Hurricanes set for busy offseason with own free agents, ‘like to sign them all’

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
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After losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round in six games, the Carolina Hurricanes are faced with numerous questions this offseason. One was answered already, when coach Rod Brind’Amour signed to a five-year contract extension this past weekend. 

So, Carolina has the stability of returning its coach from the previous six seasons. But the other glaring questions surround which players Brind’Amour will continue to coach. There are numerous unrestricted and restricted free agents throughout the Hurricanes lineup.

“We’d like to sign them all,” Waddell explained Monday. “We’ve got something good going here, so we’d like to keep it going. There’s this thing called the salary cap that won’t allow us to do that.” 

With roughly $28 million in projected space, Carolina, which has won at least one round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs each season under Brind’Amour, has nine UFAs and an additional four restricted free agents. It is impossible to hang onto everyone, but Waddell contends he has a gameplan. 

“We know that we’d like to keep as much of our D together,” he said. “We think we have one of the best D corps in the League, so we’d like to keep them together.”

This means signing Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce, each an unrestricted free agent, is high on Waddell’s list of priorities. Other defenseman in need of new contracts are Jalen Chatfield, Tony DeAngelo and Dylan Coghlan.

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Hurricanes face major decision with forward Jake Guentzel

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
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Then there is UFA forward Jake Guentzel. After being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of the NHL trade deadline, Guentzel made an immediate impact with the Hurricanes. In 17 regular-season games, Guentzel notched 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists). He added four goals and five assists in 11 playoff games. 

“I know with (Guentzel), he played a good role here,” Waddell stated. “(Sebastian Aho) talked about how much he liked playing with him. When a season ends like this, that’s something that everyone really wants to talk about.”

The 29-year-old will be highly coveted on the open market. He’s a Stanley Cup champion who’s scored 227 goals in 520 NHL games. But he sounds open to remaining in Raleigh.

“I loved my experience here. It’s a great place to play. I don’t think you realize behind the scenes how good it is and the guys make it good too,” Guentzel said on breakup day. “We’ll see what happens. I just loved my time here and we’re going to see what happens in the next little bit here.”

Forwards Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook and Stefan Noesen are also UFAs. Martin Necas, Seth Jarvis and Jack Drury are valuable RFA forwards due raises. And don’t forget that stalwart defenseman Jaccob Slavin is eligible for a contract extension beginning July 1.

As nice as it would be for Carolina to hang on to every major free agent, Waddell knows that is not something that can be expected. Unfortunately, they are going to have to say goodbye to some familiar faces and make some difficult decisions. 

“In the next few days I’m going to start hearing from all the agents, and we’ll start discussing where these players are at and what they expect,” Waddell explained. “Certainly, there’s going to be guys going to unrestricted free agency, that’s for sure, on July 1st.” 

After another second-round exit in a season when many thought Carolina could go the distance, Waddell is going to have to make some careful moves going forward. With Brind’Amour at the helm for the foreseeable future, the culture in the locker room will remain unchanged. The personnel, however, could have a much different look at the start of the 2024-25 season. 

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