The Carolina Hurricanes roster is starting to take shape, and it's not a pleasant sight for the Bank of Karmanos. With the recent signings of Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu, the total number of possible, (or probable) roster players under contract is up to 18 at the present time.
Let's take a closer look.
The following numbers are actual out of pocket salary amounts for the coming season. (We will examine the salary cap hit at a later time, which is just a bit different).
- $5,000,000 Staal
- $4,000,000 Cole
- $4,000,000 Brind'Amour
- $3,550,000 Whitney
- $3,500,000 Williams
- $2,800,000 Cullen
- $2,750,000 Corvo
- $2,500,000 Walker
- $2,500,000 Ward
- $2,300,000 Samsonov
- $2,250,000 Ruutu
- $2,200,000 Kaberle
- $2,000,000 Gleason
- $1,750,000 Wallin
- $1,100,000 Eaves
- $850,000 Sutter
- $600,000 Leighton
- $510,000 Borer
The total expense for those 18 players is just over $44 million. That doesn't count the buyout amounts for Hamilton and Tanabe which would bring the total well up over $45 million.
Last year, Carolina started out with a self-imposed cap of about 46 million, and reportedly they wanted to keep close to that amount again this year. But that doesn't seem possible right now without some savvy trading or an influx of cheap, young talent.
The goaltending situation is all set. (contrary to what Eklund thinks, the Canes will not be adding Ray Emery)
There are 5 defensemen with NHL experience under contract presently, (in bold above), and that includes the promising, but unproven Casey Borer. At least 2 more blueliners need to be signed, or acquired via trade.
Currently there are 11 forwards under contract, not counting Trevor Gillies who played in Albany last year. It seems like Carolina's management isn't counting on Gillies to make the roster because of the recent attempt to sign Darcy Hordichuk to the enforcer position.
In my opinion, they should be in the market for two more inexpensive fourth line players. (Chad LaRose, where are you?)
Maybe they could fill the positions with a Zach Boychuk or Drayson Bowman, but those players will not make the Canes any tougher and Carolina would probably like more experience anyway.
Anyway you slice it, they need to sign at least 4 more players which will probably put them ever so close to that $50 million mark, out of pocket.
While the league wide salary cap is supposed to be increased to $56 million this year, there is no way in the world that the Carolina Hurricanes will "take it to the limit", even if I did give that title to this article.
It would be surprising if they agreed to hit $50 million.
What does all this mean? As much as everyone would love to see one of the few, highly sought-after free agent defensemen brought in here, I don't see it happening. The Hurricanes don't have it in their budget to get into a bidding war over John-Michael Liles or Mark Streit, no matter how good they would look in red.
Of course the plan is to trade one of their high priced forwards, but even if they do that they will probably be replacing that forward with a defenseman of similar salary. No team is going to trade a promising player with a low salary for the 4 million dollar expense of Erik Cole. These types of trades are usually close to dollar for dollar because of the salary cap.
Another problem with trading Erik Cole is that he only has one year left on his contract. Why would Vancouver trade Kevin Bieska for Cole, when their defenseman is under contract for three years, and they could lose Cole after just one?
I'm sure that the Canucks are asking for an additional forward in the deal as well, someone with a lower salary like Patrick Eaves or Tuomo Ruutu. As much as Jim Rutherford would hate to do that, he may eventually have no choice.
Or, he may have to end up trading Justin Williams, simply because Justin's contract is more favorable.
The Edmonton Oiler's Joni Pitkanen isn't even signed yet, so he's a different problem altogether. How tough would it be to make a trade for the talented Finn, but then not be able to sign him afterwards? Pitkanen could always decide to play in Finland for a year. That would be a disaster.
What's a General Manager to do?
One thing is for sure. The defense can not stay the way it is, and it needs more than a couple of cheap band-aids in order to be successful in the coming season.
There is yet another possible scenario. Carolina could trade a forward, (Erik Cole), for draft picks or a prospect, (maybe to Dallas, a team who expressed interest and has room within their salary cap). That move would clear four million dollars off of the books, then the Canes could use those funds to sign Liles or Streit.
If they use that strategy though, they will need to move fairly quickly. Usually once July 1st hits, all hell breaks loose in the market. The most highly sought after free agents don't stay "free" for very long.
It wouldn't be surprising to see either Anton Babchuk or Mike Commodore, or maybe even both back in Raleigh this fall. Either that, or maybe Glen Wesley will come out of retirement for one last hurrah? (just joking Glen!)