Sports

Canes keeping Mrazek, sign goalie to two-year contract

The goaltending situation finally has been resolved by the Carolina Hurricanes: they’re bringing back Petr Mrazek.

The Canes announced Monday that Mrazek had signed a two-year contract that will pay him an average of $3.125 million a year, more than doubling his salary from last season. Mrazek will receive $3 million in the 2019-2020 season and $3.25 million in 2020-21.

The team had been in negotiations with Mrazek since the Canes were ousted from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Waddell joked Saturday that he was talking “daily, hourly” with Mrazek’s representation as free agency approached Monday, when Mrazek became an unrestricted free agent.

Mrazek, 27, signed as a free agent with the Canes a year ago, accepting a one-year, $1.5 million contract and saying all he wanted was a chance to prove he could again be a No. 1 goalie in the league. He responded by winning 23 games, posting a 2.39 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, and teamed with Curtis McElhinney to push the Canes to the playoffs.

The Canes ousted the Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round with Mrazek in net, winning Game 7 in double overtime. Mrazek was injured in the second game of the second-round series against the New York Islanders and replaced by McElhinney, then returned to play the first two games -- both losses -- in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston.

“Petr took a chance on himself with the deal he agreed to here last summer, and we were all rewarded with the tremendous season he put together,” Waddell said in a statement. “This solidifies our options at the goaltending position moving forward.”

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New York Islanders’ Leo Komarov (47) shoots on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek (34) in the second period during Game 2 of the second round Stanley Cup series on Sunday, April 28, 2019 a Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Canes worked a trade with the Florida Panthers for veteran goalie James Reimer and acquired Anton Forsberg in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Also competing for a roster spot next season will be Alex Nedeljkovic, named the AHL goaltender of the year this past year with the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL Calder Cup champions.

McElhinney, who was a waiver-wire pickup by the Canes last season, signed a two-year deal Monday with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Waddell said Monday afternoon that the team was negotiating with Mrazek and Robin Lehner of the Islanders. Lehner later signed with the Blackhawks and soon after Mrazek with the Canes.

Mrazek, speaking a few days after the playoffs, said he hoped to return to the Canes.

“I would love to stay,” he said in his end-of-season interview. “We all know this sport is a business and we’ll see what’s going to happen. I hope we’re going to find a way and it will work out. ... If things are going to be fair on both sides, I don’t see why not to be back.

“I enjoyed the time, I really like it here, the team, the guys, everything was great. The mentality and the friendship around the dressing room was amazing. But it’s all business and we’ll see how it works out.”

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In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.
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