If you were away from Canes and Coffee on Monday, I kicked off a pretty full assessment of the Hurricanes’ prospect pool with separate articles analyzing and ranking first the goalies and then the defensemen.
I will get back to that project either Wednesday or Thursday.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe will go in a different direction looking at three different thoughts on Hurricanes’ financial situations.
The importance of matching team progress to player progress
The the 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes attendance struggled, and it is no secret that the team has been losing money and that the losses have probably increased in the past couple years (based simply on watching the attendance numbers decrease).
At the same time, enough young players are rising up that the team’s salary is almost certainly scheduled to increase in the next two to four years.
To make the math work, the Hurricanes need to push up into the playoffs soon and hopefully use that rebound at least in part to fuel an increase in ticket sales and revenue. The fact of the matter is that the many of those who have wandered away from Canes hockey are not going to come back because we netted Noah Hanifin and Sebastian Aho in the 2015 NHL Draft and are supposed to win again someday because of those young players. Many of the departed fans will return when ‘someday’ actually arrives.
A scenario that sees the Hurricanes young players continue to progress individually but unable to convert individual development into winning hockey presents a challenge financially. The result would be increasing costs paired with still stagnant attendance and revenue and widening losses.
Modest improvement from key players could win out over booms
Next summer (or possibly sooner), the Hurricanes will need to re-sign Brett Pesce, Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. The following summer, the Hurricanes will need to re-sign Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Haydn Fleury. Six of those seven players are young players with a wide range of potential outcomes heading into contract negotiations.
On the one end of the spectrum for 2017-18, if things click for Hanifin and he settles into a top 4 role, Pesce continues down the same path but also boosts his scoring and Lindholm finally breaks out to the tune of 60+ points, the total cost for those three players could easily be $15 million on more annually for their next contracts. If instead, Hanifin continues his modest development pace and spends some time in the bottom pairing, Lindholm plays well but continues to be a 40-50-point scorer and Pesce is sound defensively but light offensively, the same three players could cost more like $10 million. That range represents a significant $5 million swing.
The range of possibilities is at least equally large for the following summer with four more players up for new contracts.
Winning trumps everything else and also helps with the financial situation because it increases revenue. But in a strange way, the Hurricanes could benefit from finding a way to win but without it requiring massive leaps by players coming up for new contracts.
Walking a fine line to a perfect world
Wishing for Hurricanes players not to do well is ridiculous obviously. The extreme version of that is wishing a path back to the bottom of the NHL.
But is there a version of the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes that makes the playoffs led by stellar goaltending by Scott Darling, blue line scoring in bunches from Jaccob Slavin and Justin Faulk and the veterans like Jordan Staal, Justin Williams and maybe Jeff Skinner stepping up at forward? That version sees the team’s success concentrated in players who are already locked in financially (with the exception of Jeff Skinner). If the veteran driven success is coupled with youngsters like Noah Hanifin, Haydn Fleury, Elias Lindholm, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen making only modest improvements, the result could be the best of both worlds for the Hurricanes. First, the team nets the playoff berth that will help rejuvenate attendance. Second, the revenue boost is accomplishments with minimum impact on salary costs.
What say you Canes fans?
Is it simply a matter of winning solves everything, or am I right to think that the timing and cause of the next leg up could be significant in terms of making it sustainable financially?
Is reasonable to have a slight bias toward 2017-18 success being driven more so by players who are already locked in financially?