Hurricanes Must Prioritize Re-Signing Nino Niederreiter

The Carolina Hurricanes will have many decisions to make over the next few months regarding who to sign back and who to let walk in free agency. One forward that was vital to the team’s success this season was Nino Niederreiter. The 29-year-old forward is coming off his best season with the club, scoring 44 points (24 goals and 20 assists) in 75 regular-season games. Niederreiter added four goals throughout the team’s 14 playoff games. He struggled mightily in the second-round series against the New York Rangers, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a member of the Hurricanes’ playoff roster that didn’t struggle against Igor Shesterkin.

Niederreiter was a key piece for the Hurricanes this season, trailing only Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov in goals scored for the Metropolitan Division Champions. There is uncertainty surrounding the Canes about who will be returning, with a plethora of decisions to be made regarding unrestricted and restricted free agents. Signing free agents Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck should be the organization’s main priority before making tough decisions regarding the rest of the roster and possibly testing the market on available forwards. Hurricanes’ head coach Rod Brind’Amour and president/general manager Don Waddell made it clear that they would prefer to keep the two forwards, but at the end of the day, it’s a business.

Nino Niederreiter Carolina Hurricanes
Nino Niederreiter, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Niederreiter expressed his interest in returning at his end-of-season press conference, and he also mentioned that there were talks about an extension early in the 2021-22 campaign. However, he wasn’t shy to admit that the two sides might not be able to meet on an agreement.

Niederreiter has surpassed the 20-goal regular-season mark six times in his career, and as many fans know 20-goal scorers do not grow on trees. It would be a big loss to the Hurricanes’ secondary scoring if they were to see him walk away in free agency. USA Today’s Mike Brehm listed him in his top 25 unrestricted free agents list earlier this week.

Niederreiter Had Efficient Season for Canes

Niederreiter was a very effective and efficient scoring option for the Hurricanes in 2021-22 according to an advanced analytics model. He led the Canes in both goals scored per 60 minutes and expected goals scored per 60 minutes (1.1 and 1.09). Their biggest need offensively heading into the offseason is more effective goal scoring from the forward position, so they can’t afford to lose the offensive production Niederreiter provides.

Related: 4 Takeaways From Carolina Hurricanes 2021-22 Season

Another area where Niederreiter rated very effectively this past season was penalty minutes. After having issues with penalty minutes taken in seasons past, he was one of the Canes’ most disciplined players in 2021-22. He averaged 2.32 penalty minutes drawn and 1.22 penalty minutes taken per 60 minutes of action.

Carolina Hurricanes Nino Niederreiter
Carolina Hurricanes, Nino Niederreiter (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canes’ two biggest issues that plagued them down the stretch in the playoffs were goal scoring and an inability to stay out of the penalty box. Could they afford to lose Niederreiter who is coming off a career season in both categories?

In a post last week, Colton Pankiw of The Hockey Writers did not list Niederreiter as one of the four Hurricanes’ free agents he believes will not return. Breathe a sigh of relief for now Caniacs.

Interesting Offseason Ahead

On top of the decisions regarding Niederreiter and Trocheck, Carolina will have to make decisions on the futures of Max Domi, Tony DeAngelo, Derek Stepan, Martin Necas, Brendan Smith, and more. Then there’s the possibility of Don Waddell pursuing an electric goal scorer in free agency as well. It would be a shame if the Hurricanes were unable to bring back Niederreiter, as he seems primed to build off of an effective 2021-22 season. It will be interesting to see where the pieces fall throughout the offseason, rest assured the club will have a different look heading into the 2022-23 season.

Sign up for our regular 'Hurricanes Newsletter' for all the latest.

Latest News & Highlights