With free agency set to open at noon on July 13th, teams have a chance to get a leg up on their competitors as they negotiate with their UFAs and RFAs as they look to retain their services. Some teams have success, while others strike out as their players want to test free agency and see what the open market brings. The Carolina Hurricanes have plenty of both UFAs and RFAs as they look to retain a roster that got them to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Yesterday it was reported by Elliotte Friedman that the Hurricanes gave permission to RFA defenseman Ethan Bear to begin having conversations with other teams. The two sides haven’t been able to come to a mutual agreement as they seem to be far apart. Nothing can officially happen till July 13th, but this allows Bear to gauge the interest around the league and decide what his value will be.
At 24 years old, Bear is still finding his footing in the NHL as he tallied five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 58 games last season for the Canes. Carolina traded for Bear last year, sending forward Warren Foegele to Edmonton, and expected more from the right-shot D-man. He was paired with Jaccob Slavin and quarterbacked the second power-play unit in the season opener, but his Ice time and role diminished as the season progressed. Bear played himself right out of the lineup and never appeared in a playoff game during Carolina’s postseason run. His slip in play can be tied to his battle with Covid that caused him to miss six games in late November, and he never found consistency after.
Bear has offensive upside as he can provide offensive help from the back end, as shown cased by his two game-winning goals last season. His defensive zone work needs improvement as he needs to be more consistent. At 5’11” and 197-pounds, Bear has some size but lacks the big body as other defensemen in the league, which some teams see as a negative. Bear carried a $2 million cap hit in 2021-2022 and looks to make more money, most likely in the $2.5-$3.5 million range. If a team decides to extend an offer sheet in that range and the hurricanes do not match, that team will owe the Canes a second-round pick for compensation since Bear is a restricted free agent.