By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The die has been cast in Carolina.

Rather than waiting to see what the new NHL collective bargaining agreement is going to look like or how Jeff Skinner fares in just his third NHL season at the age of 20, the Hurricanes announced Wednesday a new six-year contract extension that will pay the forward more than $5.5 million per year.

Now we’ll see how the first contract extension signed by a member of the 2010 NHL draft class affects the Bruins and their prized player from that season’s pickings – Tyler Seguin.

Like Skinner prior to his freshly signed new deal, the 20-year-old Seguin is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next summer. Unlike the Hurricanes, the Bruins, for now, are taking a more patient approach with their team building beyond the 2012-13 season.

In an all-out effort to be competitive next season, Carolina has opted to go on a spending spree unheard of in the franchise’s history even dating back to its time in Hartford. The Hurricanes’ chase for contender status has featured a mega-trade and mega-extension for former Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal, a pricey one-year attempt to let Alexander Semin prove his doubters wrong and now the extension that kicks in starting in 2013-14 for a player with just two years of NHL experience.

It might’ve been wiser for the Hurricanes to re-up with Skinner. After all, for all the talk about longer entry-level deals and limits on length of deals for veterans coming up during this summer’s CBA talks, there could also be limitations on second deals depending on how negotiations go. It’s really those second deals – as we saw with Phil Kessel and Dustin Penner, among others – that have forced teams to spend a lot more than they want to in order to keep their teams together and reap the rewards of drafting a developing talented players.

The Hurricanes might’ve also considered seeing how Skinner performs and holds up for one more NHL season. After winning the Calder Trophy in 2010-11, Skinner’s points per game slipped a bit last season and he missed 16 games with a concussion. To me, he hasn’t shown enough to warrant such a rich, six-year deal. Nonetheless, Carolina’s paying for what they think they’re going to get rather than what they’ve gotten from Skinner.

Barring CBA-imposed restrictions on how they can deal with Seguin going forward, the Bruins are going to have some difficult decisions to make that not only affect the third-year forward but others on Boston’s front line. If Seguin is going to be one of two or three players the Bruins build around for the rest of this decade, we now know where contract talks with him start based on Skinner’s deal. Skinner’s had more opportunity to flaunt his skills playing for weak Hurricanes teams, yet Seguin in his first full chance to prove his NHL mettle still recorded 0.83 points per game to Skinner’s 0.69.

In addition to Seguin, the Bruins have Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand ticketed for RFA status (albeit looking for third deals) next summer. When you crunch the numbers, without knowing what the new CBA will look like, it’s hard to imagine these three Bruins, plus the likes of David Krejci (who has a limited no-trade clause) in black and gold for the long haul beyond next season.

Carolina swept the Bruins in the four games the two teams met last season. The Hurricanes’ improvements figure to make them stiffer competition in the near future. But it looks like they’ve already made the Bruins’ lives a little more difficult without even taking the ice.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for He and also contributes coverage to and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.


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