Over the next two days, Canes Country senior writers Brett Finger and Andrew Schnittker will be making cases for and against the Hurricanes signing pending unrestricted free agent Micheal Ferland to a contract extension.
Today, Brett will discuss the situation from the “pay the man” point-of-view. Andrew’s counterpoint will be posted on Canes Country tomorrow (January 17).
On the ice, the Carolina Hurricanes are hot. Seven wins in their last nine games hot.
Off the ice, the Hurricanes’ front office might not be “hot”, but they’re undoubtedly feeling the heat.
Within the next 40 days, we will know what the future of pending unrestricted free agent Micheal Ferland is. The Canes find themselves in the patented impact pending UFA situation. Do you sign him? Do you trade him? Do you risk not trading him and keeping him through the rest of the season?
We know two things for certain: the Hurricanes want Ferland to be on their team beyond this season, and Ferland has stated on multiple occasions that he does not want to leave the team and would like to sign a contract extension.
Let’s follow those feelings. Here’s the case for signing Micheal Ferland to a contract extension.
The Hurricanes haven’t had a player who played the way that Ferland plays with a similar skill level to what Ferland has since Tuomo Ruutu. You don’t need my scouting report of how Ferland plays. We all know how physical, aggressive, hard-working and talented the former Calgary Flame is.
In 39 games this season, the 26-year-old winger has scored 13 goals (T-2nd on the Hurricanes) and logged 25 total points. If he were to play in the rest of Carolina’s games this season, he’d be currently on pace to score 25 goals and have 48 points. Over a full 82-game slate, he is scoring at a 27-goal pace. Coming off of a career-high 21 goals a season ago, he appears to be well on his way to setting a new benchmark for himself this season.
His chemistry with the organization’s face and future, Sebastian Aho, was instant and since undeniably impressive.
When Ferland and Aho are on the ice together at 5-on-5, the Hurricanes have scored 22 goals and have yielded just ten. That’s a 68.75% goals-for percentage, which is the highest rate for any duo on the Hurricanes this season. It even beats out the dynamic Finnish duo of Aho and Teravainen who, when on the ice together, have a 64.44% goals-for rate.
There’s an argument that, while Ferland has had a string of breakout seasons in his mid-20’s, it has been more about his linemates (Aho, Teravainen, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan) than Ferland. That may be true. It’s entirely possible, perhaps even very likely, that his numbers have been boosted by playing with high-end offensive talents, but you could very easily make the same exact argument the other way around.
At 5-on-5 this season, Aho has played 329:18 without Ferland and has an on-ice corsi-for percentage of 53.78 and goals-for rate of 52.63 (ten goals for, nine goals against). That’s compared to a 57.14 corsi share and 22 goals for and ten against with Ferland in 323:15 of 5-on-5 time. That is an absolutely damning statistic for anyone who thinks that Ferland hasn’t been playing a huge role in Aho’s breakout year.
On top of the numbers, Ferland brings the “sandpaper” (I hate using that word when talking about hockey) that this Canes team has been in desperate need of since the decline of Ruutu.
7x7 for Ferland. Right now. pic.twitter.com/RfVem82UQ8— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) January 13, 2019
What’s he worth? Well, he’s very easily worth the money that Tom Wilson is getting paid, which is north of $5 million AAV. The notion that Tom Dundon isn’t willing to open his checkbook is far-fetched, in my opinion. He’s a billionaire owner with a very obvious passion for his investment. Don’t think for a second that Dundon is ignoring what people are saying about his team and his valuable pending UFA. He knows Ferland is a fan favorite and that trading him could bring a pretty severe backlash.
I don’t think this is a money problem for Dundon, who I think would be happy to pay whatever he had to pay for this player. It’s a term problem for the GMBC, which already has two long-term dead-money deals on the books (Victor Rask and Scott Darling) and a pair of Finnish forwards who need huge contract extensions this summer.
I’ve used Ruutu as a Ferland comparable, so let’s compare them.
In February of 2012, the Hurricanes signed the fan-favorite Finn (and pending UFA) to a four-year, $4.75 million AAV contract. That was the going rate for a player like Ruutu or Ferland at that time.
At the end of that 2011-12 season, Ruutu had 18 goals and 34 points at age 28, which was a regression from his 19 in 2010-11 (age 27) and career-high 26 in 2008-09 (age 25).
From there, Ruutu played all of 17 games during the lockout-shortened season due to injury and had nine points. The next season, he had 16 points in 57 games before getting traded to New Jersey in a cap-dump which saw the Canes retain 20% of his salary for the final two years of his contract.
We’ve seen how things can play out with players like Ferland. The mileage is a big deal. That said, there’s considerably less mileage on Ferland (302 total NHL games) than Ruutu (548 total NHL games when his extension kicked in). That’s a huge disparity. A disparity that you can’t ignore. Even factoring in injuries, Ferland is not Ruutu - at least not yet.
I take issue with comparisons of Ferland to Lucic or Backes. Ferland is 26 and has played in 302 NHL games. Backes was 32 and had played in 769 NHL games and Lucic was 28 and had played in 748 NHL games when their deals were signed. Even Ruutu had 548 games played when he signed.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) January 17, 2019
To boot, if this team is going to spend money and take a risk on a player, this is the place to do it. You know Ferland fits, both on the ice and in the locker room. Your star player loves him and plays at a very high level when paired with him. While it’s a risk, it’s a calculated risk.
You know exactly who and what this player is. On top of finding a replacement for Ferland, you have to find a guy who fits with what they’re building. Why take that chance when you know for certain that Ferland is that perfect fit.
So, should the Hurricanes do everything in their power to keep the player and sign him to a long-term extension? Yes, absolutely. They need to go down every avenue and try to find a way to make it happen. Ferland has been as-advertised and then some. His impact on the Hurricanes can’t be understated.
However, if it becomes clear that a deal absolutely won’t get done, it’s going to be easy to make a decision to trade him for assets at the deadline. In a perfect world, the Canes trade Ferland for a good haul and then go after him on July 1, but as we all know, things very rarely go perfect for the Carolina Hurricanes.
And with that in mind, I’m curious as to what this team could even get in a trade of Ferland that they don’t already have. They have 18 draft picks over the next two years, one of the best farm systems in hockey, a star in the making in Andrei Svechnikov, a high-upside rookie in Martin Necas, prospect depth at skill positions and a young d-core that is, largely, under contract for the long haul. So, if you can even get a first-round pick for Ferland (which isn’t a guarantee), what’s the point? What does a draft pick that will likely be in the second-half of the first round really give you?
Even if they don’t use that pick they trade for and decide to trade it for another player, they’d be trading it for a player like Ferland anyway. So, I’d argue that even taking a risk and letting Ferland play out the rest of the season in Carolina (as a self-owned rental of sorts), making a playoff push, and keeping those contract negotiations going throughout the spring and summer is a better option than just trading him.
Tom Dundon, Don Waddell, Paul Krepelka and company are between a rock and a hard place on this one, but I think the Canes need to bite the bullet and do what they can to keep him around.