Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has a random collection of Canes notes.
Is the time right to re-sign Alex Nedeljkovic?
QUICK UPDATE AT LUNCHTIME THURSDAY: Petr Mrazek showed up today on Canes injured list with a lower body issue. The path could now be clear for Nedeljkovic to play 6 of last 11 to reach 28 games and therefore remain a restricted free agent instead of becoming an unrestricted free agent if he does not reach 28 games including regular season and playoffs. If he does now track toward staying a restricted free agent, the urgency to get something done sooner is avoided.
At the beginning of the 2020-21 season, the ‘would be good enough’ hope for Alex Nedeljkovic was that he would find some NHL ice time and play well enough to be counted on as a serviceable and inexpensive backup for the 2021-22 season when James Reimer’s contract ended. Remember that the Canes actually sent Nedeljkovic across waivers before the season to get him to the taxi squad to save on salary cap. Lucky for the Canes, I am not a general manager for a down on its look team that could easily take a free trial on a young goalie with pedigree and potential upside. Ironically, I was not that high on Nedeljkovic at the time (nor prior), but at absolutely zero cost except paying his near minimum salary, the chance was there for a lottery ticket with a big prize. Call it simple risk/reward and/or finance options type analysis. The risk was virtually nothing, while the potential reward as we are seeing now was fairly significant.
But I digress…
In the here and now, Nedeljkovic’s success has created a new problem. He would need to play six more games this season (counting regular season and playoffs) to avoid becoming an unrestricted free agent. With only 11 games remaining, Mrazek theoretically up next and even the possibility that Reimer gets a start down the stretch, Nedeljkovic seems like to finish the regular season short by a game or two unless the team makes a concerted effort to do otherwise. At this point, the same set up teams who likely regret passing on Nedeljkovic when he was on waivers have the option to take a somewhat riskier flyer betting that he is ready to be an NHL starter and offering him a 1A/1B type contract in the range of $2.5 to $3 million per year for 2-3 years. That would put the Hurricanes in a difficult spot having to decide if they would be willing to commit at that level based on 20-21 starts during the current season.
Assuming Nedeljkovic likes where he is and is not anxious to test free agency, might it make sense for the Hurricanes to re-sign Nedeljkovic now? The ship that had him re-signing for a true backup salary of $900,000 to $1.2 million for a year or two has sailed. But might the Hurricanes be able to sign him to a middle ground type contract in the neighborhood of $1.7 to $2 million per year for two years? It would not surprise me if the team tries to move now while there is still at least a possibility that it could push him into the crease a bit more, negate the possibility of unrestricted free agency and somewhat decrease Nedeljkovic’s negotiating rights. Note that Nedeljkovic does have arbitration rights, so especially with a strong finish, his price could still escalate.
Just like with many constract situations for this summer, the expansion draft something to consider. The Hurricanes must offer at least one goalie with NHL experience, and on the flip side can only protect one. The way to game the system, would be to re-sign only one of Nedeljkovic or Mrazek before the expansion draft and protect them. Second would be to trade for another or re-sign Reimer to be exposed and meet the experience requirement. Third would be to re-sign the other of Mrazek or Nedeljkovic after the expansion draft.
If I was Don Waddell, I would try to get a two-year deal done for something like $1.7 per year but be willing to stretch to $2 million.
Where does it make sense to slot Teuvo Teravainen when he returns?
With Teuvo Teravainen inching closer to return to the lineup, the question is where he would slot. The tried and true is of course to reunite him with Sebastian Aho, and there is nothing wrong with ending up there. But at least initially, I would go a different direction and try pairing him with Vincent Trocheck. The time the two spent in the lineup together was mostly during the 2019-20 season and playoffs before Trocheck launched. Trocheck’s game is reasonably well-rounded, but the 2020-21 version of him that has been on fire leans finishing over playmaking. Teravainen, to a fault sometimes, likes to distribute the puck versus looking to score himself. Teravainen would also add a two-way balance to that line if it has Niederreiter of Svechnikov on the other wing. With Aho and Necas having some chemistry together, I think I would at least try Teravainen away from Aho to gauge the effectiveness. It is not like Aho and Teravainen would need time to get back up to speed if reunited later. Teravainen feeding scoring chances to Trocheck and Svechnikov or Niederreiter sounds interesting. Give it a look.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you think the chances are that the Hurricanes act early and re-sign Alex Nedeljkovic during the regular season? What is the contract that strikes a middle ground between Nedeljkovic getting at least part of what he earned and the Hurricanes being willing to spend early versus risking an uncertain situation later?
2) Where would you slot Teuvo Teravainen in the lineup initially? Do you think he ultimately finds his way back to Aho’s line?