Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe with random player notes on Warren Foegele, Brett Pesce, Phil Di Giuseppe and Teuvo Teravainen initially had issues with the comments being closed. If anyone wants to stir up a conversation there, it should be open now.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a quick look at the Hurricanes current and future salary structure.
Increasingly in today’s NHL, teams that do not have one of the dozen-ish bona fide #1 goalies utilize a tandem of two goalies both of whom earn a salary above the backup level. With a going market rate of $2.5 to to $3.5 million for 1A/1B level goalies in the second tier and with good not even elite starters now regularly signing for $6 million or more, the Hurricanes $5.6 million salary commitment for the position is modest by today’s NHL norms. The burning question is whether he duo of Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek can play at least around league average.
Scott Darling‘s $4 million salary is very reasonable if he can rebound and be an average NHL goalie, but if he cannot, $4 million is too much to drag forward for a backup goalie.
Petr Mrazek‘s $1.5 million salary is also a very reasonable price for a backup with starting experience, but as with Darling, the key is that Mrazek must rebound and be at least decent.
The blue line is where the Hurricanes have the potential to shine in terms of salary cap management. Solid top 4 defensemen regularly clock in at around $6 million per year. As such, the Hurricanes have done well in building a top 4 that features players still in their prime but at a discount to the $6 million salary benchmark.
Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce begin their new contracts for the 2018-19 season and will earn a combined $9.3 million yearly for the foreseeable future. Newly-acquired Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan clock in a bit higher at $5.75 million and $4.55 million respectively, but still at a discount. The four players average $4.9 million per year. Justin Faulk arguably gives the Hurricanes one too many top 4 defensemen right now, but interestingly his salary comes in at a comparable $4.8 million. Then if you add in third pairing defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk at $2.3 million and Haydn Fleury still playing on his entry-level contract for $863,333, the Hurricanes have managed to build a pretty solid blue line that averages under 25 years of age with de Haan as the elder statesman at only 27 years old.
Players must perform to justify any salary, but heading into the 2018-19 season one has to like the current talent level and price for the Hurricanes blue line if the team ultimately trades Justin Faulk.
The Hurricanes forward group is a bit more of a mixed bag.
The team benefits significantly from Sebastian Aho, Brock McGinn and Andrei Svechnikov still playing on entry-level contracts for less than $1 million per year. Similarly, any of the Charlotte Checkers group that includes Warren Foegele, Valentin Zykov, Lucas Wallmark, Martin Necas and others would also be playing for less than $1 million in 2018-19 if they make the NHL roster. Phil Di Giuseppe, Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook are also all playing on modest sub-$2 million contracts. Add in the $2.86 million that Teuvo Teravainen will earn in 2018-19, and the Hurricanes could stock almost a full set of forwards on sub-$2 million contracts.
The team does have two sets of pricier contracts.
First, middle nine forwards Victor Rask and Justin Williams earn $4 million and $4.5 million respectively. Relative to a down 2017-18 campaign, Rask is definitely priced higher than his current level of play. He would be a great fourth-line center with decent two-way play and modest scoring. But as even a third line center, Rask is probably overpaid right now. Williams in terms of raw offensive production is either fairly priced or maybe a bit high. But he did put up a solid 51 points in 2017-18, and if he is given the chance to lead and can help effect the change necessary to win, then splitting hairs on an exact fair salary quickly fades into the background.
Finally, at the top of the salary table for forwards is Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner who will both earn $6 million in 2018-19. With salary inflation running high right now, I think one can make a strong case that $6 million is a fair price for an elite checking line center and a high-end scorer.
When one nets out the forward situation, it is a bit like the goalie position. The team is below the norm for total salary, but that is only a bargain if the players perform at a high level.
Looking into the future
As noted above, the key for the goalie position is level of play not price at this point. If Darling rebounds, no one will care to split hairs on a fair price. But if he fails again in 2018-19, the Hurricanes could well be forced to buy him out and start anew at the goalie position yet again.
If the team trades Justin Faulk as I expect, the blue line really is the prize of the team right now with solid young players locked in for prices that are below market prices right now and likely to just continue becoming better bargains over time.
The wild cards at forward are the next contracts for Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. If Aho takes even a modest step forward to the 70-80-point range, he could push up into the second tier of forwards and up to an $8 million salary for his next contract. And if Teravainen stays with Aho and rises similarly production-wise, he could be right behind him. The team does still have a number of players on entry-level or similarly priced contracts, but if Aho and Teravainen push up in price next summer as expected, the team’s cost structure at forward will start to look more like the NHL standard.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Of the group of defensemen signed to reasonable deals, whose contract do you think represents the biggest bargain?
2) What do you anticipate for next contracts for Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen?
3) Who has other thoughts/insights on the Hurricanes salary structure both currently and also looking into the future?