Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes both sides of the Canes free agent re-signing situations starting with the forwards.
For: He is a bona fide second line center. Replacing with a comparable player via free agency usually means overpaying for an older player. Unless the Canes can pull off a trade for a younger player on a favorable contract, I do not see how this hole would be filled by anyone comparable for less money. If the Canes were rebuilding, auditioning both Kotkaniemi and Necas in this slot would be interesting. But for a team in ‘win now’ mold, leaving this slot for one or both of them would be a low odds dice roll on two players who had ‘meh’ or worse 2021-22 regular seasons and then were completely invisible in the playoffs.
Against: If he is not willing to take a hometown discount and/or shorter term, these maximum UFA contracts for 29 year olds are always incredibly risky and nearly always have some bad years. So the mathematically bad risk/reward balance longer-term is in nearly all cases a reason to pass.
Where I land: If Trocheck will take five years and something a little less than maximum salary, I would re-sign him simply just because I am skeptical how the team could replace him.
For: Despite a ‘meh’ regular season that did not yield as much growth as hoped and an even worse playoffs where he was a non-factor over 14 games, Necas still has upside as a 23-year old who has the mobility for today’s NHL and enough skill to give him at least a second line ceiling scoring-wise. Especially if his mediocre 2021-22 season keeps his salary down a bit, he becomes a modestly priced player with the potential upside to make the team deeper offensively.
Against: Per above, he did not take as big of a step forward as hoped during the 2021-22 season. Maybe more significant is fit and circumstances. The Canes are probably already one too many deep in terms of wings who have a propensity to be perimeter players. Further, as a player who was drafted largely for his play as a playmaking center who used his mobility to make plays with the puck on his stick, he is maybe just miscast as a wing. But per my comments on Trocheck, I am not sure the Canes ‘win now’ priority offers an opportunity to move Necas back center with time to develop/figure it out. As such, with the Canes needing to add a top 6 finishing wing or two, Necas makes a ton of sense as a trade chip who would have value to trade partners but would not necessarily be missed in the current configuration of the Canes lineup. Adding to the complexity of keeping Necas is the fact that the team already committed to Kotkaniemi long-term for $4.8 million per year. This complicates things in two ways. First, per the ‘win now’ mentality, it would be tough to justify taking the risk of two $5 million(ish) forward commitments to players who were lightly contributing fourth-liners in the playoffs. Second, Kotkaniemi’s $4.8 million salary will make it tough to try to get Necas whose raw production statistics are actually better to sign for more of a $3 million-ish ‘prove it’ contract.
Where I land: Given the commitment to Kotkaniemi and the issue with carrying two bigger contracts for ‘might progress and work out’ type players, multiple things point to Necas becoming a trade chip to land a higher-end scoring wing or possibly second pairing defenseman. So yes the Canes will qualify him, but I would be surprised to see him in a Canes uniform come October.
For: Niederreiter is a known quantity, a bigger body, a good fit for Staal’s line and a source of decent depth scoring. All of those are good things. In the playoffs, Staal’s line was arguably the Canes best when measured against their role and expectations, so trying to keep that ‘working piece’ together and improve elsewhere makes sense.
Against: The issue with Niederreiter is role/slot versus salary. The Canes are now very much a cap ceiling team that needs to find ways to improve without having much budget to do so. In his 2021-22 role, Niederreiter is a very good third line forward on a checking line. If his salary comes in near $5 million (previous contract was $5.25 million), the difficult question becomes whether the team is better off with a great third line wing at $5 million or whether they are better off trying to fill this slot more inexpensively and using the cost savings to try to add a difference-maker in the form of a finisher for the top 6. Putting the trade challenge to the side to use it for illustration, would you rather have Pastrnak or DeBrincat on the second line with Drury or a depth forward on the third line or would you rather have Necas of $4-5 million to spend for a second-line scorer with Niederreiter on the third line.
Where I land: Given salary cap constraints, I think the Canes will be forced to pass on re-signing Niederreiter unless he signs for a significant discount. I just do not see him as the answer to higher-end scoring from the wing on the top 2 lines. In his role on Staal’s line, I think his spot could be back filled for much less which frees up money to improve the top two forward lines.
For: Stepan still represents the same veteran depth for a reasonable cost that he brought when he signed with the Canes before the 2021-22 season. If the Canes want to have a player of this kind for the fourth line, Stepan could still fit.
Against: …But Stepan never really carved out a permanent role and was not a regular in the playoffs. As such, I would expect the Hurricanes to move on to another option either within the organization or possibly trying a different free agent.
Where I land: Because Stepan did not really carve out and keep a role, I would move on hoping that someone else clicks in a similar role for the 2022-23 season.
For: Lorentz is likeable and reasonably fits Brind’Amour’s system as a fourth-liner with size who skates well enough to forecheck. Further, his eight goals scored in 67 games in the 2021-22 regular season are a respectable total for a fourth-liner with limited minutes and no power play ice time.
Against: While Lorentz is serviceable in a fourth-line role, he does not really bring anything extra. He finishes checks but does not really play with the kind of snarl/edge that can make a difference. He is not a regular on the penalty kill. I will use the term ‘serviceable’ again; ideal would be to get a bit more from this slot.
Where I land: I would re-sign Lorentz for a depth role but at the same time hope that depth rising up can push him to the #13 slot.
For: Domi brings a bit of grit and sand paper that the Hurricanes lineup is light on. And though his recent trajectory is that of a checking line forward who is lighter on scoring, there could be some upside based on a couple higher scoring seasons with Montreal.
Against: He is coming off a two-year contract that paid him $4.5 million per year. After consecutive seasons at a 12-13-goal pace for 82 games and with only two goals in 19 regular season games with the Hurricanes, I would not allocate a top 9 slot to Domi and pay him anything close to his previous salary.
Where I land: I actually like Domi as a premium fourth-liner at a salary between $1 and $1.5 million, so if he is unable to find a team willing to bet on his upside from a few years back, maybe he comes into play. But if someone is willing to pay him north of $2 million per year hoping he rebounds offensively, I would pass. The Canes need a surer thing or two at wing.
Netting it out
When I net it out, I would try hardest to re-sign Trocheck largely because it will be incredibly hard to back fill his slot with a comparable player. That plan A likely goes out the window if he wants 7-8 years at market ceiling salary. Then I would begrudgingly trade Necas as part of a package to land a higher-end wing finisher and also begrudgingly let Niederreiter depart to free up the salary cap space needed for such an acquisition. Of the depth forwards, I would re-sign Lorentz for depth and let Stepan and Domi depart unless by chance Domi is willing to sign a deal that fits into the budget as a fourth-liner.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas would you try to retain considering salary cap constraints? What would be your order of priority for the three?
2) What are your thoughts between keeping Martin Necas hoping that he finds a higher gear in 2022-23 versus using him as a key part of a trade to upgrade the top half of the roster?
We’ve gone back and forth on this before, but I lean more towards signing NN than Trocheck because I think NN is less replaceable and he’s younger. That’s a judgement call and we can and have debated it in the past.
That said, I can see a scenario where either Necas or Tony DA (or even both) are packaged for a high-end offensive player – ie., JT Miller, Brock Boeser, DeBrincat, Pastrnak – there is a healthy list of players that are rumored to be available and an even longer list that have avoided the rumor mill that, while expensive, would clearly move the needle offensively. I think something like that is clearly on the table and probably more likely than not.
From a “window” perspective, next year might be the year to push our chips all-in given that Staal’s contract is up and our goalie situation the following year becomes uncertain again. It’s a two-year window at most given that contracts expire for Pesce, Skjei, Aho, and TT – basically the core of the team – the following year.
So I’d be willing to overpay/sacrifice in a trade to increase the odds of winning next year – so for example, a trade for a player with 1-2 years left (JT Miller, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Eberle) might be worth a Necas/TDA+other assets.
I agree that it would be difficult to replace Trocheck with an affordable free agent. However, the C position could be upgraded via a trade with Vancouver for J.T. Miller (one year left at $5.25M). He could be affordable to re-sign since Staal will be coming off his $6M deal at the same time. I can’t help but remember the impact Ryan O’Reilly had for St. Louis and see a similar opportunity for the Canes. Yes, Miller would be very costly but it’s time to go all-in. Necas, Bear, draft picks, prospects, whatever it reasonably takes. Miller would also provide the flexibility to shift Aho to the wing at times. In my mind Miller is the key missing piece offensively.
NN had a good run with the Canes, but he may be too pricey (and too much term) for his slot. A cheaper replacement (maybe Kotkaniemi?) for NN would allow more money to be spent obtaining a complimentary player (Nichushkin? Mikheyev?) via free agency for Svechnikov, who we all realize has a higher level.
Domi and Stepan will likely be offered more money elsewhere, which will open a slot for Jack Drury. Lorentz could be resigned with a raise on his $100K Minors salary for added depth. Necas fate could be determined by the outcome of the Trocheck negotiation. If Trocheck stays, then Necas may go or vice versa. Trocheck’s replacement or re-signing is priority #1.
I think Matt’s analysis is spot on.
Sadly I read somewhere that Nino’s agent indicated that he’s most likely headed for free agency.
I still hope they can come to terms of a team friendly deal but the odds seem stacked against it.
I’d like to keep Trocheck but maybe the Canes should go after an upgrade, like a short-term deal for Giroux (expecting Drury or Necas to be the long-term 2C in a couple of years.
An option on the cheap could be getting Strome from Chicago, but again he would be a downgrade from Trocheck, not only on money but also in scoring (Strome’s +- is pretty bad), but for more of a rebuilding team looking for diamonds in the rought I’d recommend it possibly, but I think it’s important, like Blinkman notes, to see that the window for the current roster will run out next summer. The team will have a core of good players under contract, but by then they will have to shake up the roster quite significantly due to expiring contracts, so if this particular band is going to gun for gold, this is it.
Maybe the Canes could bet on creating some cap flexibility and keep the roster good enough to be in the playoff picture at the deadline, then go all in at the deadline, there’s a lot of pending 2023 UFAs.
I think Necas will likely be part of a trade, either for upgrade in scoring or for a similar player with a different team in need of a fresh start, like the aforementioned Strome, or even Debrincat from Chicago or Philip Zdena from Detroit.
Then there’s another Finn in Edmuton that is rumored to be available.
Domi gave us one game that will go into the Canes hall of fame, and we thank him for that, I think he was worth the trade even only on the basis of that one game.
but unless he’s willing to take a very team-friendly budget I’m not convinced he’s a keeper. The coaching staff will know better than we do, Trocheck had a pretty hard time adjusting to the Canes style of play and had done little to convince the Caniac faithful after his first season but has since turned out to be a pretty good trade acquisition.
Lawrence is a meh player (great kid).
So, again, I am hoping we can re-sign TDA (if he leaves, who is going to provide any scoring from the back end or run a powerplay, I think trading him away would hurt the team significantly unless they could trade for or sign a replacement).
I actually think the team could take gamble on Lyon or our Russian kid as back-up goalies and trade Raanta + Necas to land a big upgrade at forward. It’s a risky move, why trade away from a position of strength, but the tam has to cut cost and goalies are notoriously unpredictable.
This should be one interesting offseason.
Hockeybuzz, the most unreliable source of hockey news claims the Canes are trying to bring in Malkin (and/or Letang).
This is one more of Ek’s random rumors, I put 0 stock in it.
That being said, Malkin would be a pretty formidable second line center, barring injuries.