Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe took a try at slotting the current Carolina Hurricanes roster into a winner for the 2018-19 season. A significant part of that project is identifying gaps/needs and filling them. But in a salary cap league and for a team that has historically had internal budgets, there is also a salary math component for this project.
In that regard, a couple of the biggest decisions to be made this summer have a significant salary component included.
1) Jeff Skinner
At the top of the list is Jeff Skinner. He has one year remaining on his current contract at a reasonable $6 million actual salary before he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. As such, the timing is right for the Hurricanes to decide if he is part of the long-term plan and worth a long-term contract this summer, or if instead he is not part of the long-term plan and is more valuable to the team as a trade asset. As I said on Twitter when the deal occurred, I think despite being vastly different in terms of style of play, I think Evander Kane is a decent reference point for Skinner’s next contract because of age and past production. Kane collected a $49 million contract over seven years. I think Skinner’s next deal will be similar. So the question is whether it makes sense to make that kind of commitment to Jeff Skinner for the long-term.
Where I land: In terms of trying to shake things up a bit and also improve, I think Skinner is a player that I would part ways with if I can get a fair return. I just do not think he is the type of elite all-around player that I want if I am going to pay north of $7 million per year long-term.
2) Noah Hanifin
Whereas Jeff Skinner’s situation is high stakes but maybe more of a straightforward either/or choice, Noah Hanifin’s situation is more complex. He just completed his entry-level contract and will need a new contract for the 2018-19 season. As a #5/#6 defenseman who has yet to push up near his ceiling as a #5 overall draft pick, logic would suggest that he is in line for a short-term bridge deal in the neighborhood of $2.5 to $3 million per year. This is pretty similar to the two-year $2.8 million deal that Elias Lindholm received after a modest start to his NHL career on his entry-level deal. But if instead, Hanifin’s agent tries to leverage his all-star selection and higher offensive production and pushes for a deal more like Jaccob Slavin or Brett Pesce’s, the situation is significantly different and would force another hard choice on the Hurricanes’ management.
Where I land: Despite being concerned about Hanifin’s modest development so far, I would love two more years at $2.5 to $3 million per year to see if he can put it all together and push up closer to the high ceiling of his physical abilities. If instead, his agent pushes for more term and more money similar to Pesce or Slavin’s deal, I would pass because of the risk and significant overpayment relative to his current role. By no means would I trade him at a discount, but I would explore possibilities to get fair value in return instead of taking on a risky contract.
3) Scott Darling
Scott Darling’s situation is different in that he is under contract for three more years at $3.95 million per year. Given the risk in betting on a Scott Darling rebound, the question is if and how much it would cost to add another starting goalie option. None of the options are particularly appealing. Buying him out would be pricey at $1.3 million per year for six years. As I wrote awhile back, I still think eating half of his salary and sending him back to Chicago could be the best option, but if the Blackhawks want a trade asset too, it starts to become a pricey endeavor. Finally, and what indications from the team are, the most likely option is that the Hurricanes keep Darling hoping for a rebound. The question in that scenario is what kind of budget could still be mustered for help.
Where I land: If I could unload Darling and start fresh after retaining half of his salary without only a modest sweetener to do the deal, I would do so. Otherwise I would begrudgingly ride another year deep into his contract hoping for a rebound.
What say you on each of these financial situations?
Please also add broader opinions on these three situations in the comments.