The Hurricanes have a long list of pending RFAs. Which of them should be brought back?
Today we continue with analyzing the potential decisions to be made with upcoming Hurricanes free agents — by having a look at the team’s restricted free agent class. If you missed last week’s unrestricted free agents breakdown — you can read that by clicking here!
Without further ado, let’s get right into the thick of it.
Martin Necas: While I understand why a lot of fans were underwhelmed with Necas’ performance as a whole this past season, it was pretty shocking to see just how fast the fanbase turned on him. I mean, this is a kid with world class speed and skill, and his biggest obstacle is trying to put it all together consistently. He has qualities that you just can’t teach, and qualities that you don’t give up on after one up-and-down season at age 22.
I’m super high on the potential of the player and I think he needs to be given every opportunity to succeed before totally giving up on him. He was drafted as a center, but he’s never played there in the NHL. It’s kind of a similar situation to Elias Lindholm — a guy drafted as a center, moved to wing, and was never able to fully take that next step forward. Take a look at his stats in Calgary after he moved to the middle of the ice. Will it work the same for Necas? I’m really not sure, but you can’t possibly know unless you try — and it could also bring useful competition for Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
I think it’s pretty clear where I’m headed with this. I feel like it’s a no brainer to give Necas a two-year bridge deal and let him work through his flaws. There’s not a better coach to learn from than Rod Brind’Amour, who can continue to help Necas grow away from the puck and find that level of consistency he’s been missing. The upside is just too strong to just cut bait on so soon. When he’s playing with confidence, he can take over games in ways that not many guys can.
Stay or Go: Stay
Tony DeAngelo: Honestly, I really have no idea how to gauge this one. DeAngelo has a qualifying offer of $1M, so it’s a no brainer to qualify him, because at minimum he’s an asset. The hard part for me to decide on is what’s his long-term value, and what kind of term would a team be comfortable of looking at, considering the player’s past? I was honestly going back and forth in my head thinking about this one so much, so I decided to ask a fellow Canes Country writer — my man Andrew Schnittker — for his opinion on the TDA situation. Here’s his line of thinking:
For the most part, I lean on agreeing with Andrew. TDA in the right role, can be an effective player. He’s dynamic when he walks the line, a great skater with good vision and an elite puck mover, but the defensive side of his game really does limit him. I just don’t think you can keep comfortable deploying him beside Jaccob Slavin against the opposition’s toughest match-ups. So what you’re left with is an offensive specialist who, ideally, plays PP1 and third-pair 5-on-5 minutes. It’s anyone’s guess on how an NHL front office would value that type of player, but I would probably lean towards the TDA era continuing.
Stay or Go: Probably stays
Ethan Bear: Bear is a player that I’ve kind of bounced around on throughout the season. Before he caught COVID, I thought he played fantastic and was a seamless fit in the Canes’ system. Unfortunately, he never really recovered and got back to that level. He became inconsistent, prone to bad turnovers and rather anonymous at times. Culminate all of that with him being scratched for the entirety of the playoffs, and it really leaves a lot of uncertainty surrounding the player moving into the offseason.
His qualifying offer is set to be for two million ($2M). On one hand, I’m really not sure what he showed for the bulk of his season is worthy of that QO. But on the other hand, without knowing exactly how much COVID affected him and whether his playoff benching was based on performance or injury/conditioning, it’s hard to really lean one way or the other here. I think you can make an argument for either side, but ultimately it will come down to the medicals and the organization’s internal review of the player.
Stay or Go: 50/50
Steven Lorentz: NHL teams always need cheaper depth guys that fit the system, and help surround the core. Lorentz fits that bill, for me. He plays the game the right way. He’s always bringing the energy, he’s big, he can kill penalties and he keeps things simple. He may never be a game-breaker, but he’s reliable in a bottom-six role and is a guy that RBA trusts. I think a two-year deal at a little above a $1M AAV makes plenty of sense for both sides.
Stay or Go: Stay
David Cotton: Cotton is a guy that Canes prospect followers have kept a close eye on over the years. His finishing ability at the college level and his size (6-3, 195lbs) made him an intriguing player. He’s got a great shot, and his 14 goals, 21 points in 26 games as an AHL rookie last year were certainly reason for optimism. Unfortunately (partly due to opportunity), he took a step back this season, scoring just 7 goals and 16 points across 55 games. He’s also been healthy scratched for the Wolves’ entire playoff run. He does have talent, but it’s difficult to envision his road to the NHL being in Carolina. I don’t think he has a future here, so he probably goes. But I guess you never know.
Stay or Go: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Stelio Mattheos: I feel bad for Mattheos because he’s a talented kid who’s just been dealt a very bad hand over the years. Awful luck with being healthy has held his development back from where it should be. But he’s still young (turning 23 this month) and has a lot of good tools — he’s quick, he plays physically and with a ton of energy. He was drafted by the previous regime, so you never know just how the team views him internally. But I’ve seen enough quality to justify bringing him back for another year of development.
Stay or Go: Stay
Joey Keane: Keane is a kid that has had a lot of eyes on him after being the piece coming back in the then-fan-favourite Julien Gauthier trade. Now 22 years old, Keane looks poised to take the next step in his career. He moves well, he’s a reliable two-way defender and he can create some offense. He’ll be back, and he’ll be competing for a spot on the Canes’ third pairing next season — and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he makes the opening night roster.
Stay or Go: Stay
Jesper Sellgren: The Canes need to be careful with Sellgren, because he’s a very talented defender who they shouldn’t let slip away. The reports coming from his native Swedish media are that he’s likely to return overseas if the Canes don’t offer him a one-way deal. … I would do it. Sellgren is a very smart defender, a fluid puck mover and super mobile. What he doesn’t have in size (5-11, 185), he makes up for with intelligence. At age 24, it’s time to see what you have in this kid. If it doesn’t work out in training camp or early on during the season, unconditional waivers is always an option. But I think it would be a mistake to let him go without taking a proper look at him.
Stay or Go: Stay
Max Lajoie: Lajoie is a decent player, and a kid who has a fair amount of NHL experience. Watching him play in Chicago this past season, though, I’m not sure I can vouch for him ahead of Jalen Chatfield, Sellgren or Keane. While I feel he’s a solid two-way defender, I don’t feel he has the same upside as the young trio above him. And my allegiance to ex-Senators is well-documented — but I have to be objective here. He might be a tweener, and he might be better off looking elsewhere for an NHL role.
Stay or Go: Go
Jack LaFontaine: There was a ton of hype surrounding LaFontaine over the past couple years, due to his success in college (Hobey Baker Finalist), and signing an NHL contract midway through the season. Unfortunately, I just can’t buy in. From what I’ve seen, his lateral agility isn’t good enough for the NHL level, and his rebound control is even worse. With Pyotr Kochetkov and Eetu Mäkiniemi likely ahead of him in Chicago next year, LaFontaine would likely end up in the ECHL if he remains in the Canes organization moving forward. I can’t see him going for that nearing age 25, it would be near-suicidal as a career move if he has NHL aspirations. As such, my guess is the Canes let him choose his next destination via free agency in the summer.
Stay or Go: Go
Beck Warm: In hindsight, the five-game AHL stint that earned Warm an entry-level deal in 2021 was a fun run, but I never had any real hope in a 6-0, 175-pound twice-undrafted goaltender becoming an NHL hopeful. Warm has a future in pro hockey somewhere in the world, but it won’t be in the NHL — and it may not be in the AHL either. Thanks for the memories and good luck.
Stay or Go: Go
- Tarmo Reunanen was acquired via trade for AHL forward Maxim Letunov, and he played 8 games for the Wolves. Before coming over in the trade, he had 34 points in 61 games for Hartford (NY Rangers AHL affiliate) and has suited up in 4 NHL games with the Rangers. In all honesty, I haven’t watched him enough to judge, but I feel like the Rangers trading a 24-year old defender for an AHL body says all that we need to know. Go.
- Josh Jacobs is a former 2nd round pick of the New Jersey Devils. He’s now 26, and has played 3 NHL games over his career. The best way to describe his game is “solid”, but he’s an AHL defender at his peak. I feel like Chicago would accept him back on an AHL contract, but I don’t see the Canes’ need to use a contract slot on him. Go, but Chicago could bring him back.