The Hurricanes are going to miss the playoffs again.
This is less of a prediction and more of an inescapable reality at this point. One could spend days dissecting this team in an effort to understand why the Hurricanes have only made the playoffs once in the past 8 seasons but rather than sitting here and tossing blame about like the overzealous poo-flinging monkeys we sometimes are, let's talk about how to fix it.
As of this moment, the Carolina Hurricanes have twelve current roster players under contract for next season. 8 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goaltender. That's $49.4 million wrapped up in just over half of a roster. With Capgeek.com projecting the salary cap to be $71 million next season, that leaves just $22.5 million to fill 4 forward spots, 3 defense and 1 goalie, or approx $2.8 million per roster spot.
Let's take care of the things that need to be done first: Jiri Tlusty, Justin Faulk and Anton Khudobin need new contracts. They're all going to cost at around $3 million per year (Tlusty could probably be kept for around $2.5 but let's call it 3 to be on the safe side.). While there's a possibility that Tlusty and Khudobin could be traded, I find it much more likely that they'll be resigned. They're going to be needed.
Okay, So assuming the team spends to the cap, we're down to around $13.5 million in space left. Here's where we start cutting.
Cam Ward needs to go. I like Cam Ward. i think he's an excellent goaltender, among the best in the world when he's on his game. That said, there is something not right in his head right now. Too many shots go right through him. Too many times he just seems completely lost out there on the ice. He needs a change of scenery even just for his own sake. At this point, if the Canes can get a high second round pick for him without having to eat any salary, I take it.
John Michael Liles is only marginally an NHL defenseman and makes more money than anyone else on the Canes blueline. This is an issue. The Gleason for Liles trade earlier this year was a poor one to say the least and they're just going to have to bite the bullet here. I don't see anyone trading for him at this point, so unless they can get lucky and have someone claim him off of waivers, it's buy-out time for JML.
(By the way, we're operating under the assumption that Justin Peters has been traded at the deadline for a bag of pucks or a 4th or literally anything)
So with those two off the books (or partially off in JML's case) we're back up to about $20 million in space for 7 roster spots. Plug in Gerbe at $1.5 million and Drayson Bowman and Brett Bellmore at around $850,000 each.
Now you're down to 1 forward, 2 defensemen and a goalie.rnrnOne defenseman is easy. It's Ryan Murphy. The kid is an NHL level defenseman right now and is a bargain on his entry-level contract.
1 forward. 1 defenseman. 1 goalie.rnrnTop priority has to be that forward spot. Specifically a 3rd line centre. The UFA crop is looking pretty thin right now, but the top of that wishlist has to be David Legwand. Try to grab him for around $4-5 million per season, and you've got your forwards set up.
Defense is an issue because while there isn't that much available out there, what there is is expensive. Nikita Nikitin is the guy you want if he makes it to free agency. $3-4 million per ought to do it.
As far as goaltenders go, while there's no lack of names out there, there IS a lack of back-ups that can be had on the cheap. Thomas Greiss, Curtis McElhinney and Chad Johnson would all qualify as reasonably priced back-ups who can be trusted to hold down the fort for a few games at a time. Call it $1-1.2 million for one of these guys.
So here's how it looks:
Cost: Approx. $64 million.
Remaining Cap Space: Approx. $7 million
It could be that this is a little too rich for the Canes' blood, in which case we'll likely see the likes of Zach Boychuk, Victor Rask, Brock McGinn and whoever the Canes draft this year get a shot at cracking the roster, but barring that I think this is a roster that gives the Hurricanes a chance to legitimately compete next season, as well as the cap flexibility to make adjustments mid-season if necessary.
So what say you? How wrong am I, here? Let me know. And thank you for reading.