Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a small collection of random Canes notes that have yet to make it into a bigger article or add another layer of detail.
Standings de ja vu
With a big win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, the Hurricanes now sit three points out of the final playoff spot currently occupied by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus also has a game in hand, so by my games above .500 adjusted math, the Hurricanes are four points out of a playoff spot.
If one looks at the standings for February 5, 2018 (highly recommend dropyourgloves.com for checking standings on past dates), the picture looks very similar. The Hurricanes were actually two points better at one point out of a playoff spot but giving up one game in hand. Using my adjusted math, the Hurricanes were two points off the pace, which is two points worse than right now.
Put simply, the Hurricanes are in familiar territory right now. The challenge in front of the team right now is charting a different course forward as the pressure rises and it becomes make or break time for the playoffs. From this point forward last year, the team actually went 3-0-1 but then followed that up by doing a nose dive heading into the trade deadline by crashing with an 0-6-2 record leading up to the trade deadline.
With the extension of Jordan Martinook during the off week, the Hurricanes took care of one impending unrestricted free agent. Still on the roster is a sizable group of impending unrestricted free agents in Justin Williams, Curtis McElhinney, Petr Mrazek, Micheal Ferland,
If the Hurricanes are even within ‘remote chance’ range of the playoffs, Justin Williams would stay for certain, and the team would be inclined to stand pat with the goalies to give the team a chance but also because both who would be backups for playoff-bound teams would yield only a modest return.
But the big question mark is Micheal Ferland who has made regular appearances in the rumor mill recently. I discussed his situation in some detail on January 21, so this is an extension of that. From a Canes standpoint, Ferland has done about everything he can to carve out a role on the team. As a power forward who can skate and has decent finishing ability, he meshed well with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen early in the season. And his size with scoring ability is something that the Hurricanes could use. So Ferland is not a question of fit or team need. Rather, Ferland is a question about value and risk. If he wants a max type deal that spans 4-6 years and possibly pushes north of $5 million per year, the Hurricanes have to consider the risk and potential outcomes of such a deal. I am on record as being willing to pay high but only for a shorter-term deal of two, maybe three years. I would not do the 4-6 year deal for more than $5 million per year simply because of risk.
If the team is in the playoff chase come trade deadline time and if Ferland is not likely going to be re-signed, the tough question for Canes management is whether the team should keep him for the playoff chase sort of as an internal rental or if it should instead collect a return for trading him. Because of his sub-$2 million salary cap hit that fits in even the tightest of budgets and his desired skill set as a power forward, Ferland would likely net a good return likely to include a high draft pick (first or second round) and possibly more. That is tough to pass up if the Hurricanes know at that point that Ferland will likely be leaving as a free agent in July.
Because of the size of the return, I would begrudgingly trade Ferland if he is not going to be re-signed. I would then turn around and spend a mid-round draft pick or two to back fill Ferland’s spot with another forward even if it is a depth player. If Waddell could work some magic, the team could net a first round pick, lose only a fourth round pick and get a player to replace Ferland to boot.
Auston Matthews’ potential impact on the Carolina Hurricanes
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced that the team had extended Auston Matthews for five years at a whopping $11.63 million per year. Current math shows the Leafs with $7.6 million of cap room for 2019-20 and still eight roster spots to fill including re-signing Kasperi Kapanen and Mitch Marner. The Leafs do get some cap relief from Nathan Horton’s $5 million LTIR and also the likelihood that the salary cap will increase next season. But even still, the math most certainly means that the Leafs will need to trade a player or two. This situation could put William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Mitch Marner in play. With the Hurricanes needing another forward or two, this could be relevant to the Canes.
The other interesting upshot is Sebastian Aho’s contract situation. Aho will need to be re-signed this summer if not earlier. Aho was drafted one year earlier, but is similarly coming off of his entry-level contract. Matthews missed some time due to injury, but his scoring pace for 82 games is 99 points. Aho is not far behind at 95. I do not think Aho would be able to negotiate for Matthews type money simply because Matthews has posted bigger totals in prior years. But as a young superstar who is a team leader offensively, I do think Matthews contract matters. First, it sets a precendent for young stars seeking the maximum possible versus at least considering what is best for the team. Second, though Aho might be a notch below Matthews, Aho’s next deal could still use Matthews’ deal as a reference point.
When the season started, I thought the Hurricanes would do well to get Aho signed long-term for maybe a tiny bit less than $7 million per year. With his 95-point scoring pace for 2018-19, that number likely pushed up into the $8 million range. The question is whether Matthews’ deal makes sense and whether Aho would push for as close to that as possible.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Would you have guessed that the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes are actually about two points farther out of a playoff spot than last season’s team? Do you think the team will be able to better navigate the trade deadline lead up that has sunk the Hurricanes in recent years.
2) What do you think of the Auston Matthews’ contract in terms of impacting Sebastian Aho’s next contract? Also, which if any of the potentially available Maple Leafs forwards would you consider pursuing?