Even not doing big deals for high-end free agents, the Hurricanes had another big day and continued their run as one of the most active teams in the NHL.
First, Sebastian Aho signed an offer sheet. My detailed thoughts on that are HERE.
Then the Hurricanes announced that the team had re-signed Petr Mrazek to a two-year deal that pays him $3 million 2019-20 and $3.25 million in 2020-21.
The right deal
I mostly wrote my thoughts on this situation in previous articles, so I will share snippets of those and add a few thoughts. If you wish to read it in full, that article from June 20 is HERE.
From June 20:
So if I am right that the Hurricanes view Mrazek as half of a 1A/1B tandem and prefer short-term to leave a possible opening for Nedeljkovic, that would suggest 2-3 years at a yearly salary salary of $3-4 million. If Mrazek and/or his agent instead think of Mrazek as now being worthy of being a true #1 for an extended period of time, that would suggest 4-5 years and possibly a salary in the $4-5 million range. That is the potential gap right now on the high end.
I think this is where the negotiation was all along. Mrazek had a right to explore free agency and at least a chance that another team would commit to more of a pure #1 salary in a $4-5 million range and for 4-5 years, so when the Hurricanes came in on the lower-end of the range, he chose to at least explore that. But Don Waddell has said all along that the team was still communicating with Mrazek which suggested that both sides were still interested if they could reach the right deal. Once Mrazek tested the market, this deal was probably pretty much done.
The right goalie
I do think Mrazek was the best option available (not counting Bobrovsky, etc. who were not realistic options). His 2018-19 season was more of a mixed bag than most fans remember. He started slow and kind of worked his way into it by the midway point of the season. The solid version of Mrazek from that point forward is the one that people remember. Ups and downs noted, Mrazek is a known quantity, capable starter when playing well and part of the positive energy from 2018-19.
Now who fits where with four goalies
With the addition of Petr Mrazek, the Hurricanes now have what they need to enter to the 2019-20 season.
The question is who fits where now that the team has four potential NHL goalies under contract. I think it sorts out like this…
Petr Mrazek is the 1A part of a 1A/1B with the potential to assume more of a #1 role if he starts well. So he very clearly slots in a role to get a good number of starts out of the gate.
Alex Nedeljkovic very clearly has a place somewhere. He could slot as the second NHL goalie, or if the team retains James Reimer, Nedeljkovic could drop back to the AHL starting job with hope of also getting some NHL starts.
That leaves the two wild cards.
The primary aim of the James Reimer trade was to unload Scott Darling’s contract and ideally get a player back who had some utility. Darling was never going to play another game in the Hurricanes organization.
What is not certain is where the Hurricanes envisioned Reimer fitting into the goalie mix and also if that changed with the signing of Mrazek. There are a couple possibilities. It could be that the hoped for goal was to sign Mrazek or another capable 1A/1B goalie and to have Reimer in the other slot with Nedeljkovic waiting in the wings. It could be that the team liked Reimer as a fallback but only until Mrazek or someone else was signed. With Nedeljkovic able to go back and forth from the AHL without clearing waivers, the potential is there for the Hurricanes to primarily slot two veterans at the NHL level but to still try to get Nedeljkovic some NHL action while getting a regular workload as the AHL starter.
It would not make sense to send Reimer to the AHL. He either slots as a second goalie at the NHL level or otherwise is expendable.
Anton Forsberg is yet another wild card. If Reimer departs and Nedeljkovic is the second NHL goalie, Forsberg makes sense as a veteran with NHL experience to be the #3 goalie who slots in the AHL. If instead Reimer stays and Nedeljkovic slots in the AHL, Forsberg would then seem to be the one extra. If he is signed to a two-way contract, the issue could possibly be resolved by the Hurricanes loaning him to another AHL team.
How does it shake out?
If the team’s plans are to move James Reimer, it would not likely say anything publicly as it would be bush league to add a player and then say he is not wanted. But my best guess is that now that Mrazek is in the mix that the Hurricanes preference would be to trade James Reimer to make room for Alex Nedeljkovic at the NHL level which also makes room for Anton Forsberg at the AHL level.
If that hoped for plan is correct, the question is what the team will do if it cannot trade James Reimer. Does the team then adjust its plan temporarily to slot Reimer at the NHL level until a trade can be found? Or do the Canes generate a bit of a mess bumping Nedeljkovic to the NHL and Reimer and his $3.1 million salary to the AHL?
My wild guess is that Mrazek and Nedeljkovic start in the NHL or end up there by November that Reimer is traded and that Forsberg is part of the AHL tandem.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on the Petr Mrazek signing on Monday?
2) How do you think the four goalies slot, and do you think any are traded?