This afternoon, the Carolina Hurricanes re-signed promising defenseman Jamie McBain to a two-year extension. The contract is worth 3.6 million and will carry a cap hit of $1.8 million. Not only is the deal appropriately priced for both sides moving forward, but it also protects all parties involved.
McBain made his NHL debut in style, bursting on the scene after a successful year in the AHL. Through 14 games, he scored three goals and 10 points. At that time, the Hurricanes were finishing up a dreadful 35-27-10 season but their late-season surge provided a silver lining for the fan base. McBain, as a former standout with the University of Wisconsin, looked like a building block for the future.
But despite his early success, McBain's career trajectory wouldn't be without growing pains. With a full roster, the defenseman was challenged by legitimate NHL players which stalled some of that hefty production. Over the next two seasons, he would score an above average 15 goals and 57 points through 152 contests-- solid point totals for a budding young defender.
"Jamie is still a very young player who has established himself as an
NHL defenseman," said Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford after the signing. "He moves the puck well and has shown
that he can contribute offensively, especially on the power play."
The problem hasn't been McBain's production. His uncertainty, rather, involves the depth in Carolina, and his immediate future.
At the beginning of last season, McBain found himself relegated to the bench in favor of rookie Justin Faulk. He also competed, albeit for a limited amount of time, with Junior defenseman Ryan Murphy. His immediate demotion on the depth chart likely means the Canes see him more as a special teams specialist than a number one defender. In fact, it looked like head coach Kirk Muller much preferred the younger Faulk in all situations.
Therefore, by signing this affordable extension, McBain is in a perfect situation. The Hurricanes lock up a young player while keeping his asking price down. Should he realize his potential as a second-pairing defender capable of scoring 40-plus points, Rutherford and company could give him a modest raise and keep him. If McBain falters over the next two seasons, his affordable price tag would be appealing to teams willing to give him a second chance.
If the Canes chose the latter, it allows McBain to move to another organization in the same model Rutherford deploys. "We're kind of living off other people's drafts and getting their development started and jumping in and us getting them at young ages," Rutherford famously explained following the 2010 NHL Draft. Surely another team would be so glad as to further develop McBain much like the Canes did with Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen and Anton Babchuk.
In the next few years this Carolina blue line could look pretty scary with Faulk and Murphy already in the picture and high-potential players like Bobby Sanguinetti, Brian Dumoulin, Keegan Lowe, and Austin Levy all vying for a roster spot. McBain, for now, has an upper hand on his competition by signing cheaply while the roster spot remains his. And if it he loses that spot, chances are another team would take a flier on this Minnesota native.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.