With the Jeff Skinner trade, the Hurricanes’ major business for shaping the 2018-19 roster appears to be done, with no major re-signings left to make, and maybe only a potential Justin Faulk trade still to come.
Next summer will be far busier, however, and the Canes could be looking to be proactive and lock in two key pieces of their future long term, as both of last year’s top two scorers in Finnish forwards Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen will be restricted free agents.
If the two continue their upward progression, the Hurricanes could end up having two very expensive deals to sign next offseason. It would be wise to try and get something done now to lock them in for cheaper, and indeed, the Canes appear to be doing exactly that with Aho, at least. Aho told Tom Gulitti of nhl.com that he and the Canes have started talks on an extension, but it sounds like those talks are in the fairly early stages.
So, what might the Finnish connection’s next contracts look like? Let’s see some possibilities.
If you’re signing Aho to an extension right now, you have two options, a bridge deal or long-term extension. A bridge deal is a bad idea for a couple reasons. Given Aho’s progression last year to 29 goals and 65 points, I think the best you could do would be a three-year, $5 million extension. That would probably serve as a big bargain for those three years, but when it’s up, and Aho is only a year removed from UFA eligibility, you’re looking at signing a massive deal.
The best option with Aho is probably to sign him to a long-term extension now. When you plug in Aho’s career games played of 160 with his career points of 114, with a cap hit in the $5.5-6 million ballpark, you get some interesting comparables.
Most of the contracts have a term of six years, so we’ll go with six or seven here. One interesting comparable is the deal former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford gave Skinner with a year left on his entry-level contract, a six-year deal with a $5.73 million AAV. Could Don Waddell and friends work out something similar with Aho?
Aho had a better second season than Skinner, who’s production dropped from his rookie year and missed 18 games due to a concussion and suspension, so he could probably ask for a little more, and maybe another year? Would a six to seven-year extension with an AAV between $6 and $7 million per season be feasible for Aho? Good chance.
Another reasonable comparable is David Pastrnak’s six-year, $6.66 million AAV deal with Boston.
If the Canes can get Aho in the six-seven years, $6-7 million AAV ballpark, that contract is going to look like a steal very soon, especially if he flirts with 40 goals and 70 points this year, which he could very well do if he can stay healthy and avoid the slow first month he’s had the first two years.
On the flip side, if the Canes wait until next offseason and Aho does have that kind of season, they’re probably looking at a seven to eight-year deal worth upwards of $7 million per season, and the possibility of a bridge deal probably goes out the window.
The Canes best bet is to get Aho under contract now for six to seven years at a lower number. From Aho’s perspective, that gives you a good chunk of guaranteed money right now, and when the deal ends, you’re 27 or 28, a UFA and have a good shot at another big deal. Let’s call it seven years at $6.5 million for Aho.
Teravainen is a little more straight forward. While he’s only played three full seasons in the league, he’s also coming off a breakout season and the Canes just signed him to a bridge deal, so he’s unlikely to take another one, especially coming off last year’s breakout with 23 goals and 64 points.
A longer deal is probably in the cards, but what might it look like? Well, when we use our handy-dandy comparables calculator (seriously, Cap Friendly is life) and plug in Teravainen’s signing age of 23, RFA status, 278 games played and 150 points, along with the same cap hit ballpark as Aho, we get some interesting results.
The three at the top of the similarities list are Jaden Schwartz, Jonathan Huberdeau and Reilly Smith. Schwartz and Smith both signed for five years, with Huberdeau at six, and all three between a $5-6 million AAV.
I don’t think there’s as much urgency to get something done with Teravainen as there is with Aho. Even if he has a similar season to last year, you’re probably looking at a five-six year deal between $5-6 million. Let’s split the difference and say five years, $6 million. If you’re Teravainen, that takes you up to age 28 and what is probably at least a decent UFA contract.
The Canes’ payroll is going to take a leap starting in the 2018-19 season with two of their top young forwards needing new deals. With Aho in particular, the Canes would be wise to go long-term and sign the deal now to keep costs down. The amount of leverage Waddell is able to use in these deals will be crucial to the team’s long-term situation, particularly down the line when players like Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas come off their entry-level deals.