Justin Faulk Contract Extension a Great Step for Future of Carolina Hurricanes

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IMarch 24, 2014

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 23:Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes fires a slap shot against the Columbus Blue Jackets during their NHL game at PNC Arena on December 23, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

The most promising player on the Carolina Hurricanes' roster will remain in Raleigh for the next six seasons.

Justin Faulk, just one week removed from his 22nd birthday, signed an extension with the 'Canes on Monday for next half-dozen years. Per Michael Smith via Twitter:

Said current general manager Jim Rutherford via the team's official press release:

Justin has proven to be among the best young defensemen in the league as confirmed by his selection to the U.S. Olympic team. He has been and will continue to be the anchor of the Hurricanes’ defense for years to come.

Faulk has 24 points in 65 games in 2013-14, his third NHL season. He also ranks third on the team with 95 blocked shots, second in average ice time (23:21 per game) and first among team defenseman in Corsi rating.

Justin Faulk Statistics by Season
Per NHL.com stat database

But often, the statistics fail to capture the true stabilizing impact of No. 27. Despite his youth, Faulk has emerged as a true cornerstone of the defensive unit and a legitimate top-pairing blueliner who will only continue to improve.

The former second-round draft pick is much more of an offensive threat than his yearly stat line implies—he's suffered through a 2.5 shooting percentage, tallying only three goals on 119 shots.

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 10: Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets attempts to keep the puck from Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period on January 10, 2014 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/N
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It's in his own zone, however, where Faulk's reliability is most evident. Disregarding a few uncharacteristically weak performances since the Olympic break, Faulk has the speed to contain the fastest wingers, the positioning to shut down the most dynamic power forward and the stick placement to break up the most pinpoint passes.

With frustration growing around current captain Eric Staal and the Hurricanes generally underperforming offense, Faulk should soon grow into one of the club's leadership positions. He could be a strong candidate for the captaincy as he approaches his later 20s.

Not only does Monday's extension solidify the 'Canes inexperienced back end tremendously over the long term, it also resolves a monetary uncertainty that will allow the new management team make bolder, more decisive decisions this coming offseason. Rutherford is expected to step down from his position this summer.

The 'Canes now have approximately $18.4 million in projected salary cap space next season, according to CapGeek, with six forwards, five defensemen and two goalies under contract.

With Faulk and fellow first-pairing star Andrej Sekera along with 2011 seventh overall pick Ryan Murphy among those five, the 'Canes can focus more on defensive depth. The majority of that cap space, now that Faulk's chunk has been determined, will likely go toward a more well-rounded cast of forwards.

Monday, the 'Canes locked up a developing franchise cornerstone at a convenient time for a surprisingly affordable price.

The situation couldn't have worked out any better.


Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.