A couple weeks ago, Chip Alexander broke the news that the Hurricanes will let their potential unrestricted free agents test the market and they aren't going to lose a ton of value by doing this. The only player who will be difficult to replace is back-up goaltender Dan Ellis and even then, they might be able to find someone of equal talent for a low cost with goaltender performance being so difficult to predict. Other unrestricted free agents for Carolina include bottom-sixers like Chad LaRose & Tim Brent who can be replaced without much of an issue and aging defenseman Joe Corvo who probably wasn't going to be re-signed no matter what. However, the Hurricanes do have a couple of young defensemen who are pending unrestricted free agents and could represent some value in future seasons. Those two players being Bobby Sanguinetti and Brett Bellemore.
Neither have a lot of NHL experience and haven't given the Hurricanes a ton of value thus far, but they are still very young and have shown plenty of potential over the past couple of seasons. They also represent an opportunity for the Hurricanes to get help on defense without breaking the bank. Defensemen typically take years to develop and while neither Bellemore or Sanguinetti have broken into the NHL full-time just yet, if they were to do so over the next year they would represent a lot of value for whichever teams sign them. That's a big "if," though because both players are relatively unproven and there is no guarantee that either are good enough to play in a top-four role at the NHL level as soon as next year.
Both of these players have been in the Hurricanes organization for over three years now and they've been in the AHL for most of that time. Sanguinetti finally made the "jump" to the NHL this year and while he got off to a rocky start, he settled in as a solid third-pairing defenseman during the second half of the year. Bellemore has much less NHL experience with only eight total games played as an emergency call-up this season, but he was impressive during that time and fills a need as a stay-at-home defenseman with good size and a strong physical game. It would have been nice to see him get some more games to see what he can do, but this is where we're at right now and the Hurricanes will have to make a decision on him and Sanguinetti before July.
This is a situation the Hurricanes aren't completely foreign to, though because they were in a similar spot a few years ago when it came time to extend Jay Harrison and Brett Carson. They are obviously much different players than Sanguinetti and Bellemore in terms of playing style but their contract situation is pretty similar. Both were in their mid-20's, had less than a year of NHL experience at the time and were unrestricted free agents. the Hurricanes ended up them both one-year contracts for around the league minimum. Will they do the same with Sanguinetti and Bellemore?
It really depends on what the front office thinks of them. Both have potential, but are still unproven assets and the Hurricanes need immediate help on defense. If they don't see them as anything more than third pairing defensemen, then they will probably let both walk without a blink of an eye. However, if they see them as players who can step into a top-four role as soon as next year, then they will probably re-sign them. A trade involving someone like Jamie McBain or Jay Harrison could also change things up since that will at least open a roster spot but in the end, it will probably depend on how much potential they really see in Bellemore & Sanguientti.
After the jump, we'll look at both player's track records so far, what their potential is and what kind of contract each will be looking at this summer.
Sanguinetti is the most likely to get re-signed since he has more NHL experience, but how much is he worth? As a former first round pick and proven AHL performer, he has some pedigree and some GMs might value him for that. However, with only 45 total NHL games played, it's highly unlikely that Sanguinetti will get a multi-year deal or a one-way contract. Or at least that's my suspicion based on the Hurricanes recent debacle with giving Derek Joslin a multi-year contract that resulted in him being bought out. It just goes to show that no matter how much potential you think someone has, there is a risk you take with signing an unproven player to a multi-year contract. The Hurricanes have to be aware of that when it comes time to sign Bellemore and Sanguinetti and with the latter, there have been players similar to him who have gotten at least a one-way deal or a two-year contract.
When looking at defensemen who had less than 100 NHL games played at the age of 24-25, most of them were given one-year deals but there were a few exceptions.
Bobby Sanguinetti Comparables
Based off his comparables, Sanguinetti's new contract could really go either way in terms of whether or he gets a one-way or two-way deal. I would be hesitant to say that he gets more than a one-year dealt, hoguh sine most of the players who got multi-year contracts had slightly more NHL experience than him. I don't know if the one-way or two-way deal makes much of a difference to the Hurricanes because I think the only way they will re-sign him is if they think he can be in the NHL for the entire year.
So far, all we really know about Sanguinetti's NHL ability is the 20+ games he played where he crushed third-pairing minutes. Whether or not that's enough to earn him an extension with the Hurricanes remains to be seen, but that should be able to get him a contract somewhere. For one year at $550-$700k, signing him isn't a bad risk for a team looking for depth. The issue with him and the Hurricanes is that they have a lot of third-pairing guys as it is and the only way I see there being room for him is if Jamie McBain is traded. It's a tough situation because Sanguinetti has potential but if his ceiling is a fringe top-four guy, then they might be better off walking away.
Bellemore is a slightly different case because he has played much fewer games and has fewer comparables as a result. Most unrestricted free agents with so little NHL experience, but the front office seems to like Bellemore a lot and it's reasonable to think that the Canes will re-sign him next year. I mentioned earlier that he fills a need as a defensive defenseman and has developed nicely in the AHL, so he could be a "late-bloomer" that might break into the NHL in the upcoming seasons.
That being said, the Canes would be foolish to give him a multi-year, one-way contract because eight solid games is not enough to say that Bellemore is an NHL player and it's still too early to commit years and money to him. The Canes also have a lot of young defensemen in their system and it's getting to the point where they need to "move on" from some players to make room for the younger guys. Bellemore might be one of the players they need to "move on" from if they don't think he has a future in the NHL.
There have been plenty of defensemen who have broke into the NHL in theri mid/late 20's, so there is reason to believe in Bellemore but the Canes are going to need to make a decision on him pretty quickly. The good news is that they won't have to risk much if they want to keep Bellemore around because most of his comparables weren't given multi-year contracts or one-way deals.
|Clayton Stoner||24||WHL||8||0||2||0.25||$550k||One/Two Way||2|
A player with only eight games of NHL experience isn't going to have much leverage when it comes to contract negotiations so in the end, it's going to come down to whether or not the Hurricanes want to keep Bellemore around. From the sound of things, the front office likes him and it wouldn't surprise me if he's with the team in training camp next year. What happens after that is anyone's guess.
With Bellemore's track record, I would be hesitant to give him more than $600k or a one-way deal. The one-way deal only becomes an issue if he doesn't make the NHL out of camp next season, but it's still a slight risk if you're a small market team. Committing more than one year to Bellemore also seems like a bad idea at this point, but if the Hurricanes end up doing that, they could structure it like the Wild did with Clayton Stoner's where it's a one-way deal in the first season and a two-way deal the next year. Stoner's contract situation at the time was actually pretty similar to Bellemore's. Both were 24 years old at the time and had less than 10 games of NHL experience heading into their UFA year. The Wild obviously liked Stoner enough to re-up him for two years but didn't want to pay him an NHL salary if he didn't work out in his rookie season. Stoner has been a regular NHLer in the three years since then.
If the Hurricanes were to do that with Bellemore, the worst case scenario is for him to either be claimed on waivers if he doesn't make the team out of camp or be in the AHL for the next two years. However, the best case scenario is for Bellemore to make the NHL out of training camp and have him under contract for two years so it's a low risk/decent reward situation for the Canes. It's also different from the situation with Joslin where they could keep Bellemore in the AHL the next year if he doesn't work out in the NHL instead of buying him out like they did with Joslin. That being said, I think a one-year contract is probably the safer bet here given Bellemore's inexperience.
It's pretty clear that the Hurricanes aren't going to fix their defense corps through free agency and seeing how they will have to overpay to get one of those players, they might want to consider hanging onto some of their home-grown assets and try to get the most out of them while they still can. Bellemore and Sanguinetti might not be future stars, but they could be useful for the Canes next year and are decent low-risk options at the very least. How good they are remains to be seen, though.
Contract numbers are courtesy of Capgeek