It has suddenly turned into a busy news day for Hurricanes hockey. Mid-afternoon it was announced that the Hurricanes had re-signed AHL-level restricted free agents Keegan Lowe, Brendan Woods, Brody Sutter and Dennis Robertson.
Then not too much later, it was announced that the Hurricanes had re-signed Ryan Murphy for 2 years for $750,000 in 2016-17 and $825,000 in 2017-18. As a player who split time between Charlotte and Raleigh last season, the range of possibilities was fairly narrow. I have long had it pegged at $800,000 to $1.2 million and would have taken an even $1 million for a guess. So roughly $800,000 is obviously on the low end of that range.
So as noted above, you almost literally cannot beat the price that is only a tiny bit north of the league minimum and easily in the range of what is normally paid to #7/depth defensemen. I believe I am correct in saying that the qualifying offer could have been a 2-way deal but there really is no point. Murphy would need to clear waivers to go to the AHL this season at which point someone would take the free flyer and claim him.
The real issue to be sorted out was whether the contract would be for 1 or 2 years. I really like the idea of adding the second year for only $825,000. It is good in multiple ways. First, it is a fair price for 2017-18 even if Murphy is simply a depth defenseman who is not a regularly in the lineup. Second, it positions Murphy to potentially be the needed ‘expansion draft shield’ of a player who meets the 70 games played requirement for the past 2 years (he would need to play 34 in 2016-17). Ideally the team will add someone else to take that spot, but at least there is potentially someone else already in the mix just in case. Finally, it is a great low risk/high reward buy on Murphy’s 2017-18 season that could be valuable to the Hurricanes or in trade. In a negative outcome that sees Murphy unable to carve out a regular role, it is still a fair price for his next contract. In a positive scenario even as low as just taking a regular role in the top 6, that price will be a discount. Especially for an offensively-oriented forward, locking in an extra year for cheap can be smart. Power play time and a surge offensively to 25-30 points and regular ice time could price north of $2 million.
Interestingly, I think the 2-year term combined with his near the minimum price actually increases his trade value too. In this post early in the offseason, I had him pegged as 1 of the players most likely to be part of a summer trade. Cost certainty for 2 years for a young skating defenseman could be of interest to cap-strapped teams looking to add speed and offense to their blue line.
On the clock/moment of truth
I have written about Ryan Murphy a few times this summer. A common theme has been that it is make or break time for him. He is not old, but he is not that young any more at 23 years old. And he was passed by young defensemen Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce on the depth chart last season, and will need to compete with Trevor Carrick, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown this season to keep from falling further.
But the positive for Murphy is that the buy out of James Wisniewski leaves an opening for a right shot defenseman who leans offense and can play on the power play.