Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
"I'll take the first shift."
There is one word that I think aptly describes this offseason: flexibility.
The Hurricanes are packing 10 picks, including two first-rounders and seven over the first three rounds, in this year’s draft. That translates into either 10 prospects to stow away or assets the team can flip for immediate help. In addition, the Canes have the sizeable contracts of Eric Staal and Cam Ward coming off the books, freeing up a good chunk of money to spend at their discretion.
That flexibility in spending is going to create a fascinating environment come July 1. The Hurricanes are going to need to spend some money, and there will likely be some key names available. Steven Stamkos is the undisputed prize of the free agent market, considering his elite skill set and the fact that he’s only 26 years old, and he’s set up to land a record-setting deal. Every team would love to sign Stamkos if at all possible, but he’s going to have the pick of the litter. Could the Hurricanes be in line for someone like David Backes? Assuming Eric Staal isn’t brought back at a discount, the Canes will be looking for some depth down the middle. Backes, 32, would fit the bill if the term and dollars are right, but that could be a big “if.”
Another aspect to consider is the salary cap. It’s reported to be either remaining “relatively flat” or perhaps even dropping a smidge. That could spell trouble for a good handful of teams who are already pressed against the cap ceiling and have some notable names ready to hit the open market – Milan Lucic in Los Angeles and Andrew Ladd in Chicago to name a couple. The Hurricanes could benefit from these situations.
Even still, it’s worth noting that Canes General Manager Ron Francis has been a cautious July 1 spender. He’s well aware of the temptations and overpayment that are prevalent when free agency opens. But if the term and dollar amount make sense for the long-term health of this organization, don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes make a play for or land a name this summer.
Of the possible ways the goaltending situation could play out this summer – one of the more intriguing storylines to follow, no doubt – this is one of the more unlikely scenarios, I think.
I talked a bit more about this in Tweetmail No. 102, but here’s why this particular scenario is somewhat unlikely. Because Eddie Lack is under contract for the next two seasons, an extension that was signed, sealed and delivered before the start of the 2015-16 regular season, I would think he’s a part of the goaltending picture in the immediate future. If it makes the most sense from the Hurricanes’ perspective, I can certainly see Cam Ward returning, and if he does return, I think it’s with Lack rather than without.
Of course, I could be wrong! Recall just a year ago on the weekend of the Draft when Anton Khudobin was traded to Anaheim and Lack made his way to Carolina. Something along the same lines could happen again, I suppose. I just don’t think it’s very likely.
In any case, here’s a reminder to keep our contract chart and offseason player tracker handy during these next few months.
Our comprehensive NHL Draft coverage – which will likely be structured a bit differently this year – will begin very soon. In fact, we’ll be speaking with General Manager Ron Francis and Tony MacDonald, the team’s head of amateur scouting, on Thursday, and you can expect to see #content flowing afterward.
Two weeks later, our digital team will be on a plane bound for Buffalo where we’ll have this year’s happenings covered from all angles. There’s more to come soon, so stay tuned!
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you’d like answered or you’re enthralled with the final season of “Person of Interest” as much as I am, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email