The Carolina Hurricanes boast one of the better core group of forwards in the league, despite the fact that their 2013 was an extremely large disappointment. That core is actually locked up for the future, at least for the most part. This is a club in good shape, as far as their finances go, heading into the future.
It’s time for them to consider signing of their key defensemen to a long-term contract. Two main things that held the Hurricanes back were health and defense. One of those was unpreventable, as several key players went down with injury. But the defense is something that needs to be focused on heading into the future.
That starts with locking up Justin Faulk. Of the players that were injured, Faulk was one of them. The most important defenseman to the Carolina Hurricanes spent a great deal of time on injured reserve during the shortened 2013 season. He went down with an MCL injury towards the middle of March and did not return until about three weeks later, after the Canes had all but fallen out of the race.
The injury certainly limited his production during the season, as he finished with only 15 points on the year, but he did manage to finish strong, with a four-game point streak in the last couple of weeks of the regular season. But what Faulk does for the Canes isn’t always easy to describe in terms of numbers.
Faulk has emerged as a legitimate franchise defenseman for this team. He does a little bit, and in some cases a whole lot, of everything for Carolina. When he was in the lineup, he averaged 24 minutes per game, more than anyone on the team. He’s also the team leader in minutes on the penalty kill, as well as ranking third among defensemen on the team while up a man.
He’s tough on opposing forwards, with 24 takeaways in only 38 games, best among Hurricanes d-men. He’s proven to be an excellent two-way defenseman in his time with the Hurricanes, which is relatively limited still to this point. But the Hurricanes are closing in on the point where an extension is something that should be explored.
Faulk is heading into the last year of his contract. His entry-level deal will pay him $900,000 in 2013-14. The Hurricanes should consider trying to lock him up on a long-term contract now, rather than waiting for him to get a completely healthy season under his belt and driving up the price.
Once free agency starts, the Canes will be able to start looking at an extension for Faulk. And given how many different ways he’s able to impact the game, along with the fact that he just turned 21, a contract extension for him should absolutely be a priority for them this summer.