Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov became members of the Carolina Hurricanes on successive days: Svechnikov when the Hurricanes selected him second overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, and Hamilton the next day when the Hurricanes stunned the draft floor in Dallas by swinging a deal to pick up the Calgary Flames defenseman. The two have become inseparable over the past two seasons, the Canes’ own Odd Couple who have endeared themselves both to their teammates and to the fans.
So it’s altogether appropriate that both players are up for new contracts after the upcoming season, ones that will largely define the near-term salary cap situation of the Hurricanes and, perhaps, set the parameters of the team’s contention window.
Don Waddell has his work cut out for him in negotiating these new deals. Neither will be cheap, but both are very, very necessary. What could the new contracts for Hamilton and Svechnikov look like - and where would it leave the Hurricanes’ cap situation? Let’s take a look, with help from the indispensable CapFriendly.
Let’s start with Svechnikov, who will likely be the more difficult of the two to sign. It’s actually surprisingly rare for high-flying wingers coming off their entry-level deal to sign a long-term contract walking them up to unrestricted free agency, which Svechnikov will reach at age 25, in the summer of 2025. That’s understandable, in a way, because teams largely prioritize their top centers, signing them long-term then using bridge deals on their top wingers.
The Hurricanes have said that they want to lock Svechnikov up long-term, and should that be the road that the parties agree to go down, three players stick out as potential comparables, the most obvious being Mikko Rantanen. The Avalanche winger, threatening a holdout, walked right up to the precipice of the 2019-20 season before signing his new deal, which clocks in for six years at an average annual value of $9.25 million, 11.35% of the $81.5 million cap. You can be sure that Svechnikov’s camp is looking very closely at that deal.
The Hurricanes, for their part, will want the new deal to be closer to a pair of others. David Pastrnak and Nikolaj Ehlers both played possum with their teams in the summer of 2017, with Ehlers taking the Jets all the way to opening night before signing. Ehlers’ deal, a $6 million AAV contract for seven years, was worth 8% of the cap when it was signed. Pastrnak’s contract was for a bit more, just under 9% of the cap at $6.667 million AAV for six seasons.
So, doing some calculations, the range seems to be from around $6.5 million (Ehlers’ number) to $9.25 million (Rantanen). I’d expect that the Hurricanes and Svechnikov will split the difference, perhaps a six-year deal at $7.75 million AAV that would buy out two years of unrestricted free agency. That would be about 9.5% of the cap, right in line with where the other long-term winger contracts have fallen.
Somewhat less likely is a bridge contract, which is a little easier to pin down. These contracts almost uniformly fall in a range of about 7-8% of the cap, so a little cheaper than a long-term deal but with a bit more cap relief for the team. The Hurricanes will look with interest at Nikita Kucherov’s second contract, which was for just over 6.5% of the cap; Matthew Tkachuk’s bridge deal last summer, which is at about 8.6% of the cap, will likely be the high-water mark the Svechnikov camp will cite.
Kucherov’s career arc is closer to Svechnikov’s than any of the other comparables, including the likes of Alex DeBrincat and Brock Boeser, so we’ll go with a bridge deal for 7% of the cap. That calculates to a three-year deal worth $5.7 million AAV. A three-year deal would get Svechnikov to one year away from UFA status, so if the Hurricanes feel like they need to save a few cap dollars, this seems like the most likely option.
Now, onto Hamilton, and what I believe will actually be the easier of the two negotiations despite him being a year away from unrestricted free agency. Hamilton is on an extremely team-friendly deal right now, and the negotiation should be pretty straightforward.
Hamilton is coming off a six-year deal into UFA status, the same as John Carlson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson; Roman Josi, whose new contract extension begins next season, had a seven-year deal that led into UFA. Ekman-Larsson’s deal is likely the high-water mark that the Hamilton camp will cite. At just under 10.5% of the cap, or an AAV of $8.25 million, it should be straightforward for Hamilton’s agent to argue that his value is indisputably higher, and his new deal should be commensurately higher, than that of the Coyotes captain.
But the Hurricanes can point to Carlson (10.1%) and Josi (11.1%) as players whose heights Hamilton hasn’t quite reached. Carlson, in particular, has reached nearly a point per game in each of the past three seasons, and while Josi hasn’t been quite as prolific, he’s been a constant 50-point scorer for the past six seasons. Hamilton has been just a touch behind that production.
There’s also a big intangible at play for Hamilton: his comfort in the Carolina market. Not every player will take a discount to stay in a good situation, and I’m by no means suggesting that Hamilton is a slam dunk to do so, but if anyone would Dougie certainly seems like a solid candidate. That might buy the Hurricanes a few extra bucks off the cap, perhaps in exchange for an extra year on the contract.
Ultimately, Ekman-Larsson’s deal is probably the most instructive. A deal worth 10.5% of the cap in 2020 is an AAV of $8.56 million; round it up to $8.6 million for six years and I think the Canes would have a deal.
The calculations indicate that the Hurricanes will likely need to commit between $15 and $16 million in cap space to signing Hamilton and Svechnikov, perhaps a bit less if they decide to go the bridge-deal route with Svechnikov. However, the deals coming off the books in the summer of 2021 should go a long way to help matters. It will be tight, but it should be doable to get both players signed and keep them in Hurricanes sweaters for years to come.