Very recently, say three years ago pre-Brind’Amour, the half-full conversation about the Canes was that they had a good young core to build around and that the team should emerge soon from the playoff drought. That happened probably one or two years ahead of schedule which then seemed to steer positive conversation to the Canes having many years with the young group. But in a salary cap NHL and in a game where players can push through their prime quickly, even young teams can have short windows. Winning even at a modest level boosts salaries which forces hard decisions like the one with Dougie Hamilton this past summer and injuries and departures can change things quickly.
Even with a young team, I think what you get is a potentially extendable series of short windows. Every couple years there is a need to retool a bit as players move on from the salary cap crunch of winning.
Taking a look at the Carolina Hurricanes page on CapFriendly suggests that the Hurricanes are right now starting a two-year window with the current group. That is not to say that it cannot be extended, but very likely the year 3 group would look significantly different.
Both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are signed for exactly two years. With Eetu Makiniemi arguably the young goalie closest on the horizon and just starting his first AHL season, the Hurricanes figure to ride the veteran duo for the two years with an easy exit or re-signing point two years out if things go well.
Not too long ago, Brett Pesce signed his long-term deal that seemed certain to be a bargain. It has been. But suddenly, he is only two years away from unrestricted free agency and likely a push for something closer to maximum dollars. His partner Brady Skjei’s contract is also up in two years, and Jaccob Slavin’s deal only extends one year farther. The Hurricanes do also get some salary cap relief with Jake Gardiner’s contract expiring in two years. Ethan Bear and Tony DeAngelo figure to still be around if the team chooses, as they are restricted free agents this summer, so the team figures to have two years with the current core still here and question marks after that.
The forward contracts are a bit more staggered which might help in terms of figuring out the salary cap math. Only Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in two years. Next summer could be more interesting. Martin Necas is a restricted free agent. He is certain to return but will get a raise and use up more salary cap. Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s situation could be an interesting one. He is technically a restricted free agent like Necas which means the Hurricanes keep his rights but only if they are willing to make a qualifying offer of $6.1 million. He will need to produce at least like a middle 6 forward to make that justified. And then Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter are both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2021-22 season. With all of the big contracts due to expire in the two following off-seasons, figuring how much is available to re-sign or replace them could be tricky. The team also sees both Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen become unrestricted free agents in three years.
So while it is true that the Hurricanes are still a young team and could potentially (if players are re-signed and the salary cap shuffle can be figured out) stay together for four to six years, the reality of the salary cap NHL makes windows much shorter, and I say that the current one for the Hurricanes lasts only two years before at least a couple significant changes occur.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you agree with the assertion that the window for the current roster with minimal changes at least to the core lasts only two years?
2) What do you think of this group’s prospects to win the Stanley Cup in the next 2-3 years without significant changes to the roster?