Today’s Daily Cup of Joe steps briefly out of the present, fast forwards to next summer and takes a look at the Hurricanes contract situations.
In short, next summer (or earlier if things are addressed early) will be a busy one for making significant decisions in terms of player contracts.
No doubt the Hurricanes will explore options to swap Scott Darling and the remaining two years on his contract for another underperforming player with a similarly pricey contract. But the market for $4 million goalies who have performed at below NHL backup level is not a friendly one. As such, I will be shocked if Darling’s tenure as a Hurricane does not end with a buyout.
That still leaves what could be an interesting decision for the Hurrianes with regard to Petr Mrazek and Scott McElhinney. McElhinney has been very good so far. More recently with McElhinney out with an injury, Mrazek has recently found a higher gear. If the 2018-19 season continues on that trajectory, it makes for an interesting decision for the team in terms of keeping neither, one or both. My best guess is that the team keeps only one of the two and opens up a goalie slot to add another via trade or free agency. But if the current tandem performs well for the rest of 2018-19, it is possible that the team brings both back.
As a player who will be 36 years old when the 2019-20 season starts, McElhinney might be happy with a two-year deal at a modest raise to his $850,000 2018-19 salary. If that is the case, he could price out nicely where he actually fits as a backup.
At only 26 years old, the ceiling on Mrazek’s price if he has a strong 2018-19 campaign is much higher. If he proves capable of a starting role again, he could garner interest on the open market and be in line for more than $3 million per year on his next contract.
The possible outcomes are many here. If McElhinney or Mrazek falter, I think that player would be gone. I do not see the team bringing either back if they do not earn it. If both continue to play well, I think the preference would be to bring back the younger Mrazek to half of next year’s tandem, but the question is at what price.
Wild guess at how it ends: Darling is bought out. Mrazek, if he plays well for the rest of the 2018-19 season, is re-signed. McElhinney is turned loose unless Mrazek falters. If the Canes crash in 2018-19 and both goalies are part of it, I would not be surprised at all to see the team just wipe the slate clean and start over.
The only NHL defenseman up for a new contract next summer is Haydn Fleury. As long as he stays neatly tucked down in the third pairing and mostly off the score sheet, his next deal should be reasonably straightforward. He would earn a raise over his $863k entry-level contract, but the raise would be modest and not likely something that becomes complicated or contentious.
The big decision on the blue line (if it is not made much sooner) is what to do with Dougie Hamilton and Justin Faulk. Both players fill a similar role as a top 4 right shot defenseman with some offensive ability. Faulk’s contract is up after the 2019-20 season, so the team will want to make a long-term decision on him and act accordingly. I would be moderately surprised to see Faulk on the 2019-20 opening day lineup if he has not been extended and is instead entering the last year of his contract.
In September or October, I saw it as a foregone conclusion that Faulk would be dealt for forward help. While that continues to be a possibility, the combination of Hamilton’s struggles and Faulk’s stronger 2018-19 campaign thus far makes it possible that the team adjusts and instead deals Hamilton.
Wild guess at how it ends: I still think that Faulk ultimately gets traded, but with each passing day that Hamilton struggles in a Canes uniform, the probability increases that it is instead Hamilton who is dealt for forward help.
The forward position is where the greatest volume and drama lie with regard to re-signing players.
Sebastian Aho is due for a big contract that is potentially rising in price with each point he accumulates. Aho will get his money, and the team will be happy to lock him up long-term. Trickier though is Teuvo Teravainen. If he slips a bit in 2018-19 and puts up 60ish points, the range on his next deal becomes really wide. He would be in the vicinity of some players who net $8 million. But there would also be comparables down in the $6 million range too. I think ultimately the Canes keep Teravainen, but I think his contract negotiations could drag out a big.
Veteran additions from last summer Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland are also up for next contracts next summer. I would think the team would want to bring both back, but the price could make that path prohibitive. Martinook is a great fourth-line forward who can slot higher if needed. In that role and scoring at a high rate, he is a good value at his current $1.8 million. But if someone wants to pay him a bunch more, I think one has to pass. Ferland’s situation is similarly complicated. If gets back into the lineup and continues scoring at a mid-30s pace, he could command $6 million plus which is a big rise over his current $1.75 million.
Of the depth forwards, I think Phil Di Gisueppe is not re-signed and that Brock McGinn is.
That leaves captain Justin Williams. His recent scoring burst boosted his standing offensively, but he could well finish with a mid-40s depth scoring total. At that point, his $4.5 million current salary looks a bit pricey based on production. So then the question is how much the C on his jersey drives as a premium over value based on production.
Wild guess at how it ends: Aho is re-signed to a long-term deal in the $7-8 million range as long as he does not find a higher gear up push up near 100 points. McGinn stays and Di Giuseppe goes from the depth forwards. Teravainen’s next deal drags out the longest, but he is eventually re-signed. Williams takes a small pay cut on his next deal, and I think only one of Martinook and Ferlnad returns.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which, if any, of the three goalies are still with the team for opening night in 2019-20?
2) Do you agree that the Hurricanes are one too many on the blue line and that one of them is traded? If so, who do you think is dealt?
3) What are price and term for Aho and Teravainen’s next deals? Do you think either drags out?
4) Which of Ferland and/or Martinook return? And what would you put for a maximum price for each?