In that article I touched on the Hurricanes salary cap and contract considerations that make for different situations for 2020-21 and then 2021-22 and beyond.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes that starting point and looks at Canes contract situations from a few different angles.
Overbooked in net
In Petr Mrazek, James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic, the Hurricanes have three goalies on one-way contracts for the 2020-21.
More significant than Nedeljkovic’s one-way deal (which means he gets paid an NHL salary even if in the AHL but could still go there) is the fact that Nedeljkovic would need to clear waivers to go to the AHL. If the Hurricanes tried to send him through waivers a rebuilding team or a team needing a backup goalie would surely claim him for free. So the only way out of the logjam is trading one of the three.
My best bet is that the Hurricanes will start the season with three goalies at the NHL level, but if the team does want to unload a veteran, Reimer could be fairly easily movable to the right team. First, he is coming off a strong 2019-20 season which makes him a viable veteran backup. In addition, his contract is odd in that the Hurricanes already paid $2.25 of the $3.1 million owed to him. That means that the out of pocket cost for Reimer for the actual 2020-21 season is only a meager $850,000. That could facilitate a trade in a couple ways. First, for any team that does not have salary cap concerns, he is incredibly cheap. Second, if the Hurricanes do not decide to use their available cap space, retaining part of Reimer’s contract would be inexpensive in terms of real dollars paid.
Potential exodus of unrestricted free agents on the blue line
The greatest area for potential keep or let go decision for the Hurricanes this summer will be on the blue line. There a trio of veterans are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Trevor van Riemsdyk, Joel Edmundson and Sami Vatanen are all players who slot somewhere between #4 and #6 for the Hurricanes but could maybe slot higher on a team hurting for blue line help. Best bet is that all three can get better term and salary from a team who views them as a top #4 defenseman and/or does not have better options for that slot. Based on that, I think all three accept better offers elsewhere and that the Hurricanes are okay with that unavoidable reality.
If I had to pick one of the three mostly likely to surprise a bit and stay, it would be Joel Edmundson. He brings a bit of the snarl and physical side that the Hurricanes are maybe a bit light on. He also had productive stints in the top 4 early in the season pairing with Brett Pesce and then also in the playoffs before being sidelined with an injury. So I think he is the one of the three that the Hurricanes will at least have discussions with. Just maybe if the flat cap tamps down salaries, the Hurricanes re-sign Edmundson at a slight premium for only one year (when Canes have bit of cap space) or for a discount for a couple years.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
As a known quantity and consistent performer, the Hurricanes would be happy to have Trevor van Riemsdyk back as a third pairing and/or depth defenseman. But I would be surprised to see that happen just because I think van Riemsdyk can garner a somewhat bigger role and salary on a team with less depth on the blue line.
Vatanen was a net positive in the playoffs, but one thing that become increasingly obvious to me as the playoffs progressed was that he just does not have the lateral mobility and quickness to be an every game top 4 defenseman in the NHL at this stage of his career. He could fit nicely as a third pairing defenseman and power play trigger man, but somewhat like the previous two, he is likely to get a better offer elsewhere.
The one free agent defenseman who is likely to be back is Haydn Fleury. His progress late in the regular season which was repeated in the playoffs suddenly has him as an up-and comer. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, he played the majority of the season in a third pairing role. He was scratched some playing in only 45 of 68 regular season games and averaged only 13:29 of ice time. As such, the base raise he would get for a one-year deal will be modest. Best for him might be to take a one-year deal for something like $1.25 to $1.5 million with the aim of building on what he did in the latter part of the 2019-20 season to set him up for a more significant payday next summer. If Fleury is willing and the Hurricanes want to re-sign Fleury for multiple years, Fleury will be able to collect some on the extra years. I could see something like two or three years being more like $1.75 to $2 million per year. Regardless, Fleury is definitely a player who will be re-signed.
For me, the most intriguing contract situation on defense is Dougie Hamilton’s. Without an expansion draft looming next summer, it could make a ton of sense to ink Hamilton to a new deal this off-season before he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But the expansion draft potentially changes that. My math says that the Hurricanes as configured right now would need to protect Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton. That would leave Brady Skjei (who was just acquired for a first-round pick), Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury unprotected. But if the Hurricanes can work toward an understanding and expected contract with Hamilton without actually signing him, that would make it possible to protect one of Fleury or Skjei in addition to Slavin and Pesce and then re-signing Hamilton as an unrestricted free agent after the expansion draft. To do this would require letting Hamilton become an unrestricted free agent, but because he seems to like his situation and team, might this be a worth risk taking to protect another player?
Mostly standard work at forward
The contract work at the forward position is a bit more routine.
Warren Foegele is a restricted free agent who is almost certain to be back in the fold. His two seasons of NHL experience and 30 points in 2019-20 likely garner him Brock McGinn type money for his next contract. I would expect him to be re-signed something like $1.75 to $2.25 million per year. That works fine for 2020-21, but the question that is on the way is how many $2 million depth forwards the team can afford while still keeping the higher-end players in the mix. If Foegele nets $2 million per year, he would join McGinn and Martinook as depth players making north of $2 million per year. That might not work for 2021-22 when Svechnikov must be re-signed.
Justin Williams is a wild card. He played for a base salary of only $700,000 last year, so if he were to return, it would likely be with an increase. But my hunch without any specific basis is that Williams rides off into the sunset having fulfilled him mission of helping this team get over the playoff hump to regain NHL relevance.
Just like on defense, the most interesting contract situation is one that is not up until next off-season. But with Svechnikov rising and certainly part of the long-term future for the team, it makes a lot of sense to re-sign him sooner rather than later. Having Svechnikov re-signed might net a modest discount if he takes another step up in 2020-21. In addition, having his contract completed would be helpful in terms of understanding what salary cap budget is available for 2020-21 and forward as the team considers other player moves. Svechnikov’s trajectory is similar but a little bit short of Aho’s so far. Could the Hurricanes use that to get Svechnikov under contract for a notch lower than Aho at something like $6.5 to $7.5 million per year? Or will Svechnikov’s agent be able to claim credit for a next step in 2021-22 such that Svechnikov pushes for and gets something in the neighborhood of Aho’s $8.5 million per year. He has pedigree and production/trajectory as a 20-year old. In today’s NHL it is really hard to get discounts on that even for restricted free agents, so I would be happy to get Svechnikov under contract long-term for something like $7 to $8 million per year.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Of the three veteran blue-liners in van Riemsdyk, Edmundson and Vatanen, do you think there is a chance that the Hurricanes re-sign any of them?
2) What are your thoughts on Dougie Hamilton? Is there a chance that with Brady Skjei added that the team is actually willing to let Hamilton leave next summer if the price pushes too high? What do you think of the idea of negotiating but not actually signing Hamilton until after the expansion draft clears?
3) What is your wild guess for term and salary for next contracts for restricted free agents Fleury and Foegele?
4) Do you think the Hurricanes will re-sign Svechnikov a year early? If so, what would you guess for term and salary?