Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe did a deep dive on the Hurricanes’ goalie situation both short-term and longer-term.
In that article I touched on the Hurricanes salary cap and contract considerations that make for different situations for 2020-21 and then 2021-22 and beyond.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes that starting point and looks at Canes contract situations from a few different angles.
Overbooked in net
In Petr Mrazek, James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic, the Hurricanes have three goalies on one-way contracts for the 2020-21.
More significant than Nedeljkovic’s one-way deal (which means he gets paid an NHL salary even if in the AHL but could still go there) is the fact that Nedeljkovic would need to clear waivers to go to the AHL. If the Hurricanes tried to send him through waivers a rebuilding team or a team needing a backup goalie would surely claim him for free. So the only way out of the logjam is trading one of the three.
My best bet is that the Hurricanes will start the season with three goalies at the NHL level, but if the team does want to unload a veteran, Reimer could be fairly easily movable to the right team. First, he is coming off a strong 2019-20 season which makes him a viable veteran backup. In addition, his contract is odd in that the Hurricanes already paid $2.25 of the $3.1 million owed to him. That means that the out of pocket cost for Reimer for the actual 2020-21 season is only a meager $850,000. That could facilitate a trade in a couple ways. First, for any team that does not have salary cap concerns, he is incredibly cheap. Second, if the Hurricanes do not decide to use their available cap space, retaining part of Reimer’s contract would be inexpensive in terms of real dollars paid.
Potential exodus of unrestricted free agents on the blue line
The greatest area for potential keep or let go decision for the Hurricanes this summer will be on the blue line. There a trio of veterans are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Trevor van Riemsdyk, Joel Edmundson and Sami Vatanen are all players who slot somewhere between #4 and #6 for the Hurricanes but could maybe slot higher on a team hurting for blue line help. Best bet is that all three can get better term and salary from a team who views them as a top #4 defenseman and/or does not have better options for that slot. Based on that, I think all three accept better offers elsewhere and that the Hurricanes are okay with that unavoidable reality.
If I had to pick one of the three mostly likely to surprise a bit and stay, it would be Joel Edmundson. He brings a bit of the snarl and physical side that the Hurricanes are maybe a bit light on. He also had productive stints in the top 4 early in the season pairing with Brett Pesce and then also in the playoffs before being sidelined with an injury. So I think he is the one of the three that the Hurricanes will at least have discussions with. Just maybe if the flat cap tamps down salaries, the Hurricanes re-sign Edmundson at a slight premium for only one year (when Canes have bit of cap space) or for a discount for a couple years.
Trevor van Riemsdyk
As a known quantity and consistent performer, the Hurricanes would be happy to have Trevor van Riemsdyk back as a third pairing and/or depth defenseman. But I would be surprised to see that happen just because I think van Riemsdyk can garner a somewhat bigger role and salary on a team with less depth on the blue line.
Vatanen was a net positive in the playoffs, but one thing that become increasingly obvious to me as the playoffs progressed was that he just does not have the lateral mobility and quickness to be an every game top 4 defenseman in the NHL at this stage of his career. He could fit nicely as a third pairing defenseman and power play trigger man, but somewhat like the previous two, he is likely to get a better offer elsewhere.
The one free agent defenseman who is likely to be back is Haydn Fleury. His progress late in the regular season which was repeated in the playoffs suddenly has him as an up-and comer. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, he played the majority of the season in a third pairing role. He was scratched some playing in only 45 of 68 regular season games and averaged only 13:29 of ice time. As such, the base raise he would get for a one-year deal will be modest. Best for him might be to take a one-year deal for something like $1.25 to $1.5 million with the aim of building on what he did in the latter part of the 2019-20 season to set him up for a more significant payday next summer. If Fleury is willing and the Hurricanes want to re-sign Fleury for multiple years, Fleury will be able to collect some on the extra years. I could see something like two or three years being more like $1.75 to $2 million per year. Regardless, Fleury is definitely a player who will be re-signed.
For me, the most intriguing contract situation on defense is Dougie Hamilton’s. Without an expansion draft looming next summer, it could make a ton of sense to ink Hamilton to a new deal this off-season before he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But the expansion draft potentially changes that. My math says that the Hurricanes as configured right now would need to protect Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton. That would leave Brady Skjei (who was just acquired for a first-round pick), Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury unprotected. But if the Hurricanes can work toward an understanding and expected contract with Hamilton without actually signing him, that would make it possible to protect one of Fleury or Skjei in addition to Slavin and Pesce and then re-signing Hamilton as an unrestricted free agent after the expansion draft. To do this would require letting Hamilton become an unrestricted free agent, but because he seems to like his situation and team, might this be a worth risk taking to protect another player?
Mostly standard work at forward
The contract work at the forward position is a bit more routine.
Warren Foegele is a restricted free agent who is almost certain to be back in the fold. His two seasons of NHL experience and 30 points in 2019-20 likely garner him Brock McGinn type money for his next contract. I would expect him to be re-signed something like $1.75 to $2.25 million per year. That works fine for 2020-21, but the question that is on the way is how many $2 million depth forwards the team can afford while still keeping the higher-end players in the mix. If Foegele nets $2 million per year, he would join McGinn and Martinook as depth players making north of $2 million per year. That might not work for 2021-22 when Svechnikov must be re-signed.
Justin Williams is a wild card. He played for a base salary of only $700,000 last year, so if he were to return, it would likely be with an increase. But my hunch without any specific basis is that Williams rides off into the sunset having fulfilled him mission of helping this team get over the playoff hump to regain NHL relevance.
Just like on defense, the most interesting contract situation is one that is not up until next off-season. But with Svechnikov rising and certainly part of the long-term future for the team, it makes a lot of sense to re-sign him sooner rather than later. Having Svechnikov re-signed might net a modest discount if he takes another step up in 2020-21. In addition, having his contract completed would be helpful in terms of understanding what salary cap budget is available for 2020-21 and forward as the team considers other player moves. Svechnikov’s trajectory is similar but a little bit short of Aho’s so far. Could the Hurricanes use that to get Svechnikov under contract for a notch lower than Aho at something like $6.5 to $7.5 million per year? Or will Svechnikov’s agent be able to claim credit for a next step in 2021-22 such that Svechnikov pushes for and gets something in the neighborhood of Aho’s $8.5 million per year. He has pedigree and production/trajectory as a 20-year old. In today’s NHL it is really hard to get discounts on that even for restricted free agents, so I would be happy to get Svechnikov under contract long-term for something like $7 to $8 million per year.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Of the three veteran blue-liners in van Riemsdyk, Edmundson and Vatanen, do you think there is a chance that the Hurricanes re-sign any of them?
2) What are your thoughts on Dougie Hamilton? Is there a chance that with Brady Skjei added that the team is actually willing to let Hamilton leave next summer if the price pushes too high? What do you think of the idea of negotiating but not actually signing Hamilton until after the expansion draft clears?
3) What is your wild guess for term and salary for next contracts for restricted free agents Fleury and Foegele?
4) Do you think the Hurricanes will re-sign Svechnikov a year early? If so, what would you guess for term and salary?
1) Agree with you that Eddy is the most likely to come back, although seems doubtful. Might only be possible if current D is traded (Gardiner), and Waddell has shown he’s going to be active.
2) I’m def worried that the org will not be able to extend Dougie. Montreal won’t be able to bail them out of this contract negotiation. It’s going to come down how important is it to Dougie that he get paid versus how much of a discount he’ll take to play in town that has embraced him? My bigger worry would be if Canes determine that they def cannot sign him, he could be traded now for a bigger return.
3) Agree with you on where the contracts will be.
4) If they are smart they will sign Svech ASAP, just as they should have done with Aho. I feel like they might be able to get 5 years @ $7mil per year, but won’t get an 8 year contract unless they are more like $8-9 mil per year. Could signing Svech and Foegele to fair deals make it more likely that Dougie wants to stay (since the three seem to be close friends)?
1. I don’t see any of them coming back. Vatanen is a classic rental and was making TvR money for better than TvR play. Expect to see him sign for a lot more than we would dream of. Edmundson’s salary came out of arbitration – I would expect to see him looking for a bigger payday and more term than we will offer. TvR is looking for his big payday. Without them we still have 7.
2. Dougie at $8-9M – you can’t mention someone in the running for the Norris and not talk big money. And I am not sure that the NHL, the PA and SEA would look kindly on a “wink wink” deal to protect him from the expansion draft. It may even be against the fine print of the rules.
3. I really would like to see Fleury get a big payday – he was playing like Edmundson but with a lot more offense. When does he get arbitration rights?
4. As with Aho, term will be the big deal in his next contract and Svech will be wise to pay attention to how Aho did it. The team will want to lock him up for 8 but he will (and should) push for 5 with Aho-like money. Expect a huge year from him next year – his trajectory is better than Aho, I think. Sign him this offseason for Aho money/term or watching him go for $10M/5Y at the end of next season.
My crystal ball, which is by no means reliable, tells me that salary inflation is not going to be so rampant in the coming years.
Many teams are already up against the cap, or over, and the economy is not doing so hot (and the effects of this little recession will last for 2 or 3 years at least).
Also the Tor experiment of signing 4 high-end guys for max salary and having them bring a cup to Canada failed pretty spectacularly, I think GMs are taking notice.
I think this is spot-on, breezy. The Cap is going to be flat to stagnant for a while and Cap increases that makes contracts in the 7-9M x 6-8yrs range look expensive in the in-years but affordable in the out-years (given stable player performance) aren’t going to be as common. Economics and the declining Cap (and not collusion) are going to compress UFA contracts this offseason – that’s my expectation – and I don’t see that changing until owners feel that the issues Covid presented are well behind the league.
Possibly Edmondson stays but I think Vatanen and TvR move on to greener pastures.
As for Dougie, he’s finally found a coach and a team that brings out the best in him and that’s a rare thing that I would hope he appreciates. I’m sure we’d like to keep him and it seems like he’d like to stay – I’m not sure either was true for Skinner, Faulk, Lindholm, or Hanafin – so there is probably a way to get that done at a number that works for both sides. If his defense continues to improve, he’s in Hedman’s neighborhood of value.
The team should extend Fleury for 3-4 years. We’d still be buying low on what appears to be a steepening trajectory towards a high ceiling; in time, he has the tools to be a solid Top 4 defender and maybe even top-pairing guy – yes, that’s quite a statement, I realize, but he’d be a steal at the back end of a 3-4 year deal if that were to become true; a risk-reward that might be worth betting on at the price-point.
Svetch, I have no idea.
BTW … it’s also worth thinking about what a smaller Cap and lower UFA contracts might mean for Offer Sheets. With many more teams struggling under a lower Cap number and with economics supporting lower total contract values, it might be possible to get a top-end player without having to pay the top-end draft price. Worth watching.
1. Eddy. Joel and Hayden give us the “chip on our ahoulder” play we nee.
2. It depends on Dougie’s ask. Dundon has sown he will spend for on ice talent, and Dougie might go for less than max based obn the flat cap and his fit with the team.
4. Yes, and Aho type money and term.