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Hurricanes not optimistic about signing Mrazek, McElhinney, says GM

Goalies can become unrestricted free agents July 1

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney will likely become unrestricted free agents on July 1 after the Carolina Hurricanes have been unsuccessful in their attempts to sign the goalies to new contracts.

"We're trying to sign them, but it doesn't look like we're going to get either signed," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said Tuesday. "So, if not, we'll go to the market and see what's out there for July 1."

A finalist for general manager of the year at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN), Waddell reiterated at the NHL Awards Media Day on Tuesday that he'd like to keep Mrazek and McElhinney after each helped Carolina qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009 and reach the Eastern Conference Final. 

But with the unrestricted free agent interview period opening on Sunday, Waddell isn't optimistic.

Waddell didn't rule out one of the goalies circling back to the Hurricanes after talking to other teams.

"Sometimes guys test the market and then you find where we're at," Waddell said. "We'd like to have both guys back. I've publicly said that. But right now, we don't have deals done with them."

 

[RELATED: Williams unsure if he'll retire, return to Hurricanes, or play elsewhere]

 

Mrazek agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Carolina as an unrestricted free agent last July 1. He went 23-14-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and four shutouts in 40 regular season games and 5-5 with a 2.73 GAA, .894 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 playoff games. 

McElhinney was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 2 after Scott Darling was injured in the preseason. He went 20-11-2 with a 2.58 GAA, a .912 save percentage and two shutouts in 33 regular-season games and 3-2 with a 2.01 save percentage and .930 save percentage in five playoff games.

With Mrazek and McElhinney expected to leave, Waddell said prospect Alex Nedeljkovic will get a chance to earn one of the goalie jobs in training camp. The 23-year-old won the Aldege "Baz' Bastien Memorial Award as the American Hockey League's outstanding goalie and helped Charlotte win the Calder Cup this season.

Carolina's second-round pick (No. 37) in the 2014 NHL Draft, Nedeljkovic went 34-14-1 with a 2.26 GAA, .916 save percentage and four shutouts this season with Charlotte and made his first NHL start against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 23, making 24 saves in a 5-2 victory.

Waddell hopes to be active before the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday. Waddell would like to add scoring help at forward and said he'd be willing to deal from the Hurricanes depth on defense in the right trade.

"It's one of the things that if it's the right type of forward, we might look at it," Waddell said of trading a defenseman. "If not, if we don't do anything in the next week, then maybe it's through free agency."

Waddell also plans to meet with center Sebastian Aho's agent, Gerry Johansson, in Vancouver to continue negotiations on a new contract. Aho led the Hurricanes with an NHL career-high 30 goals and 83 points this season. The 21-year-old can become a restricted free agent on July 1.

"We've made a proposal and they've countered, so at least we're in discussions and we're all hopeful we'll get something done," Waddell said.

The Hurricanes are being patient with captain Justin Williams, who has yet to decide if he'll return for a 19th NHL season. The forward, 37, said he is not rushing his decision on whether he will keep playing.

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