If you missed it yesterday and want to catch up, part 1 of this series covered the NHL legalese for free agent contracts and dealings hopefully in enough detail for practical use without delving to the depths of an academic law and contract course.
Part 2 today brings it back to 1400 Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh where Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis will need to negotiate (or not negotiate) new deals with the Hurricanes’ (and possibly other teams’) free agents.
The Hurricanes’ free agents sort out into a few categories:
Unrestricted free agents at NHL level
These players are scheduled to become free agents on July 1 and will at that time have the opportunity to sign with any team without that team needing to compensate the Carolina Hurricanes for the transaction.
Ryan is coming off a strong 2016-17 in a depth role (as written up in his ‘report card’ article). The burning questions are where he fits in the Hurricanes’ lineup going forward and whether he thinks he can find a better opportunity elsewhere. As I wrote in his report card article, I think his relationship with Bill Peters and position as a known quantity in the Hurricanes organization present as good of an opportunity for Ryan as he will find with at most a handful of equal or better opportunities possibly including Las Vegas. I would be happy to have him back ideally on a two-way contract with a premium salary at the AHL level and/or a full season minimum salary guarantee which accomplishes the same thing. Given the need for depth and his ability to provide that in 2016-17, I would actually be willing to sign Ryan to a one-way deal but only for one year and at a modest price ($700,000-900,000). If he wants a multi-year commitment on a one-way deal, I would begrudgingly let him shop elsewhere for it. Right now, my roster math has Ryan slotted to compete for a depth forward slot or otherwise fit nicely as a veteran #13 forward who can slot in at center or right wing and provide instant offense.
I like Ryan as a known quantity who can bring inexpensive offense and power play help in a depth role, but I would not commit for more than one year (unless it is a two-way contract) nor would I bid high. Since Ryan does have some leverage as an unrestricted free agent and also incentive at age 30 to get the best deal he can get for now, I think the process could be delayed with some negotiating/posturing, but I continue to think that the Hurricanes represent a good fit for Ryan and that he has a good chance to return.
Odds of being re-signed: 50 percent. Role if re-signed: Competing for depth forward role in lineup or otherwise good fit for #13 slot.
With depth emerging and the next wave of youth on the way, my best bet is that Ron Francis will not look to re-sign 34-year Jay McClement. Instead, I think the C4 slot that he occupied for most of the past few seasons will be open for competition for a group including Lucas Wallmark, Derek Ryan if re-signed and others.
Odds of being re-signed: Less than 25 percent. Role if re-signed: Veteran #13 depth forward.
Intermittent chatter over the past 4-5 months has focused on the need for the Hurricanes to get a defenseman under contract to meet the experience requirement and be exposed to the expansion draft instead of Justin Faulk who is the only other Canes blue-liner who meets the experience requirement. With the re-signing of Klas Dahlbeck to fulfill this role, Tennyson figures to be the odd man out. The Hurricanes do need AHL-level blue line depth to fill Charlotte’s roster until the organization can restock its defenseman prospect pool, but it is unclear whether Tennyson would with to sign another two-way deal with the Hurricanes versus exploring options across the other 29 NHL teams. If Tennyson does re-sign, it would be on a two-way contract to provide #8 or lower depth on the depth chart from the AHL level.
Odds of being re-signed: Less than 25 percent; Role if re-signed: AHL defenseman and deep depth.
Restricted free agent with arbitration rights
These players are restricted free agents with incredibly limited ability to pursue offers from other teams, but they have the ability to file for arbitration and have the salary in their next contract determined by an arbitrator. This right provides some negotiating leverage for the player and potentially some risk for the team without the ability to negotiate terms in the arbitration process.
As I write this, I have a query out to CapFriendly to verify what exactly the qualifying offer would be for Nestrasil. I am not 100 percent certain, but in doing some additional research, I think I might have misspoke previously saying that since Nestrasil’s current deal is a one-way deal that his qualifying offer would need to be also. If in fact, Francis could qualify Nestrasil with a two-way deal, the decision becomes more interesting, but I still think that the most likely result is that Francis just decides to eliminate Nestrasil from the Charlotte mix by not qualifying him after Nestrasil’s comments suggesting that he was unhappy with his situation/treatment. More information about Nestrasil and his situation can be found in his ‘report card’ article.
Best bet is that Francis does not qualify Nestrasil which officially sets him loose as a free agent on July 1 though if Francis is comfortable with Nestrasil’s remaining in the organization, he could be nice depth to have ready on a two-way contract at the AHL level.
Odds of being re-signed: Less than 25 percent. Role if re-signed: AHL forward and #15-17 depth forward available for recall.
Restricted NHL-level free agents without arbitration rights
Teravainen is coming off a decent but not spectacular first season with the Carolina Hurricanes (details provided in Teravainen’s ‘report card’ article). His situation is somewhat similar to Lindholm’s when he was re-signed (early) to his second contract a couple years back. Teravainen is a proven NHLer at this point and has at least provided reasonable depth scoring, but he has yet to establish himself as a top half of the roster producer. As such, the most common result for players in this situation is to sign a short-term (2-3 years) bridge deal for a raise but not a true top 6 type salary. Lindholm’s came in at $2.7 million for 2 years. Reader polling in the Monday Coffee Shop also on the Hurricanes’ free agents has Teravainen in a similar range.
My best guess it that Teravainen signs a 2-year bridge deal for $2.2-2.4 million annually.
Probability of being re-signed: Almost certain. Role if re-signed: Teravainen figures to stay in the top 9 but needs to use the 2017-18 season to more concretely carve out a role before the next wave of forward prospects descends on Raleigh.
McGinn and also the next player on this list (Phil Di Giuseppe) are the two players in the expansion draft cross hairs if I am right that Ron Francis will decide to protect veteran Lee Stempniak over one of these two players. Expansion draft aside, McGinn’s contract situation is fairly straightforward. He played 57 games at the NHL level in 2016-17 (details included in McGinn’s ‘report card’ article). His modest scoring makes him a depth player with minimal negotiating leverage for his next deal. The range of what McGinn could earn is fairly narrow. Possibly in play in contract negotiations are whether he can get an upgrade to a one-way deal and also whether he and/or Ron Francis want to commit for more than one season.
Best bet is that McGinn signs for something at or close to his qualifying offer possibly on a one-way deal. My preference is to keep as many depth players as possibly on two-way deals such that there is financial flexibility if the next wave of prospects fill NHL slots sooner than expected.
Probability of being re-signed (if not lost to Las Vegas): Almost certain. Role if re-signed: McGinn figures to be in the dog fight for a fourth-line/depth forward role in 2017-18.
Phil Di Giuseppe
Di Giuseppe’s situation contractually is nearly identical to McGinn’s Di Giuseppe has established himself as a competent NHLer but did not score enough in 2016-17 to be more than a depth forward (details in Di Giuseppe’s ‘report card’ article). As such, Di Giuseppe could be exposed to the expansion draft.
If not claimed, Di Giuseppe has limited negotiating leverage and should be signed for something close to his qualifying offer. As with McGinn, the questions are whether than deal is one or two years and also whether it is a one-way or a two-way deal.
Probability of being re-signed (if not lost to Las Vegas): Almost certain. Role if re-signed: Di Giuseppe figures to be in the battle for a fourth-line/depth forward role in 2017-18.
Players signed through 2017-18 but with potential to be extended early
With the majority of the contract situations detailed above being fairly straightforward, I think the most interesting Hurricanes free agent situations this summer actually revolve around the Hurricanes players who are still on entry-level deals that go through the 2017-18 season.
That least includes the big three on defense in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin whose entry-level contracts all expire next summer. It also includes Elias Lindholm whose second contract expires at the end of the 2017-18. And the there is Sebastian Aho whose entry-level deal still has two years remaining. There are potential pros and cons to signing these players early versus letting their contracts run their course before inking the next one.
He is at the top of my list for players that Francis should re-sign early. I included a Jaccob Slavin extension in my article entitled, “5 Carolina Hurricanes predictions for the offseason,” and on April 6, 2016, also wrote an article entitled, “Why it is time to re-sign Jaccob Slavin and how his contract could broadly impact the Hurricanes future financials.” In short, of Slavin, Pesce and Hanifin, I think Slavin has the greatest potential to increase his scoring in 2017-18 (based on what he did late in 2016-17) which could significantly drive up his price if Francis waits until next summer to re-sign him. Therefore signing Slavin early offers the greatest potential savings for taking the risk of committing early. In addition, if Francis can get Slavin inked to a reasonable deal and he then does boost his offensive production, Slavin’s deal could set a nice benchmark and potential ceiling for when Francis has to negotiate second deals for Pesce, Hanifin and later Fleury. As noted in the latter article, a favorable Slavin contract could reduce risk and future costs for Slavin but also help tamp down the costs of other contracts.
So what deal would I do? Regardless of player, I lean conservative on term no matter what, but Slavin is a player that I would be happy to lock up for 4 years past 2017-18. I have good intentions of looking at this in more detail later, but $4 million annually seems to be a rough number for a relatively proven high-end defenseman’s second contract. I would be absolutely thrilled with 4 years at $3.5 million per season but figure it will take something a bit higher to get a deal done.
Brett Pesce is very much in a similar situation as Slavin. He just completed his second year in the NHL and also the second year of his 3-year entry-level deal. He has very quickly established himself as a top 4 defenseman, actually playing with Slavin and very much being a 50/50 partner in the young pairing’s incredible success during the 2016-17 season. I recently had a conversation that saw CandC writer Cory Fogg arguing vehemently for a double signing of Slavin and Pesce together on identical deals to keep them as equals going forward. Though I do not think it is a requirement that their next contracts be handled that way, his case does have merit. If allowed the possibility of decoupling the pairing in terms of next contracts, I rate Slavin slightly higher only because I think that Slavin possesses a somewhat higher scoring production ceiling and is farther along in reaching it, and there can be a sizable difference in cost between a good top 4 defenseman compared to a good top 4 defenseman who scores too. That said, I would be happy to also make a reasonably long-term (3-4 years) commitment to Pesce and would be fine if that contract lined up with Slavin’s.
So what deal would I do? Despite ranking Slavin slightly above Pesce for re-signing priority, I think an early extension for him would price pretty similar to Slavin’s. Something in the neighborhood of $3.5 million would be a nice middle ground that gives Pesce a sizable raise but is still a nice discount for the team at least relative to veteran unrestricted free agent age top 4 defensemen who regularly cost $5 million or more annually.
Hanifin made significant strides when challenged with a top 4 role after the departure of Ron Hainsey via trade in late February. But when one looks at Hanifin’s season in total, he was still very much a young defenseman learning on the job and not yet established ina top half of the roster role. Because of that, I do not think there is a middle ground or much benefit to be had trying to negotiate an early extension for Hanifin. For him, the 2017-18 season is very much a ‘prove it’ season that will dictate the range for Hanifin’s next contract. If Hanifin plays in a bottom pairing role and struggles at times like he did for the first three-fourths of the 2016-17 season, his next contract will settle in as modest raise on a bridge deal while he continues to learn. If instead, Hanifin build upon the roughly 20 games that he played in a top 4 role at the end of the season, he will push up closer to the category of Slavin and Pesce (though with less run time in that role) and garner a contract closer to theirs in the process.
So what deal would I do? I really do not think there is a deal for Hanifin for this summer. The potential outcomes for 2016-17 vary too wildly, and he has yet to really prove himself as more than a depth defenseman.
Though Lindholm’s is not his entry-level contract, his contract is another that expires at the end of the 2017-18 season. And he is the one player with the potential to see his price escalate even more than Slavin’s with a strong 2017-18 season. As a proven top 9 forward with modest scoring production, Lindholm looked about like Teravainen and maybe even worth a little less than his current $2.7 million contract through about the halfway point of the 2016-17 season. Then a switch seemed to flip suddenly, and Elias Lindholm looked like a completely different player for the remainder of the season. Lindholm’s 45 points in 72 games are not too frightening, but his 32 points (64-point pace over 82 games) projects to a very different salary range if he can continue on that path for the entirety of the 2017-18 season.
If Lindholm continues to be a 40-45-point player over the full season, his next contract is fairly low-risk, but if he exits 2017-18 as a 60-point scorer, his salary demands could double. And that is what Ron Francis needs to consider. Does he bet that Lindholm has finally emerged permanently and try to sign him for a modest discount while he can? Or does he bet that Lindholm’s average for 2016-17 is still about right and trust that he can get a reasonable deal next summer? Remember also that Lindholm will have arbitration rights next summer, so if he plays like a $5 million player in 2017-18, it will be hard for Francis to get him signed for anything less than that.
So what deal would I do? As much as I think it is entirely possible for Lindholm to finally have a full-season break out in 2017-18, I do not feel comfortable committing to 3-4 years at a higher price based on half of a season in 2016-17. Though it could be costly, my inclination would be to ride out the final year of Lindholm’s contract and go from there next summer. If pressed to do a deal, I would be happy to lock Lindholm in for 2-4 years at $3.5 million per year which is a modest raise and what I would consider to be the high end of a good third-liners contract. At that price, even if Lindholm regresses back to 40-45 points, that is a reasonable price. And if Slavin and Pesce come in at $4 million which is also what fellow Swede Victor Rask signed for, just maybe I would be willing to put Lindholm in that same group.
What say you Hurricanes fans?
The free agent situations were the focus of the Monday Coffee Shop, so those situations are already being bandied around there.
But what are your thoughts on re-signing any/all of the three defensemen – Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and/or Noah Hanifin early?
What price and term would you offer each?
What are your thoughts on Elias Lindholm? Did he show enough in 2016-17 to convince you that he turned the corner and that Francis should re-sign him early if he can get a reasonable price? Or would you wait it out until next summer?