The Carolina Hurricanes have locked up one of their top forward prospects, announcing a two-year deal for restricted free agent Lucas Wallmark. Wallmark’s contract is two-way next season before transitioning to a one-way deal in 2019-20. He is set to make the minimum $650K this year at the NHL level, with $100K guaranteed, and $700K the year after for a cap hit of $675K across both seasons.
Wallmark, 22, impressed with both Carolina and Charlotte last season. In the AHL, the young center registered 55 points in 45 games, leading the Checkers in both points and assists despite far fewer games played than many of his teammates. In fact, Wallmark had the highest points-per-game mark in the league among players with 10+ games played. He even managed to finish 13th in the AHL in assists with every player ahead of him having skated in at least 15 more games. Wallmark didn’t have the same success producing with the Hurricanes, managing only one point in 11 games, but displayed a strong two-way game and puck-handling skills. He plays a complete game that, if he can translate it to the top level, could make him a dangerous and affordable asset for the Hurricanes.
With Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan both departing from Carolina this off-season, the time is now for Wallmark to win a full-time job down the middle for the Hurricanes. Victor Rask and Jordan Martinook are also options for the ’Canes, but are likely better suited for bottom-six roles. A strong camp could earn Wallmark that second-line role behind Jordan Staal. The wild card will be highly-touted 2017 first-round pick Martin Necas and how he looks early on. Armed with two full pro seasons, including 19 NHL games and terrific AHL numbers, Wallmark could have an edge but still needs to outperform Necas and overshadow the Czech pivot’s immense potential if the job comes down to the two of them.