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Hurricanes hope Hamilton will sign extension before start of season

Have yet to open negotiations with defenseman, potential unrestricted free agent

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Dougie Hamilton and the Carolina Hurricanes have yet to begin negotiations on a contract extension, but general manager Don Waddell said he hopes the defenseman will sign before the start of this season.

The 27-year-old is entering the final season of a six-year contract he signed June 30, 2015 and will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent when it expires. 

"We're getting close to talking about it," Waddell said Thursday. "Dougie's not back here, yet. He's still up in Toronto. He's coming back here I think at the end of the week. … He is a UFA at the end of the year, so we'd like to get that one done sooner than later. That one, you would have doubts if you play out the season, so it makes sense to try to get something done before the start of the season."

The NHL is targeting Jan. 1 to begin the 2020-21 season. Hamilton scored 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) in 47 regular-season games last season before fracturing his left fibula against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 16. He returned to score two points (one goal, one assist) in five postseason games.

The Hurricanes wanted to wait before beginning extension talks with Hamilton to see how the coronavirus pandemic and the NHL salary cap remaining at $81.5 million impacted the 2020 unrestricted free agent market in October.

"You've got a flat cap for the next two years, we know that," Waddell said. "We also know that the market's changed. I'm not saying we're not going to do a long-term deal, but the long-term deals, if you look at free agency, you've only got a few guys that got more than three years in the whole market. … So I think the market has changed and it should change because of the situation we're all in.

"Nobody asked to be in this situation, but we're in it and we've got to figure out the best way to do deal with it."

Video: Top 20 Defensemen Right Now: Dougie Hamilton

Although Waddell said he believes defenseman remains the Hurricanes' strength with Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Jake Gardiner and Haydn Fleury signed for this season, the Hurricanes haven't closed the door on re-signing defenseman Sami Vatanen, who became an unrestricted free agent Oct. 9. 

Vatanen had a lower-body injury when he was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 24. He did not play any regular-season games for the Hurricanes and had three assists in seven playoff games.

"He hasn't been a position that he felt he wanted to make a decision," Waddell said. "I talked to him again last week and we just said, 'Keep us posted. We think there's a good fit here for you.' So until he signs here or someplace else, we'll continue to talk to him."

Waddell said talks with forward Andrei Svechnikov on a contract extension have been paused since before the 2020 NHL Draft began Oct. 6, but he remains confident the sides will reach an agreement. Svechnikov, who was third on Carolina with 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists) last season, is entering the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be eligible to become a restricted free agent when it expires.

Waddell said Oct. 1 a bridge deal of two years that would set up the 20-year-old for a longer-term deal afterward is most likely.

"We talked before the draft actually and said, 'Let's get through the draft. Let's get through free agency,'" Waddell said. "So we haven't had any more (negotiations). … Nothing is easy, but this one will get done. Andrei wants to be here. His agents want him here. We want him here. Once we get down to some serious talks, I think it will get done fairly quickly."

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