When the Carolina Hurricanes traded promising young forward Warren Foegele to the Edmonton Oilers, they had hoped the return, defenseman Ethan Bear, could turn into a key piece of what is and has been one of the NHL’s best defense cores. Though Bear has not been bad, the relationship has not worked out as hoped, Bear suiting up for just 58 regular season games in 2021-22, finding himself a healthy scratch on many occasions. When Bear did play, he performed well enough, recording 14 points in those 58 games, but was ultimately limited to just 16:05 in average time-on-ice. The situation seemed to hit a boiling point however, when Bear wound up not playing a single game in Carolina’s 14-game playoff run.
About to become a RFA for the second time at the conclusion of a two-year, $4MM contract, rumors about Bear’s future had begun to swirl with some clarity being brought to the situation this evening. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports, Carolina has given Bear permission to talk to other teams. This news may not come as much of a shock, but could seem peculiar for a team who still has control over the pending RFA. In fact, Friedman added that the Hurricanes do still wish to re-sign Bear and have him back next season, but he notes that the two sides are not close to an agreement.
In regards to why Carolina would be willing to let Bear talk with other teams, in one instance, Carolina may seek to move Bear, but with a contract in place, they may find greater value on the trade market. Alternatively, it could give Bear a sense of what his market is like. For one, that would allow Bear to see how other teams value his services and what kind of contract he would be able to find on the open market, helping make the negotiations with Carolina more about dollars and cents than anything that happened this year. For another, it can show how other organizations view his talents and what role they see him occupying. This clarity could help Bear and the Hurricanes salvage their relationship and shed some light on what Bear would need to do in order to play a full slate of games for Carolina. Either way, as Friedman notes, nothing can happen with Bear before July 13th without approval from the Hurricanes.