The 2014 offseason is still far away – after all the season just started – but the Carolina Hurricanes need to start having discussions with their free agents about new contracts as soon as possible.
Next summer, the Canes will have two important restricted free agents to re-sign in Justin Faulk and Jiri Tlusty and a few unrestricted free agents in Nathan Gerbe, Anton Khudobin and Ron Hainsey. Joni Pitkanen is also a UFA, but, unfortunately, at this point his career is in jeopardy because of the ankle injury.
According to CapGeek, the Hurricanes have about $14 million in cap space for next season. It’s also possible that the cap ceiling goes up by a few million, giving the team a little more wriggle room.
Obviously, the most important free agent is Faulk. He’s the future franchise defenseman and the Canes cannot afford to lose him.
As the season moves along, Faulk will be able to demand more as his production, ice time and importance to the team increases. That’s why GM Jim Rutherford needs to start having discussions about Faulk’s next contract now.
Rutherford has a history of shelling out a lot of money for the Canes’ free agents. This time he needs to try to get the best deal possible. A bridge contract, which is a short-term deal that has a low cap and takes a player to his UFA years, would work best for Faulk and the team.
The same goes for Tlusty, who looks like he is getting back on the right track for the season after scoring two goals in the last game. With over $31 million tied up in five forwards, a cheap deal for Tlusty would really help the Canes out.
Rutherford should also start considering a new deal for Gerbe, who has created depth for the Hurricanes, something that was a problem last year. Again, he could produce even more over the course of the season, so a deal in the near future could pay off.
Khudobin and Hainsey are not as urgent as they could be replaced within the organization, if worse comes to worse, but it’s never too early to have discussions.
Summer 2014 is still over seven months away, but waiting to sign free agents until then makes it more difficult for the club. Getting some deals done now would only help the Hurricanes in the long run.