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Calculating Risks: A look at the Hurricanes’ free agency plans

Is being a player in free agency part of the Canes’ offseason plans? And should it be?

Jamie Kellner

John Tavares. James van Riemsdyk. James Neal. Some pretty interesting names remain without contract extensions as the NHL season moves closer to February. Each player will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and are destined to rake in the big bucks...and perhaps new teams.

New owner Tom Dundon is now in the driver’s seat in Raleigh with additional cash flow at his disposal. Could the Canes be one of the teams gunning for a top free agent this summer? With a cupboard full of young players and a solid core intact at the NHL level, a few complimentary pieces or a first line center could go a long way with the makeup of the current team.

But is free agency worth the risk? Some contracts signed in July have looked terrible in retrospect while others have helped teams get over the hump and into the playoffs, even to a Cup.

Here’s a mixture of good, bad and just plain ugly contracts signed recently in free agency:

2017 Offseason

Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk earned the big bucks among free agents, raking in a four-year deal worth $6.65 million per year with the New York Rangers. The mobile defenseman was fresh off a 56 point season in which he split time between the St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals.

This year, he’s been dominant offensively, raking in 23 points in 46 games. However, a major bump in the road has occurred: Shattenkirk is now out indefinitely with a torn meniscus.

While this is rough news for now, Shattenkirk is entering his prime and there is no immediate indication that this contract won’t turn out for the Blueshirts.

Alexander Radulov

Despite all the controversy surrounding Radulov and Montreal, the Russian forward took his talents to Dallas and received a five year, $31.25 million contract for his services. And boy, has it paid off for both parties. Radulov’s production has been outstanding this season, with 44 points in 48 games. The right winger has now tied his goal total (18) from last season and remains a threat every time he steps on the ice.

The contract is the right fit for a 31-year-old forward with little wear and tear on his body. Radulov is in an ideal situation as he can sit back and play his style of game while letting Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin carry the load.

Patrick Marleau

Marleau signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs was strange for many reasons. The veteran forward had known nothing but teal as he was always anticipated to be a San Jose Shark for life. However, Canada’s most popular city came calling and he answered: a three-year deal worth $18.75 million.

You can’t fault Marleau for agreeing to a deal that large, especially at this stage of career. But it’s fair to ask Toronto: what were you thinking?

The Leafs owe contract extensions to Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Nikita Soshnikov over the next season or two, so this deal remains puzzling. This may force the team to let go of players like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak.

Marlueau is projected to finish with 40 points which is below last year’s total. Earning $6.25 million per year leaves more to be desired from the aging winger.

Martin Hanzal

Perhaps the biggest whiff of last summer was Martin Hanzal. The two-way center signed a three year, 14.25 million with the Dallas Stars and was expected to contribute on both ends of the ice.

He has eight points to show for it so far. Previously, Hanzal had 39 points and 40 points, respectively, in the last two seasons. There is no indicator that Hanzal’s play will change over the rest of the season but it does not mean this contract is lost. Two more seasons at $4.75 million still indicate that Hanzal has some work to do.

Karl Alzner

No offseason is complete without a team overpaying for a veteran defenseman. The Canadiens handed Alzner a five-year deal at $4.625 million a year. Unlike the aforementioned Shattenkirk, Alzner was never one to light up the stat sheet and that is reflected in this year’s performance (one goal, seven assists).

He doesn’t particularly drive play and has a mediocre Corsi. So why did Montreal sign Alzner to this deal?

Well, Alzner was an extra piece to add to the back end to help solidify their play during the postseason. The problem is: Montreal will most likely be on the outside looking in for this year’s playoffs. This remains a “wait and see” contract because as of now, it does not look as if it is yielding results.

2016 Offseason

Milan Lucic

The top earner of the 2016 offfseason, Lucic had an impressive resume coming into free agency: a Stanley Cup Champion and 342 points in 566 games. Edmonton came calling and offered a seven-year deal worth $6 million per year. Lucic was brought in for one reason: protect Connor McDavid and let him do his job.

Lucic posted a respectable 50 points but how much of that was the “McDavid effect?” His Corsi at even strength dropped from 59.0% to 51.5% in his first season with the Oilers. He has 30 points in 49 games this season as his team continues to struggle.

This deal doesn’t look atrocious yet, but his production would have to stay on par for this to not hurt when he moves into his mid 30s.

Kyle Okposo

You certainly can’t blame Okposo for accepting a deal like he did. He was coming off a 64 point season with the New York Islanders and was looking for a payday. And boy, he got paid: seven years, $6 million per year from the Sabres.

Okposo was brought in to a Buffalo team that was budding with promise. Jack Eichel was on his way and Rasmus Ristolainen was an anchor on the back end.’ve seen how that has turned out. Buffalo continues to be a bottom dweller and may now look at another rebuild since the first one didn’t work out too well. Okposo is not a great possession player, but he has 74 points in 112 games with the Sabres since he arrived.

Loui Eriksson

By far one of the worst contracts handed out in the 2016 offseason, and it’s no surprise that it came from Jim Benning. The Vancouver Canucks GM handed Eriksson a six-year, $36 million he headed into a season in which he turned 31.

He had a measly 24 points in 65 games in his first year with the team and has 19 points in 37 games this season. His Corsi is average and most of his underlying statistics do not hint that he will get any better as this contract goes along. Wow.

David Backes

Backes, fresh off of consecutive seasons of 58 points and 45 points, tested free agency after the conclusion of his five year deal with the St. Louis Blues. Boston, with cap room to spare at the time, signed Backes to a five year, $30 million deal.

It has been anything but fruitful for Boston. Backes finished with 38 points in 74 games in his first year of his contract and has 19 points in 28 games this season. Backes missed eight weeks this season with diverticulitis.

Backes’ contract remains an eyesore, as he is 33 years old with a no movement clause for another season and a modified no movement clause for the remaining two seasons of his contract. He consistently plays third line six million a year? Yikes.

2015 Offseason

Mike Green

Three years for $18 million fell into Green’s lap after a ten-goal, 45-point season. Green’s numbers have fallen since joining the Detroit Red Wings, but still have remained mostly respectable.

Green is in his last year of the deal and may even be trade bait when this year’s deadline rolls around. As he moves into his next contract, a team would be wise to not pay him an average of $6 million a year.

Andrej Sekera

Ah, the former Hurricane great. Let’s just say he is the MVP of the Oilers outside of McDavid. Sekera suffered a serious injury this season and the Oilers have been twisting in the wind as a result.

Sekera is in the third year of a six-year deal at a cap hit of $5.5 million a year. His offensive statistics improved in his previous two seasons with the Oilers, registering 30 and 35 points, respectively.

Paul Martin

Another defenseman on the market after the 2014-15 season, Martin and the Pittsburgh Penguins mutually parted ways after five seasons together. Martin moved on to the San Jose Sharks who rewarded him with a four-year, $4.85 million AAV contract.

So far, Martin has proved to be a reliable stay at home defender for San Jose. Despite injuries this year, Martin should remain valuable as he moves into his late thirties.

Looking Ahead

There are calculated risks to take and it wouldn’t hurt for Tom Dundon to pull the trigger on a big-money free agent. That said, getting into a bidding war for an aging veteran is not what the team needs in its current state. A player that can foster and complement the core would be ideal.

Even after Noah Hanifin’s long term deal, the Canes should have plenty of cap room available. If this team misses the playoffs once again, Dundon will not have the excuses that his predecessor did. It’s time to take risks.

All data courtesy of Cap Friendly