Why the Hurricanes could be in a cap crunch come 2019

by
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports / USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes could soon be a cap team ... weird, right?

The Hurricanes have been one of the most interesting teams of the summer. They went out and found themselves a more dependable netminder in Scott Darling, brought back proven winner Justin Williams, and made it a priority to lock up their budding young stars, handing out extensions to defensemen Jaccob Slavin (seven years, $37.1 million) and Brett Pesce (six years, $24.15 million).

On paper, both deals could be bargains if the duo continues to develop at their current pace, but with all the money given out by Ron Francis and Co. this offseason, the team could be in a bit of a cap conundrum come 2019.

As it stands now, the Hurricanes will have just over $26 million in cap space heading into the 2018-19 season, which is a nice chunk of change, but as always, there will be free agents in need of new contracts.

The most notable players who will need to be paid after next season are Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.

This is where the deals for Slavin and Pesce could come back to bite the Hurricanes. Slavin will be making an average of $5.3 million per season, while Pesce will earn $4.025 million annually.

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Based on those salaries, Hanifin could command at least $4 million per season on his deal. After all, the 2015 first-round pick produces at a similar offensive clip as Slavin and at a higher rate than Pesce, while only Justin Faulk tallies more power-play points among Carolina blue-liners.

As for Lindholm, over the past three seasons he has tallied 39 goals and 123 points, tied for third-most on the Hurricanes during that span, while hitting a career-high 45 points this past year. He's tallied the second-most power-play points in that stretch, seven game-winning goals, and a 53.18 percent Corsi For rating.

So, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for Lindholm to command at least $4 million per season as well.

Having both Hanifin and Lindholm presumably making $4 million per season would leave the Hurricanes with just $18 million for the rest of their pending free agents.

Here are the other players who need to get paid after next season:

Player Status in 2018-19 Current AAV
Lee Stempniak UFA $2.5M
Derek Ryan UFA $1.425M
Joakim Nordstrom RFA $1.275M
Klas Dahlbeck RFA $850K
Trevor van Riemsdyk RFA $825K
Josh Jooris UFA $775K
Cam Ward UFA $3.3M

Even if Stempniak, Ward, and other fringe players walk or go unsigned, there are still positions that need to be filled, with only $18 million in which to be spread around.

The potential saving grace to this looming cap crunch is that Carolina still has some high-end prospects that could slide into the lineup on entry-level deals such as Jake Bean, Haydn Fleury, and Julien Gauthier.

In the meantime, the Hurricanes will take to the 2017-18 campaign with the hopes of taking a big jump in the standings and potentially making the postseason for the first time since 2009. A successful season would undoubtedly make the team feel better about spending big to keep its core together well into the future.