Which Unrestricted Free Agents Should the Carolina Hurricanes Re-Sign?

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJune 2, 2014

Which Unrestricted Free Agents Should the Carolina Hurricanes Re-Sign?

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    Ron Hainsey's offseason fate could be the hardest to predict among all of the Hurricanes' upcoming free agents.
    Ron Hainsey's offseason fate could be the hardest to predict among all of the Hurricanes' upcoming free agents.Mark Jones/Freelance

    The maelstrom of the 2014 NHL free-agent market looms on new general manager Ron Francis' agenda like a Category 3 hurricane 100 miles off the Outer Banks coast.

    The chaos is coming.

    The Carolina Hurricanes' group of potentially upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFAs) consists almost entirely of depth players, freeing up little salary-cap space but presenting difficult decisions about the future of the team's secondary core.

    All six NHL-level UFAs and six AHL-level UFAs carried a cap hit of less than $2 million in the 2013-14 season except for Joni Pitkanen.

    None of Pitkanen's $4.5 million hit counted, however, due to injury rehabilitation. In fact, the former first-pairing defenseman told Finnish website Kaleva (English translation here) in May that "it may be that I no longer play," and thus, Pitkanen is not included in this slideshow.

    Will veteran fourth-line forwards Manny Malhotra and Radek Dvorak be re-signed this summer? Will second- and third-pairing defensive defensemen Ron Hainsey and Brett Bellemore return in 2014-15? Which minor-league UFAs will be given another opportunity to stay in the organization?

    The 2014 NHL free-agent market opens July 1. Francis has one month to make such decisions before his pending UFAs all become public property. Predictions for the fate of each Carolina UFA are on the coming slides.

    This slideshow is part 1 in a two-part series on the Hurricanes' offseason free agents. Part 1, predicting which restricted free agents (RFAs) the team will keep, can be read here.

C Manny Malhotra

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    Box Score Stats: 69 GP, 7 G, 6 A, 0 plus/minus rating, 11:35 TOI

    Advanced Stats: 41.4% Corsi rating (on-ice shot attempt differential), +22.5 ZSD (difference between starting and finishing zone start percentage), +2:41 TOIDiff (difference in playing time of wins vs. losses)

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $600,000

    Age: 34

    Manny Malhotra certainly fulfilled his billing as a faceoff wizard, ranking second in the league with a 59.4 winning percentage and helping the 'Canes gain defensive-zone possession regularly. His exceptional ability and likable story made the 34-year-old's NHL comeback an oft-praised one.

    Yet Malhotra's impact was almost negligible in other regards, and it seems highly likely that a more well-rounded and offensively potent fourth-line center could replace him at roughly the same price.

    Whether it be a prospect like Victor Rask, Zach Boychuk or Brett Sutter or an out-of-town free agent taking his place, Malholtra's likelihood of returning could be deceptively low.

    Verdict: Part ways

RW Radek Dvorak

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    Mark Jones/Freelance

    Box Score Stats: 60 GP, 4 G, 5 A, plus-3, 10:38 TOI

    Advanced Stats: 42.7% Corsi rating, +17.5 ZSD , +0:46 TOIDiff

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $600,000

    Age: 37

    Radek Dvorak's hot start to 2013-14—goals in both of his first two games as a 'Cane—soon dissipated into a last-gasp campaign from a retirement-approaching veteran as forgettable as Stephane Yelle's Carolina cameo in 2010.

    Dvorak turned 37 in March and could well call it quits on his 1,260-game NHL career this summer. One way or another, Francis' quest to improve the Hurricanes' bottom-six consistency and productivity will probably not include an extension offer to Dvorak.

    Verdict: Part ways

D Ron Hainsey

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Box Score Stats: 82 GP, 4 G, 11 A, minus-9, 21:26 average TOI

    Advanced Stats: 51.0% Corsi, +1.9 percent ZSD, +0:29 TOIDiff

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $2.0 million

    Age: 33

    After waiting until almost October before being plucked by Carolina off last year's free-agent market, Ron Hainsey's 2013-14 campaign should guarantee a more guaranteed job this time around.

    Hainsey was the only 'Canes blueliner outside of first-pairing studs Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera to record a positive Corsi rating and trailed Sekera by three for the team lead in blocked shots with 124. At an affordable price, Hainsey proved a fairly flexible wild card for the 'Canes defensive unit, but his puck-moving and playmaking abilities were equally unimpressive.

    The 'Canes should retain one of Hainsey or Jay Harrison, who carries a $1.5 million cap hit for two more years but is coming off a dreadful campaign.

    If Harrison is traded, Hainsey will be re-signed. If Harrison stays, Hainsey will hit the open market. The latter is probably the less preferable but more simple and likely result.

    Verdict: Part ways

D Mike Komisarek

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Box Score Stats: 32 GP, 0 G, 4 A, minus-4, 11:41 average TOI

    Advanced Stats: 48.5% Corsi, -3.0 percent ZSD, +1:44 TOIDiff

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $700,000

    Age: 32

    If Manny Malhotra's 2013-14 career comeback evolved into a moderate success, Mike Komisarek's half-hearted attempt at a career revival never even lifted off the tarmac.

    Komisarek did not score a single goal in his first, and likely last, season in Raleigh. His four helpers are actually rather remarkable, considering the embarrassing out-of-shape sluggishness the former NHL All-Star displayed. 

    Ron Francis likely won't be faced with an easier decision this offseason.

    Verdict: Part ways

D Brett Bellemore

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    Mark Jones/Freelance

    Box Score Stats: 64 GP, 2 G, 6 A, minus-1, 17:28 average TOI

    Advanced Stats: 48.4% Corsi, +4.6 percent ZSD, +1:06 TOIDiff

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $600,000

    Age: 25

    Just one significant season into his NHL career, it's hard to believe that Brett Bellemore—Carolina's new designated shutdown defenseman and Tim Gleason replacement—will turn 26 on June 25 and be eligible for unrestricted status a couple weeks later.

    Bellemore's name carries basically no recognition outside of Raleigh, yet the 6'4", 225-pound bruiser has quickly carved out a niche in the Hurricanes' long-term depth chart. The former sixth-round pick led the team's defense with 169 hits over the course of the season and finished the season playing at the highest level of his career to date.

    For another six-figure salary, as he is expected to request, Bellemore is absolutely worth re-signing.

    Verdict: Re-sign

G Justin Peters

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Box Score Stats: 7-9-4, .919 SV%, 2.50 GAA, 1 SO

    2013-14 Cap Hit: $537,500

    Age: 27

    Justin Peters had his best NHL season to date in 2013-14, and he was rewarded by riding the final months of the season on the bench, paralyzed temporarily and eventually permanently by former general manager Jim Rutherford's indecision.

    Rutherford is gone now, and Peters may soon follow. 

    After years as Carolina's favorite scapegoat but often the only viable option for the backup goaltender job, new star Anton Khudobin has completely annihilated Peters' role with the team.

    The middle-age netminder, running out of time to establish his hockey career, would be insane to accept an extension with the 'Canes—although it's doubtful one will be headed his direction anyway.

    Verdict: Part ways

AHL UFAs

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    Six players who spent most or all of their 2013-14 season with the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate, are also eligible to become UFAs this offseason.

    With all AHL salaries capped well under $1 million, the decision to re-sign or not usually rests on the player's future potential.

     

    LW Chris Terry

    An annual star in the AHL, scoring 129 points in 140 regular-season appearances over the last two seasons, Terry has flashed potential at times as a scoring winger in the NHL.

    His tremendously consistent minor league success and much-needed shootout acumen make it far too early to give up on the 25-year-old forward.

    Verdict: Re-sign

     

    C Brett Sutter

    The Checkers captain played a career-high 17 games in the big leagues, tallying two points and providing a physical enforcer presence.

    Although Sutter could possibly contend for a Malhotra-vacated fourth-line center position, the soon-to-be 28-year-old is probably never going to become an NHL regular—but he's worth retaining as a second-tier depth asset and AHL leader.

    Verdict: Re-sign

     

    Others

    D Mark Flood, who recorded seven points in 33 games with Winnipeg in 2011-12 and six points in 52 games in the KHL in 2012-13, scored 31 points but was a minus-26 in 74 games for Charlotte. He'll be 30 before next season begins. His future probably rests on whether Francis thinks he might receive an NHL call-up or two in 2014-15.

    Former first-round pick D Matt Corrente, 26, made it surprisingly far in the Hurricanes' September training camp but was unremarkable in 72 AHL games and can be easily replaced. 

    G Mike Murphy, 25, posted a horrible stat line with the Checkers, going 4-11-0 with an .881 save percentage and 3.99 GAA, and he should begin packing his bags already.

    After nine pointless NHL appearances in spring 2013, LW Nicolas Blanchard didn't make it back to the NHL in 2013-14 and found himself on the Checkers' third or fourth line most nights. He's also entirely expendable.

     

    Advanced stats in this slideshow are courtesy of Extraskater.com and Behindthenet.ca