This article is part of our Cap Compliance series.
While the current season remains on hiatus, there is no time like the present to start looking ahead to next year. Over the next several weeks, we'll take a look at the cap situation for all 31 NHL clubs, including restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents and even potential buyouts. Then, we'll play a little armchair General Manager by providing our recommendations for how we would approach the upcoming 2020-21 campaign if we were running the club.
In our most recent Twitter poll, the Carolina Hurricanes finally finished above last place and will be the first Metropolitan team featured.
2020-21 Cap Situation
The Hurricanes currently have 10 forwards, five defensemen and two goaltenders under contract for next season at a price tag of $70,017,333 and will also be on the hook for $2,333,333 from Alexander Semin's 2015 buyout. Assuming a flat cap of $81.5 million, this leaves the club with $9,149,334 in cap space and six spots under the 23-man roster to fill.
Restricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: Starting up front, Foegele put together a career year in which he set personal bests in goals (13), assists (17) and ice time per game (13:43). While he is certainly on an upward trajectory, the youngster is still in just his second NHL season. The club will want to sign a 2-3 year deal that retains his RFA rights at the end. It figures to resemble the three-year, $6 million contract Adrian Kempe signed in September of 2019. Offensively, Fleury offers a similar level of production to teammate Trevor van Riemsdyk, so the Canes could offer him a nearly identical deal – a two-year, $4.6 million contract that allows him to be a UFA at the end.
Kyle Riley: Foegele has been a fantastic bottom-six option for the Hurricanes this year, but he doesn't really have top-six potential, so although the Kempe comparison certainly isn't outlandish, I think Kempe is the better player (and also a year younger). Having said that, I'd look to sign Foegele to a three-year deal with an AAV just under $2 million. A three-year, $5.25 contract should get it done. I don't see Carolina signing any of its pending UFAs, so getting Fleury, who's a solid bottom-pairing blueliner, re-signed will be essential for the club. I actually think AJ's right on the money in terms of the AAV, but I'd actually look to sign him to a three-year, $6.9 million deal if he's willing to run the risk of being slightly underpaid in the final year of his contract in exchange for security.
Unrestricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: It took the team most of the season to bring Williams back into the fold in order to make a playoff run, so whether or not he wants to make another go of it could depend on how the Canes fare in the postseason. Still, this year may be the last hurrah for Mr. Game 7. Heading into next season, the club has over $24 million already committed to the blue line as is going to need some guys who can fill in on the cheap. After leading all players in scoring for AHL Charlotte this year, Jake Bean should be a lock for the 23-man roster and Fleury is already a proven defenseman who won't break the bank. With the youngsters pushing for bigger roles, there simply isn't a reason to bring back Edmundson, TVR or Vatanen.
Kyle Riley: Williams is a great leader and can strill contribute (eight goals, 11 points in 20 games this campaign), but if he isn't willing to sign another one-year deal for the vet minimum, there's no reason to bring him back. Jake Bean just won AHL Defenseman of the Year, and he'll need a full-time gig with the big club next season, so there's no way the Hurricanes will want to commit big bucks to Edmundson, Van Riemsdyk or Vatanen. They'll all be playing elsewhere next season.
Minor-League Free Agents *Who appeared in an NHL game in 2019-20
AJ Scholz: Gibbons already agreed to terms on a deal with Lausanne HC for next season, so he won't be back in the minors and will head overseas. While the organization is a little thin in terms of signed netminders, Forsberg is at best fourth on the organizational depth chart. Rather than re-signing him, the club should focus on an entry-level deal for Jack Lafontaine or Eetu Makiniemi. In Bishop's case, he didn't show enough in the minors this season, 19 points in 53 games, to warrant anything beyond his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer.
Kyle Riley: As AJ mentioned, Gibbons will be playing overseas next year, so that situation has already resolved itself. Bishop has been used as an emergency option for the Hurricanes up front at times over the past few campaigns, so I see him sticking around on his qualifying offer. In the same vein, Forsberg appeared in a few games with the big club this season when James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were dealing with injuries, so I could see the club wanting to keep him around, but for nothing more than a cheap, two-way deal.
AJ Scholz: The expensive D-core won't give this club a lot of room under a flat salary cap, but it shouldn't have too many tough choices to make this offseason other than locking up some of it's young talent. If they wanted to get creative, the Hurricanes could consider trying to trade one of their two netminders and allowing Nedeljkovic to make the full time jump to NHL backup, as they groom him as the heir apparent. The team isn't particularly weak in any single position, as it has forward depth and defensemen aplenty, so it would likely just be a cap move to maybe add draft picks or up and coming prospects. Ultimately, I think the Canes should be relatively confident holding pat here, especially after getting Vincent Trocheck in as a second-line center.
Kyle Riley: With the plan I outlined above, and assuming the Hurricanes don't re-sign Williams, they'd have around $4 million in cap space to work with this offseason. With Williams gone, the team would need to add a solid third-line winger, but $4 million would be more than enough to do so. Either way, the Hurricanes will once again be legitimate contenders in 2020-21, particularly if their goaltending improves.