Seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes roll into Calgary today knowing that they need two points to help keep their dim playoff hopes alive.
But as crucial as Tuesday night’s inter-conference matchup is, the game itself isn’t getting the most attention.
On Monday, the Hurricanes agreed to terms with Teuvo Teravainen on a long-term extension that will keep him in the red and black through the 2023-24 season.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this team going forward. I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Teravainen said after the team’s practice in Calgary on Monday. “I feel like I have a lot more to do. It’s really exciting to be a part of this.”
General Manager Don Waddell and the Carolina front office identified Teravainen as a core piece of this team moving forward, and they did so for very good reason. Since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, “Turbo” has skated in all 130 games played by the Hurricanes and has contributed 103 points (.79 points per game). He posted career-highs in all major offensive stats last season and is on pace to set new career highs in both assists (50) and points (67) this season.
To boot, he has evolved into an all-around player whose skillset is on display in all three zones. He has gone from being a player who only sticks out when he’s in the offensive zone to a player whose end-to-end effort keeps him engaged every single shift. You see further maturation in his game on a regular basis.
One man’s contract extension is another man’s plane ticket out of town, though.
Micheal Ferland’s name has been a source of debate over the last several weeks. With his contract expiring on July 1 and the Hurricanes reportedly not in the same ballpark as his representation, Ferland’s odds of being traded by the February 25 trade deadline seem to be improving by the day, and the combination of last week’s trade with the Minnesota Wild and Teravainen’s new deal should all but seal the deal.
After committing nearly $11 million in average annual cap value for the long term to Niederreiter and Teravainen in the matter of a few days, the Hurricanes have, in the neighborhood of, $51-52 million in cap allocated to players currently under contract for the 2019-20 season. That’s for seven forwards (Niederreiter, Teravainen, Staal, Svechnikov, *Necas, Foegele, Wallmark), seven defensemen (Hamilton, Slavin, Faulk, de Haan, Pesce, van Riemsdyk, **Fox), one bought out goalie (***Darling) and one bought out skater (Semin).
Note: * denotes Martin Necas’ almost assured roster spot, **denotes Adam Fox’s ELC at the max cap hit of $925,000 (there’s growing reason to believe that it’s likely Fox will sign with the Hurricanes in March), *** denotes my assumption that Scott Darling’s contract will be bought out after the 2018-19 season
With the projected 2019-2020 NHL salary cap ceiling being in the $82-84 million range, that would leave the Hurricanes roughly $30 million in cap space. With that space, the Canes will likely sign Sebastian Aho, Justin Williams, Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, Saku Maenalanen, Haydn Fleury, and Petr Mrazek to contract extensions. Assuming that happens, my estimate has those seven players combining for ~$19 million in cap space next season.
They would be at ~$70 million in cap usage, which gives them ~$13 million (based on the NHL’s aforementioned salary cap projection) to get another goalie (assuming Curtis McElhinney isn’t going to be back next season - his persistent lower-body ailments combined with his age could scare the Canes away) and get any spare parts that they want/need.
Are the Hurricanes really going to commit upwards of $6 million annually to Micheal Ferland (some reports suggest he wants even more than that) over a long term deal? Will they feel comfortable spending half of their cap space for next season on him? I doubt it, especially taking into consideration Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas’ new contracts in two or three years and the oft-discussed high risk that comes with signing a player who plays the way Ferland does long-term.
Of course, things could change dramatically given that the Hurricanes’ front office still has some unfinished business as they are still reportedly determined to move a defenseman for a top-six forward. If that does end up happening, my guess would be that it will be a guy like Hamilton ($5.75 million cap hit) or Faulk ($4.84 million cap hit) as part of a potential package getting swapped for an established top-six scorer who is under contract. I think that the cap hits would pretty much even out (give or take $1-2 million) since the player they’ll get will likely be under a legitimate NHL deal.
At that point, you can even take the cap space out of the equation. If the Hurricanes have all of Aho, Teravainen, Niederreiter, Svechnikov, Necas, Williams, Staal, and the acquired top-six forward (not even taking into account players like Janne Kuokkanen, Julien Gauthier, Nicolas Roy and others in Charlotte who could play their way into consideration), does it even make sense to commit a large sum of money to Ferland? That’s a crowded top-nine, and I think the Canes could get much better value on a different player, even if that player isn’t exactly what Ferland is. I think the Canes think that, as well.
The moral of the story: Teuvo Teravainen’s contract extension is a great deal for all parties. The Canes have a player who is a lock for 60+ points per season and has developed into an excellent two-way player at a very palatable cap hit through his prime. That said, now that we are getting a better idea of what the team’s cap structure will be moving forward, it only opens the door wider for Ferland to head elsewhere.
Quite frankly, it’s the right decision for the Hurricanes, too.
All cap numbers and projections based on information from CapFriendly.com