The Carolina Hurricanes are well into the season and heading into a crucial December that can set the tone for the winter. Looking at the progress individually, the Canes have some players off to a strong start with contracts to earn. More specifically, two players are finishing their entry-level contracts this season.
Seth Jarvis and Jack Drury are finishing the required entry-level contract signed to join the NHL.
The NHL has a rule that any player younger than 25 as of September 15th during their first NHL contract must sign an entry-level contract, which is normally three years long and has a maximum salary required. For instance, in 2023 the limit was $950,000. Another requirement is that the contract be a two-way deal which means the player can be sent down to the minors without having to clear waivers.
Currently, Jarvis is making $894,167 towards the salary cap and Drury is making $925,000. A very affordable salary for both has allowed Don Waddell to spend in other areas of the team. That luxury will be gone at the end of this season.
Both players will become restricted free agents, which is different from unrestricted. Restricted free agents are the property of their respective organizations and cannot sign with another team unless an offer sheet is signed. This happened with Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens. The team will have to pay compensation in addition to the contract if the offer sheet is accepted, which is usually draft choices.
Where the team will have the leverage with Drury, due to a poor start to his NHL career, Jarvis will hold a lot of the leverage in terms of contract negotiations. Jarvis is second on the team in points with 15 and second on the team in goals with 8.
At 21 years old, Jarvis is expected to grow his game even more and that will mean a big bump in salary for the near future. Right now, the Canes are sitting just under the salary cap ceiling and have many contracts to address in the off-season.
Surely, some unrestricted free agents will have to walk and open up space for the likely $3-5 million raise for the young winger.
Despite being drafted in the early rounds, it is not off the table to think that the Canes could just let Drury walk if this production continues. On the other hand, they may be able to sign him for very cheap and see if he develops. At the very least, Drury is a consistent contributor to the depth lines.
As it goes for Jarvis, the contract negotiations may need to begin this winter if he keeps up this pace of point production. He is quickly becoming one of the focal points of the offense with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov.
As good as Jarvis has been, I do not believe that we have even scratched the surface of what he will ultimately be as a player. His playmaking abilities shined early in his first seasons but now is becoming a strong shooter.
I do not envy the decisions that are to be made this offseason for Waddell but I do feel he hurt himself by signing some contracts with more terms and salary expected.