Hurricanes reshape defense, extend Jaccob Slavin

Carolina also re-signed Jordan Martinook and added William Carrier

Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin — pictured with wife Kylie, daughter Emersyn and son Charlie — meets with the media after singing an eight-year contract extension with Carolina. (Cory Lavalette / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Free agency opened for the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday at noon. It seems like it opened for the rest of the NHL days earlier.

Rumored interest from other teams for two of Carolina’s top unrestricted free agents circulated ahead of and during last weekend’s NHL Draft in Las Vegas. Defenseman Brett Pesce, a 2013 Hurricanes draft pick who had played nearly 700 regular season and playoff games with Carolina over the past nine seasons, was all but signed by the Devils before the doors to Sphere even opened Friday for the first round of the draft.


On Monday, that became official, with Pesce signing a six-year, $33 million contract with the division rival Devils.

Pesce’s departure wasn’t particularly surprising. The 29-year-old is the type of player Carolina has tried to avoid giving long-term, big-money deals to because of concerns about how the contract would age. That’s especially true for a player who logs the tough minutes and has a history of shoulder injuries.

The one that hurt was Jake Guentzel.

The Carolina braintrust arrived in Las Vegas with a proposal from Guentzel’s representatives on an extension: eight years, $64 million.

The Hurricanes informed Ben Hankinson, Guentzel’s agent, Thursday morning that they would meet those demands and offered any structure that would satisfy the 29-year-old forward that the team acquired ahead of last season’s trade deadline. New GM Eric Tulsky had said before the start of Friday’s first round, while the team waited on Guentzel’s answer, that the Hurricanes were willing to make an exception on the aforementioned reluctance to give lengthy and expensive contract players approaching 30 years old because “he’s a great fit.”

“We see him as somebody who we’re willing to stretch for and try to keep him here,” Tulsky said.

After giving Guentzel time to mull the offer, Carolina saw Thursday turn to Friday and then Saturday without an answer. During the end of the second day of the draft — curiously around the same time the Tampa Bay Lightning cleared cap space by dealing away defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and forward Tanner Jeannot — the Hurricanes were informed Guentzel would not be re-signing with Carolina.

Looking to salvage something for the player for which they surrendered Michael Bunting, three prospects and a draft pick, Carolina on Sunday dealt the rights to Guentzel to Tampa Bay for a third round pick in next year’s draft.

Guentzel signed a seven-year, $63 million contract with the Lightning.

The Hurricanes could be forgiven if they were frustrated with the proceedings, especially considering other teams are not supposed to negotiate with pending free agents until noon on Monday.

“Of course, we can’t talk to other teams’ free agents ahead of time,” Tulsky said Monday afternoon. “Teams and agents are both doing what they can to gauge the market and figure out what the right fits are. That’s part of the job and something that you have to do to keep up in this game.”

That left Carolina with plenty of work to do Monday and beyond, but the team filled some of those holes by adding free agent defensemen Sean Walker and Shayne Gostisbehere along with forwards William Carrier, Eric Robinson and Tyson Jost.

Walker and Gostisbehere — the latter played in Carolina at the end of the 2022-23 season after coming over in a trade at that year’s deadline — step in for Pesce and Brady Skjei, who signed in Nashville.

“We ask a lot of our defenseman with the pressure that we apply skating up and down the ice and covering all over the zone, and we feel he can do that very effectively,” Tulsky said of the 29-year-old Walker, who signed a five-year, $18 million contract. Gostisbehere received a three-year, $9.6 million deal.

While Robinson and Jost signed one-year contracts as depth players, Carrier — a 6-foot-2, 218-pound forward who played the past seven seasons with Vegas — received a six-year, $12 million deal.

Tulsky said all three forwards can play the “two-way, high-pressure game that the Hurricanes have come to be known for.”

Carolina also re-signed forward Jordan Martinook to a three-year, $9.15 million extension.

The team also assured there wouldn’t be any overtures to franchise defenseman Jaccob Slavin, signing the alternate captain to an eight-year, $51.69 million contract that should ensure his No. 74 will one day be raised to the rafters at PNC Arena.

“Honestly, I love this organization,” Slavin said at a press conference Monday. “I love the city. It’s an amazing organization to be a part of, and to be a Cane, hopefully, for life is extremely exciting.”

Tulsky and the front office still have more pending business.

The team first needs to decide what it will do with restricted free agent Martin Necas, whose name was involved in trade talks at the draft but his rights remained with the Hurricanes as the calendar flipped to July.

Carolina could still shop Necas or try and mend fences with the talented but disgruntled winger, especially now that it doesn’t have an $8 million cap hit dedicated to Guentzel. But Necas and his agent, Mike Deutsch, have indicated to the team that the speedy 25-year-old from Czechia would prefer a fresh start elsewhere.

The Hurricanes are still exploring options at forward, where they also lost Teuvo Teravainen (Chicago) and Stefan Noesen (New Jersey) and have about $16 million in cap space to use with three RFA regulars — Necas, Seth Jarvis and Jack Drury — to sign.