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Into the Future: The Hurricanes’ Salary Cap Situation in the Summer of 2019

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Do you want the Hurricanes to make a big splash in free agency this summer? They might not have as much room to do so as you think - and here’s why.

Jamie Kellner

Decisions the Carolina Hurricanes make this offseason will have a ripple effect on what they are able to do later. Two summers from now, the roster will undoubtedly look different, and while the Canes have plenty of cap space at the moment, sitting roughly $4 million below the salary cap floor with the majority of their NHL roster re-signed for next year, that space will quickly be eaten up over the next couple of seasons.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, the organization will have only four players under contract: Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Scott Darling and Justin Faulk, with a combined contract cap hit of $18,983,333. With the cap expected to rise a bit from its current $75 million number, the Hurricanes need to shape their cap situation moving forward to accommodate any new signings this offseason.

Let’s take a look at what the Canes’ cap situation heading into the 2019-20 season may look like:


The Untouchables

These players’ contracts expire before or during the summer of 2019, and will almost certainly be re-signed by the Hurricanes:

Jeff Skinner

Skinner’s $5.725 million cap hit runs out after the 2018-19 season, and he will be a top priority for the Hurricanes to re-sign. He’s a valuable offensive asset and a three-time 30-goal scorer. Expect Skinner to receive a raise from the Hurricanes to avert losing him in free agency. Skinner will likely hit $7.5 million if he continues on his offensive trend.

The Young Defensive Corps

Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce will all be restricted free agents after the 2017-18 season. These three are a top priority for the future of the Hurricanes’ defense and will all receive raises from their entry level contracts. However, don’t expect Ron Francis to hand all three of them long-term deals. (Wait, that’s Jim Rutherford’s music!)

The three will likely be signed to bridge deals somewhere in the $3-5 million dollar range. Slavin seems the likeliest to receive a long term contract with the highest raise so expect a new contract with a cap hit of around $5.5 million for him, maybe a bit less if he signs long-term. Hanifin will likely be the recipient of a $4 million cap hit with Pesce clocking in at roughly $3.5 million. A $13 million cap hit for a young defensive corps not even in their prime would be ideal for the team moving forward.

Sebastian Aho

“Seabass” is a talented scorer that will only continue to grow as he matures. His entry level contract will expire after the 2018-19 season. If he is able to continue to grow and add to the stellar rookie season he had, one can expect Aho to receive a contract in the $4 million range on a bridge deal.

For those keeping score, with that core locked up, the Hurricanes would have a $43.5 million cap hit dedicated to those nine players. By comparison, the current cap hit for that group is a shade over $28 million. Here’s the table:

Cap Hit Worksheet: Re-Signing Locks

Player 2017-18 cap hit 2018-19 cap hit 2019-20 cap hit
Player 2017-18 cap hit 2018-19 cap hit 2019-20 cap hit
Jordan Staal $6,000,000 $6,000,000 $6,000,000
Jeff Skinner $5,725,000 $5,725,000 $7,500,000
Justin Faulk $4,833,333 $4,833,333 $4,833,333
Scott Darling $4,150,000 $4,150,000 $4,150,000
Victor Rask $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Sebastian Aho $925,000 $925,000 $4,000,000
Noah Hanifin $925,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Brett Pesce $809,167 $3,500,000 $3,500,000
Jaccob Slavin $742,500 $5,500,000 $5,500,000
Buyouts $3,333,333 $2,333,333 $2,333,333
Total cap hit $31,443,333 $40,966,666 $45,816,666
Italicized numbers are estimates. Numbers with normal formatting from CapFriendly.

The Supporting Cast

Clearly, some tough decisions will have to be made.

The most prominent decision is Elias Lindholm. While there are ample reasons to keep such a player, can it be done at an affordable price so that the team doesn’t dedicate too much salary to ten players? Could he be dangled in a deal?

Lindholm currently has a $2.7 million average annual value that expires after the 2017-18 season. He would probably receive a raise into the $4 million range if the Canes keep him around. It’s something the Hurricanes will have to take a long look at over the course of this season.

Teuvo Teravainen should also remain a member of the squad. His contract expires after the 2018-19 season and if he continues at his current trend, he will also warrant a contract in the $4-5 million range.

The Canes will also need a backup goaltender. For convenience’s sake, we’ll split the difference between Lack and Ward at $3 million for this season, since we’re not sure who will earn the job. Starting in 2018, we budget $1.5 million per season for a backup.

So, adding Lindholm, Teravainen and a backup goalie to the equation, here’s where the Canes would stand:

Cap Hit Worksheet: Expanded Re-signings

Player 2017-18 cap hit 2018-19 cap hit 2019-20 cap hit
Player 2017-18 cap hit 2018-19 cap hit 2019-20 cap hit
Jordan Staal $6,000,000 $6,000,000 $6,000,000
Jeff Skinner $5,725,000 $5,725,000 $7,500,000
Justin Faulk $4,833,333 $4,833,333 $4,833,333
Scott Darling $4,150,000 $4,150,000 $4,150,000
Victor Rask $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Teuvo Teravainen $2,860,000 $2,860,000 $5,000,000
Elias Lindholm $2,700,000 $4,500,000 $4,500,000
Sebastian Aho $925,000 $925,000 $4,000,000
Noah Hanifin $925,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Brett Pesce $809,167 $3,500,000 $3,500,000
Jaccob Slavin $742,500 $5,500,000 $5,500,000
Backup goaltender $3,000,000 $1,500,000 $1,500,000
Buyouts $3,333,333 $2,333,333 $2,333,333
Total cap hit $40,003,333 $49,826,666 $56,816,666
Italicized numbers are estimates. Numbers with normal formatting from CapFriendly.

The Future

Don’t expect the Hurricanes to prioritize players such as Eddie Lack, Cam Ward, Lee Stempniak or players that may not hold long term significance such as Brock McGinn, Ryan Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck. Prospects such as Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier and possibly Nicolas Roy could make their debuts in the NHL between now and the 2019-20 season, all on cheap, entry-level deals. These young promising players will fill roster spots with little to no cost to the front office.

We’re assuming five open roster spots in the 2018 offseason (replacing Stempniak, Derek Ryan, Joakim Nordstrom, Dahlbeck and Murphy) and eight in the 2019 offseason (replacing the above five plus McGinn, Phil Di Giuseppe and Trevor van Riemsdyk, although those holes may be filled by retaining those players). This is a guess, but here’s where the Canes would stand with five players in the Other column in 2018 (including likely cap hits for McGinn, Di Giuseppe and van Riemsdyk) and eight in 2019:

Cap Hit Worksheet: Total Roster

Player 2017-18 cap hit 2018-19 cap hit 2019-20 cap hit
Player 2017-18 cap hit 2018-19 cap hit 2019-20 cap hit
Jordan Staal $6,000,000 $6,000,000 $6,000,000
Jeff Skinner $5,725,000 $5,725,000 $7,500,000
Justin Faulk $4,833,333 $4,833,333 $4,833,333
Scott Darling $4,150,000 $4,150,000 $4,150,000
Victor Rask $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Teuvo Teravainen $2,860,000 $2,860,000 $5,000,000
Elias Lindholm $2,700,000 $4,500,000 $4,500,000
Sebastian Aho $925,000 $925,000 $4,000,000
Noah Hanifin $925,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
Brett Pesce $809,167 $3,500,000 $3,500,000
Jaccob Slavin $742,500 $5,500,000 $5,500,000
Backup goaltender $3,000,000 $1,500,000 $1,500,000
Other players $8,550,000 $8,100,000 $10,000,000
Buyouts $3,333,333 $2,333,333 $2,333,333
Total cap hit $48,553,333 $57,926,666 $66,816,666
Italicized numbers are estimates. Numbers with normal formatting from CapFriendly.

So, with the long-term outlook in place, where does this put the Hurricanes this offseason? The team currently has the third most cap room in the NHL at $23,396,667 able to be spent. Even with the future of the current core in mind, the Hurricanes can afford a top-six forward or two for the next couple of seasons and still remain well under the cap.

However, they have to be careful. The franchise has never been one to get into a bidding war with top markets, nor have they regularly been a team that bumps up against the cap. Even if the cap increases over the next couple of years, don’t expect them to use all of their available space. More salary will be shed with either Lack or Ward leaving Raleigh, but a long-term free agent signing would likely require a sacrifice to be made somewhere else on the roster, lest they run into cap trouble in a couple of years.

It’s crucial for the Hurricanes to have a productive offseason in gathering complementary pieces that result in a playoff berth. A playoff berth translates to financial stability and a dash of hope and optimism for a fan base that has been starved of one for eight seasons. The team must remain wary of long term contracts in free agency this summer to avoid the risk of losing valuable core players down the line.

(All salary cap data courtesy of CapFriendly)