Stay or Go: RFA Edition

Today we continue to analyze potential decisions to be made with prospective Hurricanes dealers – by taking a look at the team’s restricted free agent category. If you missed our unrestricted free agent details last week – you can read about it by clicking here!

Without further ado, let’s get into the thick of it.

NHL RFAs

Martin Nikas: While I understand why so many fans were surprised by Nikas’ performance as a whole last season, it was shocking to see how quickly the fan base turned into him. I mean, this is a kid with world-class speed and skill, and his biggest obstacle is constantly trying to put it together. He has qualities you can’t teach you, and ones you wouldn’t give up after a choppy season at 22 years old.

I am a superior player and I believe he should get every chance to succeed before I give up on him completely. He was drafted as a center, but he never played there in the NHL. It’s kind of a situation similar to Elias Lindholm – a guy who was recruited as a center, moved to the wing, and was never fully able to take the next step. Take a look at his stats in Calgary after he’s moved into the middle of the ice. Will it work the same way with Nikas? I’m not really sure, but you can’t know unless you try – and that might also bring in beneficial competition to the Jesperry Kottanyemi.

I think it’s pretty clear where I’m going with this. I feel it makes no sense to give Nikas a two-year bridge deal and let him work through his flaws. There is no better coach than Rod Brende Amour to learn from, who can continue to help the Nicas break away from the disc and find that level of consistency that he’s been missing. The upside is too strong to cut the bait soon. When he plays with confidence, he can take over games in ways that not many players can.

stay or go: Spends

Tony D’Angelo: Honestly, I have no idea how to measure this. DeAngelo has a qualifying bid of $1 million, so it doesn’t make sense to qualify him, because at least he’s an asset. The hard part for me is what is its long-term value, and what kind of term would the team be comfortable looking at, given the player’s past? I was honestly rambling my head back and forth thinking about this a lot, so I decided to ask fellow Canes Country writer—my man Andrew Schnitker—for his opinion of the TDA situation. Here’s how he thinks:

For the most part, I rely on the deal with Andrew. In the right role, TDA can be an effective player. He’s dynamic when he’s on the goal line, a great skater with good vision and an elite puck drive, but the defensive side of his game really limits him. I don’t think you can continue to deploy it alongside Jakob Slavin in the toughest opponent encounters. So what’s left for you is an offensive specialist who, ideally, plays PP1 and the third pair 5-on-5 minutes. No one would guess how an NHL front desk would appreciate this type of player, but I would probably be inclined to continue the TDA era.

stay or go: may stay

Ethan Burr: Bear is the player she’s kind of been wearing all season. Before he got COVID, I thought he played great and had a smooth fit in the Canes system. Unfortunately, he never recovered and returned to that level. It becomes inconsistent and prone to bad fluctuations and is sometimes anonymous. That all capped off with his scratch for the duration of the playoffs, and that really leaves a lot of uncertainty surrounding the player going out of the season.

His qualifying bid is set to be two million ($2 million). On the one hand, I’m not really sure what he has shown for the greater part of his season is worth QO. But on the other hand, without knowing how exactly COVID affects him and whether his playoff seat is performance-based or injury/conditioning, it’s really hard to lean one way or the other here. I think you can make an argument for either side, but in the end it will be up to the doctors and the organization’s internal review of the player.

stay or go: 50/50

Stephen Lorentz: NHL teams always need cheaper depth workers that fit into the system, and help surround the core. Lorentz fits that law, for me. Play the game the right way. He always brings energy, he’s big, he can kill penalties and he keeps things simple. He may never be a game-breaker, but he is reliable in the lower six and is a man the RBA can trust. I think a two-year deal priced at just over $1M (AAV) makes a lot of sense for both sides.

stay or go: Spends

AHL RFAs

David Cotton: Cotton is the man that potential Canes followers have watched closely over the years. His ability to finish at the college level and his size (6-3, 195 pounds) made him an intriguing player. He got a great shot, and his 14 goals, 21 points in 26 games as a rookie in the AHL last year were definitely cause for optimism. Unfortunately (partly due to chances), he has fallen behind this season, scoring only 7 goals and 16 points in 55 games. He was also scratched up healthy during the Wolves’ full qualifying round. He has talent, but it’s hard to imagine his way to the NHL in Carolina. I don’t think he has a future here, so maybe he goes. But I guess you never know.

stay or go: ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯

Stelio Matthews: I feel bad for Matthews because he’s a talented kid who’s just been treated really badly over the years. The bad luck of being healthy stunts his growth from where he should be. But he’s still young (he’s 23 this month) and he has a lot of good tools – he’s fast, he’s physical and he’s big. It was drafted by the previous system, so you never know how the team viewed it internally. But I saw enough quality to justify bringing it back for another year of development.

stay or go: Spends

Joey King: Kane is a kid who had a lot of eyes on him after he returned the piece in the then fan-favorite Julien Gauthier trade. Now 22 years old, it looks like Kane is ready to take the next step in his career. He moves well, he’s a dependable two-way defender and can create some attack. He’ll be back, and he’ll be competing for a place in Canes’ third doubles next season – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he made his opening night roster.

stay or go: Spends

Jesper Silgren: They should be careful with Selgren, because he’s a very talented defender and they shouldn’t get away with it. Reports from the original Swedish media suggested that he would likely return abroad if the Kans family did not offer him a one-way deal. … I’ll do it. Sellgren is a very clever defender, and the puck engine is smooth and very mobile. What he does not have in size (5-11, 185), he makes up for it cleverly. At 24, it’s time to see what you have in this kid. If it doesn’t work out in training camp or early in the season, an unconditional waiver is always an option. But I think it would be a mistake to let him go without a proper look at him.

stay or go: Spends

the above lagoy: Lajoie is a decent player and kid with a fair amount of experience in the NHL. When I watched him play in Chicago last season, I’m not sure I can vouch for him before Galen Chatfield, Selegren or Kane. 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. My loyalty to former Senators is well documented – but I must be objective here. He may be young, and he may be better off looking elsewhere for an NHL role.

stay or go: he goes

jack Lafontaine: There has been a lot of hype surrounding LaFontaine over the past two years, due to his success in college (Hobey Baker Finalist), and his NHL contract signing mid-season. Unfortunately, I cannot buy. From what I’ve seen, his lateral agility isn’t good enough for an NHL level, and his rebound control is worse. With Pyotr Kochetkov and Ito Makinemi potentially ahead of him in Chicago next year, Fontaine could potentially end up in the ECHL if he stays in the Canes organization going forward. I can’t see him approaching the age of 25, it would be suicidal as a career move if he had NHL aspirations. As such, my guess is that the Canes let him choose his next destination via free agency in the summer.

stay or go: he goes

beck warm: In hindsight, the AHL’s five-game stint that earned Warm a starter deal in 2021 was a fun run, but I had no real hope that the unpolished 6-0, 175-pound goalkeeper would twice become an NHL hope. Warm has a future in professional hockey somewhere in the world, but he won’t be in the NHL — and he might not be in the AHL either. Thanks for the memories and good luck.

stay or go: he goes

the others:

  • Tarmo Reunion Acquired by trade to AHL striker Maxim Letunov, he played 8 matches with Wolves. Before coming into the trade, he had 34 points in 61 games for Hartford (NY Branch Rangers AHL) and was a fit in 4 NHL games with Rangers. In all honesty, I haven’t watched him enough to judge, but I feel Rangers’ exchange of a 24-year-old defender for the AHL body says all we need to know. he goes.
  • Josh Jacobs He is a previous second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils. Now 26 years old, he played 3 NHL games during his career. The best way to describe his game is “solid,” but he’s an AHL defender in his prime. I feel like Chicago will accept him back on an AHL contract, but I don’t see the need for Canes to use a contract slot on him. he goesbut Chicago can bring him back.

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