In today’s NHL, one key skill set for general managers is being able to creatively maneuver around the salary cap. When with the Lightning, Steve Yzerman was like Houdini being able to somehow get out of bad contracts to always make the salary cap math work. Another option is to pay dearly to unload bad contracts to free up cap space. The Hurricanes obtained Teuvo Teravainen for taking on Bryan Bickell’s salary when the Blackhawks were in a tight spot. And more recently, the Hurricanes obtained a first-round draft pick for taking on Patrick Marleau’s salary and buying him out. While pulling an occasional Houdini on a bad contract or paying a price to unload one present options for salary cap management, the better way is having a proactive plan. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at how the Carolina Hurricanes’ cap situation schedules out over the next couple years.
2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes
If one backs out the salaries of Clark Bishop and Brian Gibbons assuming that both players can be sent to the AHL if necessary, the Hurricanes currently have $3.9 million of cap space remaining. That should be roughly what is needed to re-sign Justin Williams if he decides to return. If Williams returns and ideally signs a contract with part of his pay performance-based, the Hurricanes will not have a ton of flexibility but will have done well trying to increase depth and fill some gaps.
2020-21 Carolina Hurricanes
Based on pushing up again the salary cap for the 2019-20 season, one might assume that the Hurricanes will have a tough time making the math work again for the 2020-21 season. But digging a bit deeper into the numbers shows the Hurricanes to have a good amount of flexibility for next summer. Marleau’s cap hit comes off the books and quickly frees up $6.25 million. Justin Faulk ($4.8M), Trevor van Riemsdyk ($2.3M) and Erik Haula ($2.8M) also have expiring contracts. The result is about $16 million of cap space (assuming no increase in the salary cap) to re-sign or replace only three players and if necessary cover raises for restricted free agents Haydn Fleury, Lucas Wallmark and Warren Foegele. The amount of money available will provide significant flexibility to re-sign Faulk at a higher salary if necessary and/or add a couple higher-cost players to fill gaps or replace departing players.
2021-22 Carolina Hurricanes
The off-season before the 2021-22 season that follows will see the Hurricanes needing to re-sign Andrei Svechnikov. That contract will require a significant raise over his current sub $1 million entry-level contract. The team will also need to re-sign or replace Dougie Hamilton and also forwards Ryan Dzingel, Jordan Martinook and Brock McGinn. Best bet is that the Hurricanes will have some cap space in reserve coming out of the 2020-21 season, but the team will also free up additional cap space with Alexander Semin and his $2.3 million cap hit coming off the books and James Reimer’s $3.4 million also coming off the books. Just like with the year prior, the Hurricanes will free up a good chunk of salary, $5.7 million in this case, without really creating a hole that needs to be filled.
What say you Canes fans?
1) When you look out a couple years, what do you see as the Hurricanes biggest challenge in terms of continuing to improve but also staying under the salary cap?
2) What do you anticipate for next contracts (if they re-sign) for Justin Faulk, Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton?