Two days after the Carolina Hurricanes lose a defenseman to Sweden, they import another. NHL.com’s Michael Smith reports that the Hurricanes have signed veteran defender Eric Gelinas to a one-year, two-way contract. Gelinas will make the minimum $750K at the NHL level and $100K at the AHL level, with $125K guaranteed. This move comes on the heels of Joakim Ryan officially signing with the SHL’s Malmo Redhawks on Friday.
Gelinas should be a name familiar to NHL fans. Although the 30-year-old last played in the league in 2016-17, he has nearly 200 NHL games to his credit with the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche. A 2009 second-round pick of the Devils with great size and strong production in the QMJHL, Gelinas was long expected to become a dynamic top-four defenseman at the highest level. He continued to produce in the AHL and had one tremendous season with New Jersey, but largely failed to translate his offense to the NHL and settled into a stay-at-home role and eventually his exit from the league. Gelinas spent the 2017-18 season playing in the AHL with the Laval Rocket before spending the past three years in Europe, mostly in the SHL. While his production improved overseas, it was not until this season with Rogle BK that it truly took off. Gelinas recorded 34 points in 46 games, leading all league defensemen in per-game scoring, and added another seven points in the postseason en route to a finals appearance.
The Hurricanes clearly hope that Gelinas’ season is not just another example of strong production at a weaker level but rather that something has finally clicked with the big defenseman’s all-around game. With Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Jake Gardiner, and Joey Keane signed through at least next year, Jake Bean and Maxime Lajoie under team control as restricted free agents, and mutual interest in an extension with Dougie Hamilton, Carolina still has some of the best defensive depth in the NHL and by no means will have to rely on a breakout season from Gelinas. However, they rushed to sign him for a reason and may very well hand him a roster spot to begin the year in hopes that he can prove he belongs at the top level.