The Carolina Hurricanes may not have new deals in place with Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, but that doesn’t mean they’re without goaltending altogether. Alex Nedeljkovic, fresh off a Calder Cup and AHL Most Outstanding Goaltender award, has re-signed with the team for the next two seasons. The deal is a two-way contract in 2019-20 worth $725K at the NHL level, and a one-way contract in 2020-21 that carries a $750K salary. GM Don Waddell released a statement on the young goaltender:
Alex had an outstanding season in Charlotte last year and was a major part of the Checkers’ success. We expect him to contend for a roster spot with the Hurricanes in training camp.
If it started right now, Nedeljkovic wouldn’t have much to contend with at training camp. The Hurricanes currently have just three other goaltenders in the organization and the only one with NHL experience is likely going to be bought out. That lack of depth will likely be dealt with in free agency next week, but there are obviously no guarantees when it comes to signing players on the open market.
That’s why the 23-year old Nedeljkovic is so important to the Carolina organization, and why he will likely get every chance in the coming years to prove he can be an NHL starting goaltender. In 100 regular season appearances with the Charlotte Checkers the last two seasons he has recorded a 65-26-3 record including nine shutouts, and was a huge part in taking home the first Calder Cup in franchise history earlier this month. His development since the team selected him 37th overall in 2014 has been exceptional, though it seems unlikely that the team is ready to hand the keys over completely for the 2019-20 season.
Still, getting him on a two-year contract at this point sets the Hurricanes up for success. Even if he doesn’t establish himself as an NHL starter by then he will still be a restricted free agent when the deal expires, unless of course he fails to play in 26 more NHL games and becomes a Group VI unrestricted free agent. That seems quite unlikely, but will depend on what the Hurricanes do on Monday in free agency.