from Sara Civian of The Athletic,
Nedeljkovic was in a unique situation as a 25-year-old pending RFA goalie with only so many NHL games under his belt. The way he swooped in during Petr Mrazek’s injury and excelled had potentially earned him a big payday. He was arbitration-eligible and asking for a contract with a $3.5 million average annual value. That was already high from the Hurricanes’ perspective, and if they went to arbitration, there was some risk of the salary being set even higher.
The lack of comparables to point to — goaltenders who had made it to the NHL on similar paths — made it hard to predict the outcome.
“We tried to get a contract done with Ned, and we couldn’t get one done. The agent was playing very hard,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said in an exclusive interview with The Athletic on Thursday. “He’s got an arbitration case that (could have paid him) somewhere around $3, $4, $5 million....
But why couldn’t the Hurricanes have avoided arbitration by just paying the $3.5 million he was seeking?
While Nedeljkovic has tons of potential and is coming off a great season, the Canes weren’t ready to take a big-money chance on a player with a relatively small sample of success.
Let’s remember that Nedeljkovic has only played 29 regular-season NHL games. Yes, he has a .928 save percentage over that span and was in the top five in goals saved above expectation this past season, but he also has a .904 save percentage across a concerning larger sample: 154 games in the AHL. And in his only NHL season with more than one game played before 2020-21, he had an .887 save percentage and 3.05 GAA.
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