or suffer a long-term injury such that they would have been cheaper had Francis waited. Interestingly, Francis has been bitten twice in this exactly scenario signing Elias Lindholm and Eddie Lack early and especially in the case of the latter seeing him underperform relative to his contract.
These deals are more likely to be June/July events. Francis could even just wait another whole year. But IF the Hurricanes slip out of the playoff hunt in March, doing these 2 deals sooner could be a well-timed marketing positive as season ticket holders deciding on renewals weigh the past (8 straight playoff misses) or the future (great young D pairing re-signed).
Veteran depth for the bottom half of the roster
3-Viktor Stalberg for 1 year at $1.5 million. Stalberg’s $1.5 million for a fourth-liner is a modest premium for the role, but he has played a premium level for that role. His size, speed and rugged play is something the Hurricanes are light on. He has been solid on the penalty kill and has even become a breakaway scoring threat on it. And even if he fails to notch another goal during the 2016-17 season, his 8 goals are already a respectable total for his role on the fourth line with limited minutes, limited line mates and no power play ice time. At this price, he would slot as a fourth-liner, but would not be crazy expensive if youth pushed him to the #13 slot. A reason to do this deal sooner rather than later would be to get an understanding of if Stalberg prefers to return or instead explore the open market this summer as a free agent. If it is the latter, then it could make sense to trade him at the deadline to get some kind of return especially if the Hurricanes are out of the playoff chase.
4-Ron Hainsey for 1 year at $1.1 million. His days as a top 4 defenseman are over, but as a known quantity and veteran presence, I would be glad to have him back at a price appropriate for a #6/#7 defenseman. $1.1 is a reasonable price such that if enough of the kids are not ready, he could play in the third pairing. If enough of the kids are ready, then he becomes the #7 defenseman. Even if 1 of the younger plays ranks as seventh best, it is far better to send a young player to the AHL to play every day and let the extra slot at the NHL level be filled by a veteran. Importantly, a key reason to re-sign Hainsey sooner rather than later would be to officially solve the requirement of exposing a defenseman who meets the experience requirements for the expansion draft.
The top 9
5-Teuvo Teravainen for 2 years at $2-2.7 million per year. Coming of a decent but not spectacular season as a restricted free agent, I would expect that Teravainen will receive a short-term (1-3 years) top 9-ish type of contract. Elias Lindholm’s 2 years for $2.7 million per year is the closest thing to a comparable in recent history for the Hurricanes. I think Francis does well if he can get 2 years for for Teravainen’s 43-point pace.
More than any other player, Teravainen’s cost could swing significantly based on how the rest of his 2016-17 season goes. If he slumps and finishes below 40 points $2-2.5 million per year seems reasonable. If he surges late and pushes up above 50 points, it becomes feasible to make a case for a next contract at more than $3 million per season. This deal is unlikely to happen until summer.
6- Eddie Lack buy out if he does not prove to be at least a viable backup down the stretch. My vote in the recent poll on Lack was that it was hard to read much into his tough outing against the Capitals after a long layoff and against the NHL’s best team. But if Lack is unable to put it together in March, I think Francis could move aggressively this summer to get rid of Lack and start over with that slot. Francis has already shown a propensity to use buy outs with Alexander Semin and James Wisniewski, so it would not be unprecedented. The first option might be to include him in a bigger trade as a salary dump or see if perhaps Las Vegas is willing to take such a contract with compensation in the form of futures (draft pick or medium prospect). If the Hurricanes did buy out Lack the math would not be catastrophic. The team would owe him $1 million for both 2017-18 and 2018-19. If the Hurricanes replaced him with a backup-priced goalie in the $1.5 – $1.8 million range (Chad Johnson signed for $1.7 million last summer), the net effect would be that the Hurricanes would actually save about $300,000 in 2017-18 but have to pay another $1 million in 2018-19 and receive nothing for it. Nothing can happen with this until the season ends.
The other stuff
Most of the Hurricanes’ other contract stuff this summer is fairly straightforward. The team will need to make a decision on Derek Ryan who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and also re-sign some other restricted free agents. Most of the other players up for new contracts are restricted free agents whose contracts should be fairly easy to navigate.
What say you Canes fans?
Is there any chance that Francis re-signs Jaccob Slavin and/or Brett Pesce during the season to gain a bit of positive buzz during season ticket renewals?
Would you re-sign either Ron Hainsey or Viktor Stalberg early for depth roles or just wait to explore more options during the summer?
What do you expect for price on the next deals for key restricted free agents Slavin, Pesce and Teravainen?