RALEIGH — Less than three weeks after Carolina Hurricanes gave defenseman Jaccob Slavin a seven-year contract extension, general manager Ron Francis locked up another vital piece to the team’s blue line, signing Brett Pesce to a six-year, $24.15 million deal. The contract has an average annual cap cost of $4.025 million.
The extensions for Slavin and Pesce, which won’t even kick in until the 2018-19 season when both players’ entry-level contracts expire, sets Carolina’s top pairing for the foreseeable future at a reasonable cost: the tandem will cost $9.325 million against the cap. Comparatively, Predators defenseman P.K. Subban will earn $11 million from Nashville in 2017-18 and cost $9 million against the salary cap.
“Brett took another big step forward last season,” Francis said in a press release. “He plays a smart defensive game and has good ability to move the puck and contribute offensively. We plan for him to be a part of the Hurricanes’ defensive corps for a long time.”
Pesce, 22, teamed with Slavin to become Carolina’s top defensive pairing last season. Both finished plus-23 in plus/minus on a team that had just one other regular (forward Lee Stempniak at plus-2) finish on the right side of that ledger.
A native of Tarrytown, N.Y., who played three seasons at the University of New Hampshire, Pesce had two goals and 18 assists while playing in all 82 games last season for the Hurricanes. The former third-round pick (66th overall in 2013) played just three games with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers in his first full professional season in 2015-16 before being recalled to Raleigh, and Pesce has been a mainstay on the Hurricanes blue line since.
Pesce logged 21:12 a night last season, fourth on Carolina’s defense, but his total of 1,739 minutes played ranked only second to Slavin (1,922) among skaters on the team. Pesce has totaled six goals and 30 assists for 36 points in 151 NHL games, taking only 36 penalty minutes in his two-year career.
The deals for Pesce and Slavin leaves Noah Hanifin, who also made his pro debut in 2015-16, as a possible target for an extension on Carolina’s defense. Hanifin and Trevor van Riemsdyk, a former teammate of Pesce’s at UNH who was acquired from the new Vegas Golden Knights following his selection from Chicago at the expansion draft, will both be restricted free agents after the 2017-18 season and are eligible to be extended at any time. Forward Elias Lindholm is also a candidate for an extension.