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Hurricanes Embark on New, Expensive Era

The 2019 offseason will set up the cap structure upon which the Hurricanes will operate for a very long time.

Sebastian Aho skates on opening night (10/4/18) against the New York Islanders.
Jamie Kellner

For several years, the Carolina Hurricanes have been among the bottom-five NHL teams in payroll. That’s one of the benefits of being irrelevant, I guess. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to bad.

Someone should probably tell the Edmonton Oilers and the Detroit Red Wings...

When you go through a rebuild like the Hurricanes have, there eventually comes a day where negligibly cheap entry-level contracts expire and the players you have drafted are due for real contracts.

That day is getting very close for Carolina.

Tom Dundon and the Hurricanes’ front office will have a lot of key decisions to make over the next few months. They’ll have to decide which players they will break the bank for, which players are worth keeping around, and which players won’t have a role in the organization beyond this season.

Among the players who need extensions is the entirety of Carolina’ first forward line of Micheal Ferland, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen. Those three own a combined cap hit of $5.535 million in 2018-19, but that’ll change very soon.

But what does all of this mean going forward?

Well, I spent some time trying to find that out. Here’s what I came up with...

Right Now

As of October 19, the Hurricanes have the lowest payroll ($63.169 million) among the 31 NHL teams. The reason for that is pretty simple.

Carolina ranks among the youngest teams in hockey, meaning that very few of their players have reached the point of unrestricted free agency or their expensive deals. There are a lot of ELCs and bridge contracts on this team.

The allocation of money is interesting. The 14 forwards on Carolina’s roster (including Victor Rask) have a combined cap hit of $27.189 million. The six defensemen combine for $26.758 million. The average cap hit for Carolina’s forwards is a just above $1.942 million. The average cap hit for the defensemen is just shy of $4.46 million.

Yeah, that’s a big difference.

It’s not surprising, though. Former general manager Ron Francis built this team with an emphasis on defense and, shortly after he and the organization went their separate ways, Don Waddell and company traded for one of the best defensemen in the NHL (Dougie Hamilton) and signed the best defenseman of the 2018 free agent class (Calvin de Haan).

While the blue line is pricey, it’s not a problem by any means. Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin (Carolina’s top defensive pairing) both come in at a $5.75 million cap hit or lower and are under contract for three and seven years, respectively.

Outside of a trade, there won’t be much of any shuffling of the blue line moving forward. The only defensemen who aren’t locked up beyond next season are Justin Faulk and Trevor van Riemsdyk. It wouldn’t shock me if one of them end up being trade chips down the road.

Where the real turnover could be is up front. Of their 14 forwards, only six of them are signed beyond this season. If you include Martin Necas, that means seven of 15 forwards are signed beyond this season.

Their three goalies (including Scott Darling) combine for a $6.5 million cap hit. Darling has two more years on his deal beyond the 2018-19 season. Both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney are signed to one-year contracts.

The Summer of 2019

Between now (or whenever they start signing extensions with their players) and July 1, the Hurricanes front office could be very busy.

I mentioned above that fewer than half of the team’s roster forwards are signed beyond this season. Here are all the notable players whose contracts expire in 2019 with their current deals in parentheses.

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Justin Williams (two years, $4.5 million AAV)
  • Jordan Martinook (two years, $1.8 million AAV)
  • Micheal Ferland (two years, $1.75 million AAV)
  • Petr Mrazek (one year, $1.5 million)

Restricted Free Agents

  • Teuvo Teravainen (two years, $2.86 million AAV)
  • Sebastian Aho (three years, ELC)
  • Brock McGinn (two years, $887,500 AAV)
  • Haydn Fleury (three years, ELC)
  • Phil Di Giuseppe (one year, $750,000)

Aho’s deal will be no joke. His transition to the middle of the ice has gone extremely well, and if he can reach 75 or even 80 points this season as a center, the money he gets will jump even higher. For now, an eight-year, $64 million contract sounds about right. That’s an $8 million AAV. The structure of his contract will be interesting to see. I’d expect a gradual increase in the first several seasons, eventually maxing out and plateauing around when he would become UFA eligible. If his deal eclipses $60 million in total money (the total value of Jordan Staal’s contract), it’ll be the most lucrative deal in team history.

Teravainen’s deal won’t be what Aho’s will be. That said, it definitely won’t be cheap. Over his last 82 games, the 24-year-old has logged 69 points - a nice number for him. That’s only six fewer than Aho’s 75 points over his last 82. Given the similarity in their production and stages of their careers, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a similar deal to what Detroit gave Dylan Larkin (five years, $6.1 million AAV). Let’s call it a five or six year deal in neighborhood of $6 million for Teravainen.

After seeing his play and production take off last season and into the new campaign, Ferland is in for a considerable raise. Obviously, how he performs between now and the end of the season will influence what kind of deal he gets, but I think a three-year deal makes the most sense. It expires when he turns 30, which factors in possible regression due to the style of game he plays and doesn’t financially handcuff the team. If he scores 20-25 goals this season, he could end up getting upwards of $5.5 million. It’s worth remembering that Tom Wilson got north of $5 million a year on his deal.

If Justin Williams comes back, it’ll likely be for one year and around $3.5 million. He played well last year and he’s off to a very productive start in 2018-19. Plus, he’s the captain and the leader in that locker room. He’ll be 38 next season.

The rest of those deals are far from locks and will be heavily dependent on a variety of things. If they all were to come back, Martinook, Mrazek, Fleury, McGinn, and Di Giuseppe would combine for upwards of $6-7 million against the cap next season. It is very unlikely that all of those players are back next season, though.

The End Result

The way I see it unfolding, the deals I discussed above (Aho, Teravainen, Ferland, Williams) should combine for a cap hit of $23 million in the 2019-20 season. After subtracting these players’ old cap hit, the net result would be just under $13 million added to the team cap total.

That means, the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes would like this:


Player 2019-20 Cap Hit
Player 2019-20 Cap Hit
Sebastian Aho $8 million
Teuvo Teravainen $6 million
Jordan Staal $6 million
Micheal Ferland $5.5 million
Victor Rask $4 million
Justin Williams $3.5 million
Andrei Svechnikov $925k
Martin Necas $894k
Warren Foegele $747k
Lucas Wallmark $675k
Valentin Zykov $675k


Player 2019-20 Cap Hit
Player 2019-20 Cap Hit
Dougie Hamilton $5.75 million
Jaccob Slavin $5.3 million
Justin Faulk $4.83 million
Clavin de Haan $4.55 million
Brett Pesce $4.025 million
Trevor van Riemsdyk $2.3 million


Player 2019-20 Cap Hit
Player 2019-20 Cap Hit
Scott Darling $4.15 million

That is 11 forwards, six defensemen, and one goalie, which means it’s an incomplete roster that needs one or two more forwards and a backup goalie.

The total cap hit of that 18-man roster is $67.824 million. After you add the money for Alexander Semin’s buyout, that lifts the Canes to $70.157 million. That would be the highest raw cap number Carolina has ever had and among the highest cap percentages they’ve ever utilized.

The average salary for a Hurricanes forward jumps from the $1.942 million that I outlined in the open to $3.356 million.

In total, the cap hit of the 2019-20 roster that I put together is $7.376 million more than the 2018-19 team, which has one additional forward and two additional goalies on the roster. If we play the hypothetical game and add McGinn, Di Giuseppe, Martinook, Fleury, and Mrazek to that total, that 2019-20 number would eclipse $76 million. That would likely put the Hurricanes in the 14-18 range among team spending.

I have the Canes at six players with a cap hit of $5 million or more next season. That’s twice as many as they have this season. To put that into context, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers have six players with a cap hit north of $5 million, the Calgary Flames have five players north of $5 million, the Philadelphia Flyers have four players north of $5 million, and the Washington Capitals have an absurd nine players in that category.

You’ll soon start to notice that the Hurricanes are no longer in the basement of NHL payroll. They’re going to make a pretty dramatic rise in that regard between now and the beginning of next season. Of course, it won’t all end up exactly like I outlined it, but I think it’s a realistic look at how things will progress.

The Hurricanes are not staring in the face of a serious cap problem, but they are staring in the face of a situation that they haven’t been in for a number of years. They’ll have to spend money to maintain and build success. This is where Tom Dundon, a new owner who has said all the right things about spending money when needed, will have to let his actions do the talking.

What will really save Carolina, salary cap-wise, is the fact that they have three projected impact forwards in Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Warren Foegele all on their ELCs for at least another season or two. Lucas Wallmark also has another year on his rookie deal. Upon the expiration of their rookie deals, things might look really different.

We are still a couple of years away from that, though.

*Note: All salary cap information is from and