Part of the Carolina Hurricanes’ success this season was based on the team finally finding a solution in net, in the form of rookie goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
Nedeljkovic was a Calder Trophy finalist, after posting an excellent .932 save percentage in 23 regular season games with the Hurricanes. However, the netminder is in need of a new contract this offseason, adding to the list of key players the Hurricanes need to re-sign.
You have to imagine neither side is looking for a long-term deal right now. Nedlejkovic has played just 29 career NHL regular season games, so the Hurricanes won’t want to risk a long-term deal, while Nedeljkovic wouldn’t get nearly as much on a long-term deal with such a small sample size right now, as opposed to if he kept up his play for another year or two.
So we can assume we’re looking at a short-term contract and there are some pretty obvious comparables for an extension, in Jordan Binnington and Elvis Merzlikins.
Binnington took over as a starter in St. Louis in the 2018-19 season, leading the team to a Stanley Cup and receiving a two-year deal with a $4.4 million AAV. Merzlikins, on the other hand, posted a .923 save percentage with Columbus in his rookie season and got a two-year deal at a $4 million AAV.
Here are how the goalies compare statistically in the season before signing their respective extensions, along with the age in which they signed the extension.
Nedeljkovic (25 years old): .932 SV% in 23 games (.920 SV% in 9 playoff games)
Binnington (26 years old): .927 SV% in 32 games (.914 SV% in 26 playoff games)
Merzlikins (26 years old): .923 SV% in 33 games (.946 SV% in 2 playoff games)
Another decent comparable would be Jake Allen, who re-signed with St. Louis after posing a .913 save percentage in 37 games in the 2014-15 season, and a .904 save percentage in six playoff games. He did, however, play 15 games in the 2012-13 season, posting a .905 save percentage. His deal was two years at a $2.35 million AAV, which translates to roughly a $2.7 million AAV with today’s cap.
Even not factoring in some relatively poor stats in the 2012-13 season, Allen’s .913 save percentage doesn’t come anywhere near Nedeljkovic’s .932 save percentage, and Allen’s playoff run wasn’t great either, at least statistically. It reinforces that Nedeljkovic would be much higher than a $2.7 million AAV.
You could use Tristan Jarry as an example as well. Jarry posted a .921 save percentage in 33 games last year, on route to a three-year deal with a $3.5 million AAV. However, he had also posted a .906 save percentage in 29 games across three seasons before then, which is less than stellar. Jarry’s AAV on a three-year deal would have been higher than on a two-year deal, but it still reaffirms that Nedeljkovic, in comparison, is higher than Jarry’s range as well.
Generally, we can figure that the two closest comparables for a two-year deal would still be Binnington and Merzlikins. While Nedeljkovic had slightly better regular season stats compared to Binnington's 2018-19 season, Binnington’s Cup run certainly added some money to that deal, while Nedeljkovic does project to get a contract at a slightly higher AAV than Merzlikins, when comparing their stats.
As a result, if the Hurricanes and Nedeljkovic opt for a two-year deal, it’s likely we see the AAV come in at a little over $4 million.
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Would you be happy with a two-year deal for Nedeljkovic at just over $4 million per year?