There is excitement about the Carolina Hurricanes and PNC Arena again for the first time in almost a decade. This is thanks to the team’s young defense and recent moves like signing Calvin De Haan and drafting Andrei Svechnikov, but it really all began with their two young Finns up front.
Both Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho have been a revelation in Raleigh and last season ‘Canes fans got a good look at what they could become, as they played together often and developed electrifying chemistry. Both Teravainen and Aho are heading into the last year of their contracts and as they have become invaluable pieces to a resurging Hurricanes squad, it should be high on general manager Don Waddell’s priority list to resign these two young forwards. Would that look like?
To project the kind of term and value that Aho and Teravainen will receive with their next contracts, let’s compare them with other players with similar skillsets and production levels who have signed long-term deals (five years or longer) since 2015. This should give us the most accurate idea of what these contracts could look like and what their impact would be on the Hurricanes’ cap situation.
Bridge the Gap
Let’s start with Teravainen. Since being dealt to Carolina by the Chicago Blackhawks two summers ago, Teravainen has enjoyed the most productive seasons of his career and he has improved at a steady pace. He has become a mainstay on the top line, playing all but one game out of 164 and collecting a total of 106 points. Teravainen was touted as one of the best talents in his draft class in 2012 despite his size and fans are beginning to see why.
Teravainen is entering the final year of a two-year bridge contract worth $5.72 million total that the ‘Canes signed him to exactly one year after he was acquired. And even though he will be an RFA again next summer, he will also be eligible to file for arbitration.
To judge what Teuvo will be worth next summer, let’s assume that he produces similarly to this past season. There is no better player comparison than the Winnipeg Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers. While Ehlers is a target man compared to Teuvo’s natural playmaking role, Ehlers put up very similar numbers as Teuvo, played most of his club’s games, and even did it all on his entry-level contract (ELC), whereas Teravainen took a couple of years to get his production up.
Ehlers earned a seven-year, $42 million contract extension last October as he entered the final year of his ELC. If Teravainen forgoes the right to arbitration and wants to get an extension done this summer, I predict Ehlers’ term of seven years and average annual value (AAV) of $6 million will be a reference point. Anything greater than six years would put him in his 30s when he becomes a UFA, so maybe he would prefer a deal with less term but higher AAV. All in all, I think Ehlers’ contract terms will be the beginning of that conversation.
Payday for Sea-Bass
Sebastian Aho has proven to be one of the most exciting players in the league but he does it very quietly. He hasn’t been in the conversation of the most skilled young forwards but ‘Canes fans and management know what they have in the Finnish phenom, and he’s still only 20-years-old.
Drafted 35th overall in 2015 to a mixed reception, Aho has impressed since then, scoring at a point-per-game clip in both the regular season and playoffs with Karpat in the generally low-scoring Finnish Liiga and scoring 53 goals and 114 points in 160 NHL games with the Hurricanes. Aho measures up nicely to other players in a stacked 2015 draft class that includes Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Jack Eichel, and Travis Konecny. Sure, he’s not on the same plane as McDavid and Barzal (also 2015 draftees) but few are.
As a continually improving player, who can play center and who has the ability to carry a line, the measuring stick for Aho’s next contract is likely going to be the Edmonton Oilers’ centre Leon Draisaitl. After an average rookie season, Draisaitl has taken the league by storm, posting over 50 points in his second season and reaching the 70-point plateau in the final year of his ELC.
Last summer, Draisaitl received an eight-year, $68 million contract at an $8.5 million AAV. This was largely exacerbated by his unbelievable playoff performance in 2017 where he outplayed McDavid, but he would have earned a fairly similar contract anyway considering his monster regular season.
Is Aho going to get the same deal as Draisaitl? Unlikely. However, Aho was close to the 70-point mark in 2017-18 and he could very well hit it this season or do better. It also depends on if the ‘Canes finally make the playoffs this season and what kind of role he plays in accomplishing that, but I think the sky’s the limit for Aho.
My current projection, assuming he collects 70 points or more and the ‘Canes see a Game 83, is an eight-year, $60 million contract at a $7.5 million AAV. We know that the ‘Canes aren’t an overly wealthy organization, so moves will likely need to be made if they want to keep both Aho and Teravainen in Raleigh.
I could see Teravainen signing a deal this summer, but I assume that Aho will wait until next year to sign anything because it appears that his ceiling is even higher. The good news for the ‘Canes is that both of these talented youngsters will be RFAs, and the worst case scenario is that they must trade one or both if negotiations go south but neither will walk away for nothing. You’re on deck, Waddell. Get ‘er done.
*All statistics from HockeyDB.com