Where The Canes Sit
Hockey Guy Trey has made his decision in regards to the Stanley Cup but let’s look at where the Canes sit after this season is over? Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

WHERE THE CANES SIT FOR NEXT SEASON AND BEYOND

Hockey Guy Trey has made his decision in regards to the Stanley Cup. The Fantasy hockey league guru (and by that I mean the luckiest bastard alive who conjured up some black magic level bullshit to somehow make the playoffs and then win the god-damn thing) has pushed his chips to the center of the table on Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes picking them to win it all on the recent Tanndemonium Sports Show episode. What this means, if his luck in the fantasy league is anything to go by, is the Canes will be 3-0 down in said finals and somehow manage to crawl back and win 4-3. But let’s look instead at where the Canes sit after this year with contracts and the Salary Cap.

During a recent That’s Some Cheese appearance I did mention how I would like to see a Colorado Avalanche v Carolina Hurricanes Stanley Cup Final this year. The Bunch of Jerks and inventors of the Storm Surge have a young team (average age this season is just 26.6) with talents like Andrei Svechnikov on Entry-Level Contracts. It would be ideal for Rod Brind’Amour’s troops to challenge for a Cup before Cap Hell hits, and that could be sooner rather than later. Today we look at where the Canes sit for next season with contracts and Salary Cap.

GOALTENDERS:

There is no doubt Alex Nedeljkovic is the future of the Carolina Hurricanes. The 25-year-old has posted a .932 SV% and a 1.94 GAA so far this season, which is the best of any goaltender with 20 or more games played. That includes last season’s Vezina Trophy winner and front runner for a repeat Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

As an Unrestricted Free Agent with arbitration rights, Nedeljkovic will see a nice increase on his $737,500 current contract, but the length may be the more meaningful part of his next deal. With only one season of NHL experience behind him, it might bode better for both sides to sign a bridge two or three-year deal. For Nedeljkovic it will give him a chance to continue proving himself while for the Canes it will help with the Salary Cap situation they are about to get themselves into with a lesser monetary value more likely. 

If you go all-in on Nedeljkovic then you should let James Reimer and Petr Marek leave in free agency. Otherwise, the temptation after one bad game for Nedeljkovic would be to go back to the proven starter. It would also free up over $5 million in cap space even after a serviceable backup is attained. This point is important as we get to the defensemen.

DEFENSEMEN:

This is where it gets dicey real quickly for the Canes. They currently have four defensemen under contract for next season taking up a sum of $18,625,000 from their salary cap. Unfortunately for the Carolina Hurricanes none of those defensemen is named Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton, 27 years old, is having another phenomenal season with 39 points in 49 games and a +19 plus/minus rating. At this rate, the former Calgary Flames defenseman could be looking at John Carlson’s money which would not be good for the Carolina Hurricanes. All of a sudden you are at over $26 million with only five defensemen on board.

Given that Jake Gardiner was put on waivers earlier in the season could mean the Canes will look to move the defenseman in the offseason. However, you still need depth if you want to contend for a Stanley Cup and the Canes don’t have that. A look at their prospect pool brings up Dominik Bokk, Patrik Puistola, Jamieson Rees, and Ryan Suzuki who are all forwards. There is Anttoni Honka, Joey Keane, and Domenick Fensore further down the lists, but none are ready for the step up to the NHL.

You also have decisions to make on Jake Bean (RFA) and Jani Hakanpaa (UFA) which shouldn’t break the bank, but you are still looking at north of $30 million on an $81 million Salary Cap just for your defense. And even that is only giving you the bare minimum of seven defensemen. Should injury-hit you could be in real trouble.

FORWARDS:

So if we say $5 million on Goaltenders and $30 million on defense as the bare minimum that leaves you with $46 million for your forward core. $33 million of that is already under contract with eight forwards and you are re-signing Andrei Svechnikov. What that contract looks like all depends on if another club offer-sheets him like the Montreal Canadiens did to Sebastian Aho a few years back. 

In the era of flat cap let’s say that doesn’t happen and you re-sign him for $6 million AAV over 6 years, you are now up to $39 million with Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook, and Morgan Geekie to renew. You could squeeze all those in under the cap if nobody gets a raise (unlikely) but you would be right up against it with Martin Necas to re-sign next year. 

Read Andrew McGuinness’ First Round Preview of the Hurricanes v Predators

The Carolina Hurricanes are entering win now mode and just like other contending teams, they will have to finagle the Salary Cap to do so. Luckily they can always call neighbors the Tampa Bay Lightning for advice. It might not be morally right but it works.

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