The Carolina Hurricanes expect forward Martin Necas to sign a new contract and be ready for the start of preseason training camp.
And, president and general manager Don Waddell said Thursday, the Canes will have the money under the NHL salary cap to do so.
Necas, a former first-round draft pick by Carolina, is a restricted free agent and has been the source of various speculation around the league, including possible trades or even an offer sheet from another team.
But Waddell said negotiations could end with a shorter deal for Necas. Although Waddell did not elaborate, it is believed that a potential deal could be for two years and around $3 million per season.
“We talk almost daily and it’s getting closer,” Waddell said. “I can only speak for my side, but it will be done.”
According to CapFriendly com, which tracks NHL player salaries, the Hurricanes had $1.88 million in available cap space Thursday.
The Canes are scheduled to have a salary arbitration hearing with defenseman Maxime Lajoie on August 9. Waddell said Thursday that he anticipates a deal will be reached with Lajoie, a restricted free agent, before the arbitration hearing.
Lajoie signed a one-year, two-way deal with Carolina last year that paid $750,000 at the NHL level or $75,000 at the AHL level. He played five games with the Canes last season, spending most of the year with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
Reaching an agreement with Lajoie would allow the Hurricanes a contract buyout window, Waddell said. He did not say whether the team would use the buyout, but it could be used to free up cap space.
“A buyout window is only for a player who makes more than $4 million,” Waddell said. “But if we do nothing, we’ll be fine. It’s going to be tight, but we’re going to be fine.”
Canes defenseman Jake Gardiner was placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) last season after undergoing hip and back surgery. Gardiner, who has been medically cleared to return to hockey this season, has one year remaining on his $4.05 million cap hit contract.
The Canes, like many teams, reshuffled some of their roster this offseason, losing forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter and defenseman Tony DeAngelo. They traded for defenseman Brent Burns, a former Norris Trophy winner with San Jose, and forward Max Pacioretty, and signed free agent forward Ondrej Kase to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
Of Kase’s signing, Waddell said: “He’s had some injuries, but if you look at the points-per-minute he’s played, he’s really good. His analytics are strong on every side of the ice. We just think it’s very low risk with a lot of potential upside.”
Waddell said next season’s roster is almost set, though he didn’t rule out other moves.
“We talk all the time,” Waddell said. “We are talking to some teams. You always want to be in the conversation. The last thing I want is for someone to be traded where I’m like, “Ah, I wish I could take another shot at him or know he’s on the market.” Try to keep in touch.”
Waddell meets with the Centennial Authority
Waddell attended a Centennial Authority board meeting Thursday at PNC Arena. The naming rights deal for the arena expires this month and Waddell said, “We’re in heavy negotiations with several companies right now.”
Waddell said PNC Bank is one of the companies involved, but did not name any others.
Waddell also said he continued his lobbying efforts to legalize online gambling in North Carolina. A gambling bill failed in recent General Assembly legislative sessions at a time when proposed renovation plans for PNC Arena included talk of opening a sportsbook at the arena.
“I’ve learned a lot about politics in the last six months,” Waddell said. “Our goal is to try to further explain why this benefits not only this region, but the entire state and the economic impact it can have for the entire state.”
Waddell made some general comments to the authority Thursday about the Hurricanes and the 2022-23 season. He noted the NHL salary cap, saying, “If there wasn’t a cap there, we would continue to spend. Our owner (Tom Dundon) is very competitive and wants to win.”