Remember last season when the Carolina Hurricanes were somewhat handcuffed because they had maxed out the salary cap? In November, several players were injured and the team wanted to make a recall or two from Albany, but they had to be creative about it because they had no room under the cap.
Eventually, they put Cam Ward on the long term injured reserve list which gave them some temporary relief, but if there would have been another injury or two, the Canes could have been in big trouble. Perhaps that lack of flexibility may have contributed to the team's early season losing streak which eventually cost them a playoff spot?
The club will not have similar problems next season. The Hurricanes currently have 17 players under contract, (who were regulars last year), and another hopeful, (Zac Dalpe), who was not. The total Cap Hit of those 18 contracts is just over $45 million. (Canes Country Salary Chart) The team still has a few restricted free agents to sign and perhaps an unrestricted free agent or two, but don't expect much action on their part during the coming free agency period this summer.
If anything, they probably would love to have a bit more room for their younger players. Here is how things stand right now.
The Hurricanes presently have ten experienced forwards already under contract for next season. Here is a listing, along with the corresponding cap hit.
- Staal $8,250,000
- Ruutu $3,800,000
- Brind'Amour $3,600,000
- Cole $2,900,000
- Samsonov $2,533,000
- Jokinen $1,700,000
- LaRose $1,700,000
- Sutter $1,225,000
- Kostopoulos $916,667
- Dwyer $500,000
Rod Brind`Amour is included on that list and there is a chance he will retire, but even if he did, that still only leaves three spots available for the "young guns". And then there is the question of Ray Whitney. If Brindy comes back next season, there quite simply will not be room for "number 13" in the lineup, that is if the Canes truly want to transform their lineup.
Even if Brind'Amour does retire, there might not be room for Whitney. Three forward spots is not an overwhelming change and Jim Rutherford said that he wanted changes.
Perhaps the decision to re-sign "The Wizard" depends upon Brind'Amour's decision? Again, they both can't come back if the organization wants to get younger.
Rutherford also stated that there were no plans to trade any of the forwards currently under contract unless he could swing something for a defenseman. Stay tuned for more about that.
The players who will be fighting for available forward positions include:
- Zach Boychuk
- Drayson Bowman
- Jerome Samson
- Jiri Tlusty
- Oskar Osala
- Chris Terry
- Nick Dodge
These players will all be hungry and it will be a very interesting battle in training camp next fall. But the team needs to keep at least a couple of spots available for them.
There is also the question of having a spot for whomever is drafted in the first round. Not that it is a given that the seventh overall pick will start next season, but that player will certainly be in the mix and could out-play some of the regulars.
The defensive side of things is also a bit murky. The Hurricanes currently have three players under contract for next season:
- Pitkanen $4,000,000
- Gleason $2,750,000
- McBain $ 850,000
Brett Carson, Alexandre Picard, and Casey Borer don't have contracts but they are all restricted free agents and should easily be re-signed. Anton Babchuk is also a verified target of the team.
Brian Pothier, Jay Harrison, and Bryan Rodney are unrestricted free agents and are question marks at this point.
Goalie Justin Peters will also be a restricted free agent in July and will certainly be re-signed.
There are plenty of tough decisions to be made leading up to a busy summer for the organization, but at least they will not need to worry about the salary cap. The cap itself is projected to increase a bit next year, probably to between $57 to $58 million.
After the Canes re-sign their RFA's, they should still be under $50 million. But will they sign any UFA's?
Perhaps they don't need to. With a stable of talented young guns ready to jump to the next level, why should they?