Happy Martin Luther King Day! I hope that everyone who has the day off enjoys it and also that everyone pauses for a moment to consider what Martin Luther King stood for and accomplished.
Over the past couple weeks, the Carolina Hurricanes have been a newsworthy bunch. We are now multiple weeks deep into the team being regularly mentioned in the trade rumor mills that are starting to kick up with the trade deadline just over a month away.
To no surprise, the Hurricanes are allegedly open to trading a right shot defenseman to add a forward. But the bigger news has been rumors and rumblings that impending free agent Micheal Ferland could be on the trade block. Elliotte Friedman has mentioned Ferland a couple times as have others.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at the Micheal Ferland situation from multiple angles.
Micheal Ferland’s contract situation and trade value
Ferland is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so if the Hurricanes keep him but do not re-sign him, they run the risk of losing him or nothing to free agency on our after July 1.
His current contract is only $1.75 million. That number could be relevant to the situation in two ways. First, that low salary cap amount should be a positive for trade value. That amount should fit into even the tightest of salary cap budgets which could boost the return if the Hurricanes choose to trade him. Second, the low salary makes it more likely that he goes for the maximum payday next summer which likely means testing free agency. As a player who is not old but not young at 26 years old and who plays a rugged style that could result in injuries, this summer could be his only chance for a big contract in terms of yearly salary and term.
Especially once the low salary is factored in, Ferland will be one of the top forwards available if he is in fact on the trade market when the trade deadline comes. It is not out of the question that he could garner a first round draft pick plus even something else.
Micheal Ferland’s history
Despite being 26 year old, Ferland is only in his fifth season in the NHL. He played only 26 games in his rookie season. The next two seasons saw his scoring at the NHL level develop modestly. He had 18 points and then 25 points in his first two full NHL seasons. Then he had a break out of sorts during the 2017-18 season with 41 points. But the season was really more of a tale of two halves. During the first half of 2017-18, Ferland surged playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. But then he faded down the stretch and finished with a modest 21 goals and 41 points in 77 games. So prior to the current season, Ferland had had exactly half of one season where he looked to be more than a physical depth forward.
Micheal Ferland with the Hurricanes
Ferland seemed to hit the ground running playing on Sebastian Aho’s scoring line with Teuvo Teravainen. Through 24 games, Ferland had 11 goals. Simple math suggested that he could push up to 30-40 goals which is very clearly something that the Hurricanes need. But maybe more significant than goal scoring statistics, Ferland is a strong complementary player for a scoring line. He brings a power forward element to Aho’s line. Ferland also meshes skill set-wise. Whereas Aho and Teravainen tend to do the heavy lifting in terms of distributing the puck, Ferland brings a power forward element that can attract attention and create space. He also has good hands and good receive/finish skills such that he can be effective and score without playing much with the puck on his stick. That last part is important in terms of meshing with Aho and Teravainen.
In that regard, the goal-scoring version of Ferland is the type of player that the Hurricanes very much need with his size and efficiency scoring without needing to have the puck much to do so. So if one could guarantee Canes Ferland 1.0 from the first one-third of the season, it would be a no-brainer to re-sign him.
But Ferland is not guaranteed to replicate the highs of his career thus far. When one considers the math above, he has exactly two stretches of hockey and a total of about 60-70 games performing as a top forward. He surged during the first half of the 2017-18 season, and he also surged briefly at the start of the 2018-19 season.
So if Ferland is looking to capitalize on one big payday in the neighborhood of $6-7 million per year for a 5-6-year term, the raise would be sizable. And I think this is where I think many do not get Ferland’s risk on a long-term contract. The potential is certainly there for Ferland to deteriorate to being just a capable third-liner. If that occurs, a $6-7 million salary per year will be a gross overpayment for a third or fourth line player. And with the Hurricanes cost structure going forward, the team could need this salary cap budget to keep other key players in the mix.
If he gets paid as a top 6 scoring forward, Ferland’s salary would probably clock in at $6-8 million per year for six years. But if instead, Ferland’s next contract has him slotted into more of a depth role with less scoring, then his salary could drop to $3-6 million per year. Therein lies the complexity and risk with Ferland’s next contract. If he signs for 6 years for $6 million or more annually, he really needs to stick in a top 6 role and maintain a top 6 scoring pace.
The Nino Niederreiter factor
Ferland’s value to the Hurricanes could also be affected by how well newly-acquired Nino Niederreiter plays down the stretch. At least at a top level, Ferland and Niederreiter are similar players as power forwards who can score. So if Niederreiter slides up onto a top scoring line and Ferland instead slides down and both players score accordingly, Niederreiter could effectively replace Ferland and make him available for trade.
Where do I land?
1–First, I do not feel comfortable signing Ferland to a contract with more than a few years of term just because of the risk with his track record. Per what I said above, I just think that the broader population too much considers Ferland a sure thing after 40-ish game and then 25-ish game surges.
2–This might sound odd, but I would actually rather pay more salary and not take on full term. If possible (and it might not be), I would sign Ferland to a three-year deal at $6 or even $6.5 million per year before I signed him to a long-term deal spanning more than 5 years even if the price is lower.
3–Though Niederreiter does make it a bit easier to let Ferland go, I do not see Niederreiter’s arrival as making Ferland obsolete. The Hurricanes could actually use two scoring power forwards.
4–So at 5-6 years at $6.5 million or more, I would be begrudgingly consider trading him versus taking on maximum risk with this contract.
5–But at a lower price, I like Ferland as the type of player the Hurricanes need to boost scoring.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Given Ferland’s track record, what level of risk do you place on signing Ferland to a long-term contract?
2) Do you see Nino Niederreiter as a potential replacement for Ferland?
3) What term and yearly salary would you be comfortable with to keep Ferland in the mix going forward?