Though much can change over the course of a long NHL season, the early-going of the 2019-20 has the potential to eventually exert upward pressure on the Hurricanes salary structure. Andrei Svechnikov has one more season after this one still at a bargain basement entry-level salary. Dougie Hamilton is also signed through the 2020-21 season. With those two players leading the team in scoring right now, the prices of their next contracts are escalating. Erik Haula who is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer leads the team in goals.
For the first time in team history, the team will push up against the salary cap and be forced to make difficult decisions on who to keep and where to allocate a limited budget. The Canes have already shown a willingness to defer to reasonable math and part ways with good players whose next contract demands did not check out math-wise. In fact, the team has probably parted ways with as many higher-end players as it has chosen to re-sign with the departure list including Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. No doubt the team will have additional next contracts to consider.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a quick look at the Carolina Hurricanes salary cap situation out a couple years.
2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes salary cap situation
With the team pressing up against the salary cap in 2019-20, one might assume that the Canes will be limited financially for the 2020-21 season. A deeper inspection of the situation suggests that that is not the case. The Canes have about $7 million come off the books without needing to replace a player between Patrick Marleau and the retained salary on Justin Faulk. And the only unrestricted free agents who must be re-signed or replaced are middle of the roster players Trevor van Riemsdyk, Joel Edmundson and Erik Haula. Haydn Fleury, Warren Foegele and Lucas Wallmark are worth watching for 2019-20 production. All three are restricted free agents who are making less than $1 million in 2019-20. So if any of them were to have a break out season, his next contract could escalate.
But in total, the Hurricanes should have almost $10 million potentially available to replace two defensemen who currently slot in the bottom pairing and a third line center. The team will probably not want to spend all of that budget because of what follows, but with the core locked up, next summer should be very workable.
2021-22 Carolina Hurricanes salary cap situation
The situation becomes more interesting and potentially challenging for the 2021-22 season. Before the 2021-22 season, Andrei Svechnikov must be re-signed and will obviously see a sizable increase from his standard $925,000 entry-level deal. In addition, Dougie Hamilton comes off his current $5.75 million contract. The team will get some relief with James Reimer coming off his $3.4 million deal and likely to be replaced for much less than that (Alex Nedeljkovic?). That summer also seems Petr Mrazek and Ryan Dzingel come off nice middle-ish type contracts at $3.125 and $3.375 million respectively. If Svechnikov continues his ascent and becomes another Aho, Marner, Rantanen, etc. type situation commanding $8-10 million, this will be when things get tough and the team is forced to make some difficult choices. The expansion draft could help if perhaps the team let go of someone like Gardiner to keep Hamilton. And the team does also FINALLY get back the $2.3 million cap hit for Alexander Semin.
My math says they save about $4.7 million on Reimer and Semin.
The team maybe breaks even on re-signing or replacing Mrazek and Dzingel with comparable players.
And then Svechnikov’s increase likely costs something between $4 and $8 million with Hamilton possibly also garnering a raise.
The key to making 2021-22 work will be not spending the limit for 2020-21 unless some of that spending includes contracts that end after the 2020-21 season.
When I look at the schedule for the team’s salary, I think the team has a nice two-year window during which it can keep the current roster almost completely intact if it wishes to. Then after that, the team has about another three years with the young core mostly locked up, but those latter three years could see the team have to make some changes before 2021-22 to fit Svechnikov’s next contract and possibly re-signing Hamilton.
An interesting side note is the state and actions of the team. I get the sense that the team is truly becoming one where many players do want to stay. That combined with the fact that the team has not been shy about trading even high-end players whose contract demands did not line up with what the team was willing to pay. That at least makes it possible for the Hurricanes to garner some discounts with players who do not want to risk being the next mid/late summer trade.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on the team’s salary cap situation in general?
2) Of the players set to come off of current contracts in the next couple years, who do you see as part of the core to be kept versus possibly expendable?
3) What is your guess for how things shake out with Hamilton Svechnikov in two years?