Carolina Hurricanes: Projecting contract extensions


Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell has several interesting contract negotiations to conduct this season, including the team’s scoring leader Sebastian Aho. We take a look at how some of those extensions might turn out.

The Carolina Hurricanes are currently operating near the salary cap floor, with a projected cap expenditure this season of $64.68m, just $5.88m above the cap floor of $58.8m. Come next season the Canes will be significantly above that cap floor, as Don Waddell has a series of negotiations to undertake this season that will see the Canes’ cap increase by quite a significant amount. Putting our GM hats on, let’s see who needs a new contract, and what that might cost the Tom Dundon.

UFAs at the end of the season

The Carolina Hurricanes’ captain, Justin Williams, is a UFA this summer. He’s a Canes legend, but is currently earning $4.5m and will be 38 when the 2019/20 season begins. We may need to see more from him this season, but my sense is that he doesn’t come back and instead becomes the latest elder statesman of the NHL, signing Matt Cullen-esque one-year deals on Cup contenders.

The team’s most important UFA is Micheal Ferland. Ferland leads the Carolina Hurricanes in goals this season, despite missing the team’s last three games with a concussion, and his chippy style of play – plus his knack for getting to the net – will ensure he’s a top priority for Waddell when it comes to negotiations.

Another key roster player due to become a UFA is Jordan Martinook, who scored his first career hat-trick this season and who is joint-second in goals behind Ferland. His won’t be an expensive contract, but he’ll be due a solid raise nonetheless as his middle-six contributions have helped the Carolina Hurricanes at key times during the season.

Then we’re down to goaltenders. We have a long way to go before we determine whether either, neither or both of Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek warrant contract extensions. My guess is that McElhinney will return next year, even if only as backup, but that Mrazek will need to show continued improvement so ensure he’s worthy of a new deal.

RFAs at the end of the season

Oh boy, is Tom Dundon’s chequebook due for a hammering. First up is the team’s leading scorer, Sebastian Aho. Not much to say about Aho – he’s the key priority above all else, as without his offensive contributions this team would be dead last in the standings. William Nylander‘s recent $6.9m AAV deal is likely the yardstick for Aho’s extension, coming as they both are off their ELCs.

Not quite as expensive, but very nearly as key to the future of the team, is Teuvo Teravainen. The former Chicago Blackhawk is coming off a $2.86m AAV bridge deal, and will see at least a $3m raise per annum.

The fun doesn’t end there. Haydn Fleury will require a new deal, likely with some increase to reflect his growing stature, and a gaggle of bottom six forwards – Brock McGinn, Phil di Giuseppe and Clark Bishop – are also due extensions.

Then we have the great unknowns. Roland McKeown comes to the end of his ELC, and hasn’t been given a fair shake in Raleigh due to our excellent defensive group. Will Trevor Carrick be happy to spend yet more time in the AHL, as he is surely ready for NHL action? He is also up for renewal.

Finally, the once-and-future goalie of the franchise, Alex Nedeljkovic, is due for his first deal post-ELC. A two-year bridge deal is almost a given, but during that two year period we’re surely going to see him given a lengthy shot at the Carolina Hurricanes’ starting gig.

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Who won’t be back?

Justin Williams will surely not be back, opening up the top six for Andrei Svechnikov to take his rightful place. One of the two goaltenders will also not return, which at the moment would indicate Petr Mrazek being the odd man out. It is possible that Trevor Carrick doesn’t re-sign, unless given a good shake with the Canes this season, but the rest will be back.

Who is most important to re-sign?

Sebastian Aho is the priority. He has the biggest and brightest future for the Carolina Hurricanes, and will lead this team in scoring for many years to come. A full 8-year extension coming in at around $6.5m-$7m would be optimal, being slightly less than Nylander but comparable with Detroit’s Dylan Larkin ($6.1m AAV, 2018), Boston’s David Pastrnak ($6.67m, 2017) and Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers ($6m, 2018). Who here would cry overpayment were Dundon and Waddell to agree to a $7m long-term deal for the team’s best player?

While Teuvo Teravainen is the second-most important player needing extending, it’s likely Micheal Ferland that projects to be the most difficult negotiation. Ferland has size and skill, scores important goals, and has proven invaluable to the team this season. I would expect that with Justin Williams departing, the Canes dedicate his $4.5m contract to a 5-6 year deal for Ferland. And again, no-one here should have an issue with that.

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What about the rest?

Teuvo Teravainen is a fantastic player who helps sell tickets; I would anticipate his next deal coming in at around $5.75m, with term matching that of Aho’s. Martinook would not be expensive at around $2.5m AAV, and could expect to garner a 4 year contract from Waddell.

Fleury will require a bridge deal, likely around the $2m mark, and McKeown and Carrick would also be in for raises to around the $1m mark (hopefully less). Nedeljkovic will get a bridge deal at slightly more than he’s on now, and be asked to prove his worth for a longer-term deal once he’s seen proper NHL action.

Curtis McElhinney will be an easy extension to agree – a slight raise to $1m would do it – and deals for the likes of McGinn, di Giuseppe and Bishop will see negligible increases to cap hit, with perhaps McGinn getting a raise to around $1.2m AAV.

What does that do to the team’s cap?

This is a big test of Tom Dundon’s ambitions for the team. With those extensions in place, the Canes would be looking at expenditure of around $75.3m. That’s quite the jump on what they’re spending right now, and doesn’t even improve the roster on its current position. To show how serious he is about competing for more Stanley Cups, Dundon is going to have to sanction even more expenditure than that to acquire players to improve the team.

However, the team already showed a loss of $3.9m last year – can they afford to increase their cap like that, and then again to add players to reach the playoffs?

A lot will depend on Sebastian Aho’s contract extension. If he’s signed to a good deal with term, we’ll know for sure that Mr Dundon is going to spend what is needed to make these Canes competitive again.

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Question for CC readers:

How much do YOU think Sebastian Aho will receive as part of his contract extension?