Negotiations on a new contract weren’t too dramatic in the end, which is exactly how Brandon Sutter
and the Hurricanes preferred it.
The 22-year old center, a restricted free agent this offseason, signed a new three-year contract with the team on Wednesday evening that will pay him an average of just over $2 million per season. The term wasn’t quite as long as what General Manager Jim Rutherford had hoped for, but he wasn’t the least bit surprised to end up where he did.
“I had said six years because I wanted to point out publicly just how important he is to our team,” said Rutherford. “This is more or less what I actually expected.”
“From my standpoint I wanted a long-term deal,” said Sutter. “Three years isn’t terribly long, but anything longer than three is hard to put a number on with projections. Still, I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
Because Sutter’s main contributions are defensive in nature – last season, he led team forwards in shorthanded ice time per game (2:21) and blocked shots (73) while pacing the entire team in plus/minus (+13) – both sides seemed to agree that attaching a longer-term value would have been difficult.
“He does things that are just as important as the guys that get 30-40 goals, but it’s hard to project too far down the line that way,” said Rutherford. “With the offensive guys, it’s easier to figure out where they might be in a few years.”
Making things difficult is the fact that Sutter may well end up being one of those offensive guys, even though that side of his game is less of a known commodity than his work on the other end. While his 14 goals last season were down from the 21 he scored the year before, part of that is due to reduced power-play time and his primary task of shutting down the opposing team’s best forwards.
For all either side knows, he could be more of a regular point producer in three years’ time.
“You never know what the next few years are going to be like in terms of numbers,” said Sutter. “For me it’s never been about that, but it’s a big part of determining your value compared to what other guys are doing.”
“He doesn’t get power-play time or the same opportunities that other players get, but if he did, he could score a minimum of 25 goals,” said Rutherford.
Even if he fills the same role as last season, Sutter hopes his offense improves on its own. As the season went on, he showed an ever-improving ability to beat defenders to the outside to create scoring chances, something he aims to do more consistently going forward.
“I obviously want to get more involved in offense,” he said. “There were stretches there were things weren’t happening for me, but it’s something I’m going to continue to work on. It’s just your mindset when you have the puck.”
In addition to his work on the ice, the Hurricanes were also pleased with how he accepted his new role as an alternate captain. Sutter himself said that he didn’t carry himself too differently with a letter on his jersey – he admitted to being more of an in-game cheerleader at times – but he did embrace his status as a bridge between veteran players and the team’s up-and-comings not that younger than himself.
“Having relationships off the ice with some of the younger guys certainly helps because they can ask me things they may not have the opportunity to ask at the rink,” he said.
“I think that was important for our team to put a guy with his leadership and maturity in that role early in his career,” said Rutherford.
Regardless of how this contract turns out, it seems as though both sides are hopeful that they’ll be able to reach another one in three years, making the term of this deal more about timing than either side’s desire to continue their relationship over the long haul.
“He’s one of the core players on our team and he should be here for a long time, if not for his whole career,” said Rutherford.