With the start of the 2017-18 season just a month away, teams are starting to entertain some options to fill out their rosters. PTO season is in full swing, several teams have made recent free agent signings with more surely to come, and even trade whispers have picked up someone. One team not expected to join the late off-season excitement are the Carolina Hurricanes. With a cap hit of $57.8MM, more than $17MM below the salary cap, the Hurricanes have more than enough space to work with. In fact, Carolina has the third lowest payroll in the league. The ’Canes have plenty of cap flexibility, but what they lack is roster flexibility.
The NHL imposes limits on each and every roster. Of course, the active roster is held to just 23 players, but the issue facing the Hurricanes is instead the 50-contract limit. Each squad is only allowed to have 50 players at a time signed to one-way and two-way NHL contracts; it’s a mark that few teams approach. Yet, Carolina is already committed to a league-high 49 players for next season. The team has added Scott Darling, Justin Williams, Marcus Kruger, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Josh Jooris, and Brenden Kichton to the mix this summer, without losing any notable names. With those new additions, the Hurricanes hope to build upon their surprising success in 2016-17 and use their impressive depth and youthful energy to reach the postseason this season. With those aspirations, GM Ron Francis and company will surely want to leave some space for a possible trade acquisition if the team is in position for a playoff run. While trades, especially in-season, more often than not include players going both ways, all other teams are held to the same limits as Carolina and won’t be willing to take on a handful of contracts just to accommodate the ’Canes roster restraints. The team has to be careful not to back themselves into a corner.
For that reason, Carolina will likely march toward the season without making any further moves. That won’t stop the rumors of their interest in Colorado’s Matt Duchene to stop, particularly with Duchene pushing for a resolution in prior to puck drop, but it seems more likely that the Hurricanes stand pat in the coming weeks. With little flexibility as is, adding another player by any means could put Carolina in a hard-to-manage roster spot that could be even harder to get out of.