Trade: Red Wings land Nedeljkovic; Hurricanes save money, get Bernier

Trade: Red Wings land Nedeljkovic; Hurricanes save money, get Bernier
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Should Hurricanes fans be concerned about their team’s willingness to spend to contend this offseason? That feels like a fair question after the Hurricanes sent Alex Nedeljkovic‘s rights to the Red Wings for Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick on Thursday.

Before the trade happened, both Nedeljkovic (RFA) and Bernier (UFA) weren’t under contract. Nedeljkovic finished as a Calder Trophy finalist this season.

Plenty of rumblings indicate that the Hurricanes balked at Nedeljkovic because he could reach salary arbitration.

As it turns out, the ultimate price was cheaper — although maybe that revolves around him getting another year? Nedeljkovic’s agent announced a two-year contract with a $3M AAV to make him the Red Wings’ goalie for at least the short-term.

Hurricanes trade Nedeljkovic to Red Wings: some potential takeaways

When the Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, people mocked Marc Bergevin. But Bergevin’s gambit might have had a point. What if the Hurricanes are a little cash-strapped? After all, owner Tom Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF not that long ago. And who knows how COVID might have affected various NHL owners, Dundon possibly included?

These questions are tough to avoid during a key offseason for the Hurricanes.

For one thing, Dougie Hamilton is a pending UFA. Maybe even more pressingly — and uncomfortably? — Andrei Svechnikov is an RFA. What if the Hurricanes are pushed into an uneasy situation?

Even beyond players, there are signs of penny-pinching. Back in 2018, announcer Chuck Kaiton left after reportedly being asked to take an 80-percent pay cut. More recently, it appeared that top-notch play-by-play announcer John Forslund was forced out. There was even some strangeness surrounding coach Rod Brind’Amour’s contract situation.

Now, that doesn’t mean the Hurricanes will lose Svechnikov.

And, it’s also fair to point out that, while Nedeljkovic was outstanding in 2020-21, he also doesn’t have a huge track record of success.

On one hand, you have that success. The 25-year-old went 15-5-3 this past season, sporting a fabulous .932 save percentage. He was pretty stout during the postseason, too, managing a .920 save percentage in nine playoff contests.

Time will tell

Still, it’s easy to forget that Nedeljkovic went on waivers more than once, and found no takers. There’s always the chance that the Hurricanes might seek a more established goalie. Or maybe the Hurricanes just think it’s a better value proposition to invest in more predictable skaters?

Either way, it’s not a great PR move for the Hurricanes. But maybe it will end up being a prudent decision?

For the Red Wings, though? It’s pretty much a no-brainer. At 25, Nedeljkovic is still in his prime. They snatched him up for two years, giving him a chance to establish himself as a true starter in the NHL. Ideally, by the end of his contract, Detroit will look more like a contender — and Nedeljkovic may prove that 2020-21 wasn’t a (total) fluke.

If not, then the Red Wings really only forked over that affordable $3M AAV, and a third-round pick. They still have a bunch of draft assets in both the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts, so that third-rounder is easy to give up.

So, the Nedeljkovic trade feels like a big win for the Red Wings, or at least a worthy swing. We’ll eventually find out if the Nedeljkovic trade is a sign of other troubles for the Hurricanes, or if they merely made a calculation about goaltending value.

We’ll also see if Jonathan Bernier, 32, figures into the Hurricanes’ plans.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.