Today was the deadline to make qualifying offers to restricted free agents to keep their rights. For NHL-level players whose value is significantly higher than their qualifying offer, today’s action is merely a formality before the 2 sides hammer out a deal. For AHL-level players, the act of making a qualifying offer (or not) is more like a cut or keep decision. Players who are not qualified become unrestricted free agents, and players who are qualified frequently accept the qualifying offer.
To no one’s surprise Ron Francis qualified NHLers Victor Rask and Ryan Murphy. This formality maintains their rights and gives Ron Francis the rest of the summer to negotiate a deal with each.
On defense, the Hurricanes qualified 2 veteran AHL defensemen in Keegan Lowe and Dennis Robertson. They did not qualify Michal Jordan, Danny Biega or Rasmus Rissanen who has already signed to play in Finland.
At forward, the Hurricanes qualified only Brendan Woods, Brody Sutter and Patrick Brown. The team did not qualify any of Zach Boychuk, Justin Shugg, Anthony Camara, Dane Fox or Carter Sandlak.
Finally, the Hurricanes did not qualify Rasmus Tirronen.
The players who were not qualified will become unrestricted free agents available to any team on July 1 and will join Riley Nash, Brad Malone, Chris Terry and Nathan Gerbe who were already in that category.
Random thoughts on the decision
Most surprising: Most surprising to me was how few forwards Francis qualified. If Aleksi Saarela returns to Finland and the Canes add 2 more NHL forwards, my count has only 12 forwards left at the AHL level. That is enough to ice a team obviously but I would expect the team to carry 2 more to help back fill injuries at the NHL or AHL level.
What does that likely mean? My best guess for what that means is that Ron Francis plans to shop the list of unrestricted free agent fringe AHL/NHL forwards to fill out his roster (versus alternative of retaining players from 2015-16 team). This makes sense to add additional NHL-ready depth to the mix at forward because of the Canes’ thin depth at that position.
Michal Jordan: Of the players not qualified, he makes the most sense but yet still has a reasonable chance to return. Because his 2015-16 contract was a 1-way deal, to qualify him Francis would have had to offer a modest raise but more importantly a 1-way deal. Right now, I would slot him as the Canes #8 defenseman. Because of his NHL experience, I think he is actually a tremendous fit for that role, but only if he is willing to accept a 2-way deal that has an AHL salary that would kick in if that is in fact where he plays some or all of the season. So the process for trying to get Jordan in that right role at the right price goes like this. Francis has to first pass on qualifying him on a 1-way contract. Jordan then becomes an unrestricted free agent at which point his agent will shop for the best deal for Jordan, ideally with a 1-way deal elsewhere. If he gets it, he is gone and one cannot blame him for it. But if no 1-way deal materializes, then the door is open for Francis to negotiate a reasonably favorable 2-way deal that slots Jordan initially as a #8 who starts in Charlotte if the Canes are healthy. The downside from Jordan’s perspective is the volume of competition to even maintain a #8 slot in the Hurricanes organization with experienced AHLer Trevor Carrick and 2 promising new kids in Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown entering the mix this season. But if Jordan likes Charlotte from his time there and sees value in staying where he is a known commodity, perhaps he stays.
Chris Terry: Terry is an unrestricted free agent, so he was not part of today’s decisions, but I think he is in a very similar situation as Jordan. I would be happy to sign him as a #14ish forward on a 2-way deal with the intent that he starts in Charlotte if everyone is healthy at the NHL level. Terry too will first pursue a 1-way deal elsewhere, but I would be surprised if his 2015-16 warrants one.
Significant changeover in Charlotte: Long-time Checkers Zach Boychuk, Justin Shugg, Danny Biega, Carter Sandlak and Rasmus Rissanen all seem unlikely to return. Francis’ efforts to stock the organization’s prospect pool with high-end young players is starting to take effect. On June 3, I put some simple math to the youth movement in Charlotte in this post HERE.
What’s next for Ryan Murphy and Victor Rask? Both are deals that now need to be negotiated. Sooner is better than later, but even if these deals pushed into early August, it is not necessarily a big deal. It is a wild guess, and I generally tend to shoot low on these guesses, but I figure Rask re-signs for $3.5-$4 million per season for 3-4 years and that Murphy earns $1-1.5 million per year on a 1 or 2-year ‘show me’ type deal.
With this formality out of the way, we inch toward the free agent frenzy which kicks off on Friday.