Let the real craziness begin.
The Carolina Hurricanes, facing an arbitration battle with goalie Alex Nedeljkovic or letting him enter free agenct, decided to cut bait on their Calder Trophy finalist, trading the 25-year-old former second-round pick to Detroit in exchange for the negotiating rights to pending unrestricted free agent goalie Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick (94th overall) in this year’s draft.
Nedeljkovic quickly agreed to a two-year contract with the Red Wings with an annual average value of $3 million.
The trade means Carolina has three unrestricted free agent goalies — Bernier, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer — with whom they can negotiate heading into the opening of free agency on July 28. The team can also explore the free agent market and trades this offseason to shore up their sudden empty-net syndrome.
The Hurricanes have long-wavered on Nedeljkovic’s prospects as an NHL starter, even putting him on waivers in January. The rest of the league passed on the one-time AHL goalie of the year then, and Nedeljkovic seemed to prove his doubters wrong with a 15-5-3 record and an impressive .932 save percentage and 1.90 goals-against average. He was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, finishing third in voting.
Those numbers also lined up Nedeljkovic for a good pay day as a restricted free agent, putting him in line to potentially get an annual salary of $4 million or more.
DailyFaceoff.com’s Frank Seravalli reported Nedeljkovic’s agent was asking for a $3.5 million AAV from the Hurricanes, but the goalie agreed to less after being dealt to the Red Wings.
Either way, the Hurricanes didn’t seem interested in Nedeljkovic at anything close to that price tag — sticking with the belief that Nedeljkovic won’t be a top-tier goalie over the long haul.
Time will tell who was right.