Hurricanes juggle Guentzel negotiations, Necas’ future, draft, free agency in Vegas

New GM Eric Tulsky is navigating a conequential offseason for Carolina

The 2024 NHL Draft is being held at Sphere in Las Vegas. (Cory Lavalette / North State Journal)

LAS VEGAS — Hurricanes GM Eric Tulsky has been one of the busier hockey executives this week, juggling negotiations with several pending free agents, examining the trade market for RFA Martin Necas and exploring draft options, all with the opening of free agency looming.

The temperature is expected to peak at 108 degrees here in Las Vegas on Friday, so it’s fair to say Tulsky has been thrown into the fire both literally and figuratively.


The Hurricanes have been working hard to re-sign Jake Guentzel, the perennial 30-goal winger they acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, before he reaches unrestricted free agency. Carolina can offer one thing no other team can: an eighth year on the contract.

Hurricanes draft preview

Guentzel will be 30 when the 2024-25 season begins, and signing him to a maximum-length deal would go against much of what the Hurricanes have done in managing the age of their roster in recent years.

They think it’s worth it for Guentzel.

“We’re still working on it. … He’s a great player. He’s a great fit.” Tulsky said at Sphere before the start of the NHL Draft’s first round on Friday. “And we see him as somebody who we’re willing to stretch for and try to keep him here.”

Carolina also has several other players — most notably Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Martinook — who could test the market Monday.

Tulsky said the team hasn’t closed the door on any of the potential UFAs.

“We are still in talks with everyone,” he said. “We are working on everything we can.”

Then there’s Necas. The restricted free agent, who led the Hurricanes in points in 2022-23, is also due a new deal and has arbitration rights. He also wants out of Carolina.

The best way to describe the schism between the two sides — which isn’t without friction but I wouldn’t call hostile — is Necas believes he needs to play a certain way and with certain opportunities to be his best, while the Hurricanes think the structure of the Rod Brind’Amour’s systems gives Necas and the team its best chance to win.

“It’s hard to say,” Tulsky said of what the resolution will be with Necas. “We’re still talking to both the player and the teams and trying to get a resolution that’s happy for everyone.”

There’s also the money.

Should Guentzel re-sign on a rumored eight-year, $64 million contract, Carolina would have just under $21 million in cap space with eight forwards, four defensemen and two goalies (assuming Spencer Martin, the No. 3 goalie, is assigned to the AHL) signed to one-way deals. Some of those spots could be filled by players on entry-level contracts (such as Scott Morrow), and RFAs Seth Jarvis and Jack Drury will take up two of the forward spots — and perhaps a good chunk of cap space — once under contract.

Necas is probably looking for a contract just south of what has been proposed for Guentzel, and with extensions for Jaccob Slavin and Jarvis looming, committing that kind of money to Necas would make things tight.

Tulsky said, however, re-signing Guentzel wouldn’t preclude the team from keeping Necas.

“We have plenty of room for both of them,” Tulsky said. “We’d love to have them both. If something else happens, then we’ll figure it out from there.”

Necas has definitely been a hot commodity this week. Carolina has reportedly received offers that included a lottery pick — even the fourth overall selection, owned by Columbus and their familiar new executive, Don Waddell, has surfaced in rumors — and has had interest from all around the league.

Tulsky and the Hurricanes’ front office could certainly do a lot of work this weekend in Las Vegas to fill holes on their roster, whether that’s re-signing its players or swinging trades on the draft floor. If not, Carolina can shop at the start of free agency on July 1.

“We always have to balance the cost of the contract versus the cost to acquire the player,” he said. “So we look at every avenue we can to find the players we need.