The Carolina Hurricanes face some important roster decisions this offseason, with several key players in need of new contracts. Vincent Trocheck and Tony DeAngelo (RFA) may headline Carolina’s list of free agents but Nino Niederreiter will be another key piece of the puzzle the Hurricanes will be looking to bring back.
Niederreiter is turning 30 years old in September and has spent the last three and a half seasons with the Hurricanes, after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild in January of 2019. Since then, he’s scored 69 goals and 137 points in 234 games with Carolina and this season, he scored 24 goals and 44 points in 75 games, a pace of 26 goals and 48 points per 82 games.
Niederreiter provides really strong middle-six depth for the Hurricanes and despite being overshadowed by some high-end talent at the top of Carolina’s forward group, he plays and important role. He can score at a pretty consistent rate, with a good release on a powerful wrist shot and also adds a physical presence, not only in terms of throwing hits but also being able to win battles. He’s not the best skater but he’s effective defensively and has a fairly well-rounded game.
Given Niederreiter’s age and role, he won’t be due for an overly long deal but we can probably expect something in the range of around four years. In terms of a cap hit, comparables would put his next deal around $4.5 to $5 million per year.
But while the Hurricanes do have cap space remaining, it likely won’t be enough to bring back all of their free agents. New contracts for Tony DeAngelo and Vincent Trocheck will take priority and even if Trocheck were to leave, the team would still need to commit money to a separate second-line center as a replacement, which wouldn’t come cheap.
Even if Niederreiter is an important piece, it would end up being easier to find a middle-six replacement and the Hurricanes' top-nine would still be strong without him. Looking back a year, he wasn't protected by Carolina in the expansion draft, meaning his next deal probably won't be a top priority over re-signing the likes of DeAngelo and Trocheck.
As a result, while Niederreiter is an important piece for the Hurricanes, there may not be enough money left to bring him back. We can assume the Hurricanes will try to make it work but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the forward head elsewhere in free agency.