Should the Carolina Hurricanes Re-Sign Their Remaining RFAs?

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 15: Saku Maenalanen #8 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates for position on the ice during an NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers on February 15, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 15: Saku Maenalanen #8 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates for position on the ice during an NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers on February 15, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes have just two restricted free agents left to sign; Saku Maenalanen and Roland McKeown. With $2.4M+ in cap space, how should the Hurricanes handle their remaining restricted free agents?

This offseason has shown us an unprecedented amount of unsigned restricted free agents as of early September. Mitch Marner, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, and Brock Boeser are just four of the ‘larger’ names of the 27 remaining RFAs that have yet (at the time of writing) to sign any official contract.

If it weren’t for Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin making a laughable attempt at an offer sheet, Sebastian Aho‘s name would more than likely be among them (thanks, Habs). But that is neither here nor there. The Carolina Hurricanes have two ‘smaller’ names that are a part of that list of 27 restricted free agents; Saku Maenalanen, and Roland McKeown.

The Carolina Hurricanes are sitting on exactly $2,495,209 in cap space, and with Justin Williams’ recent cryptic announcement to ‘take a break from hockey’, that $2.4M+ in cap space could easily be used to sign both Maenalanen and McKeown, especially if more trades are in the pipeline; the question, however, is should they?

Short answer? Yes. Long answer? Read on and find out. As usual, here is my patented ‘this should not be taken to be a universal objective truth disclaimer’; everything in this article is 100% subjective opinion and speculation. That being said, let’s get into it!

Saku Maenalanen played 34 regular season games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018-19, and scored 4 goals and 4 assists for a combined 8 points, all at even strength. This may seem like a small contribution, but Maenalanen’s physicality and intensity were very welcome on the ice, especially during Micheal Ferland’s various absences throughout the regular season and postseason.

Maenalanen registered 45 hits across his 34 regular season games played, and turned in 12 takeaways, while only coughing up the puck 8 times. During the playoffs, Saku played 9 games while turning in a single assist, but registered 18 hits during the same timeframe. This speaks volumes for his possession numbers and his physicality, as well as the potential he has as a physical possession player, especially given more time under Rod Brind’amour’s ‘grit and grind’ system.

In my opinion, the Hurricanes should absolutely sign Maenalanen to a multi-year deal; something along the lines of 2 years, with a max AAV of $1.3M or so per year. Not quite as much per year as Brock McGinn, but that’s to be expected for a player who brings a similar level of physicality as McGinn, with not quite as much offensive upside.

On the other hand, Roland McKeown spent much less time with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2018-19 season; he turned in 3 points (all assists) in 10 regular season games played. McKeown had a much better showing throughout the 70 regular season games played in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers; 4 goals and 21 assists, for a combined point total of 25 in the regular season, and 3 assists over 10 playoff games played in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.

McKeown, yet another right-handed defenseman in the Hurricanes’ organization, is facing a potential logjam on the depth chart for defensemen. He may see some time with the Canes in the very early part of the season if Trevor van Riemsdyk isn’t fully recovered, but could very well be relegated back to the Charlotte Checkers shortly after. He would be very welcome back in Charlotte, especially since Trevor Carrick was moved earlier this offseason, but there is just one little issue with that situation.

McKeown is now waiver-eligible, meaning he has to clear waivers before being sent down to Charlotte to play. This is a very tricky situation for the Carolina Hurricanes, but that shouldn’t keep them from signing him and moving him to a rebuilding team in exchange for a pick or two. If he does get re-signed, I can’t see it being for much more than an AAV of $1M or so, despite his AHL success.

If McKeown cannot translate his style of play from the AHL to the NHL, he may not have a spot in Raleigh for the 2019-20 season. If he can, he’ll be competing with the likes of Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean, Gustav Forsling, and (very, very potentially) Chase Priskie, among others, for a spot on the Hurricanes’ 3rd defensive pairing. Final verdict? Sign McKeown for a short-term deal, but move him for a pick or two as soon as possible if he doesn’t earn his spot during training camp or the preseason.

All in all, the Carolina Hurricanes could be in a much worse spot in regards to restricted free agency; Sebastian Aho is signed for another 5 years, Brock McGinn is signed for another 2 years, the Hurricanes have one of the best prospect pools in the league, and things are looking up for the franchise for the second consecutive offseason. Is it October yet?

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Question for CC Readers: Should the Canes re-sign Saku Maenalanen and Roland McKeown? What should their contracts look like?