Two years after the Montreal Canadiens tried to pry Sebastian Aho away from Carolina with an offer sheet, the Hurricanes have exacted their revenge, getting Jesperi Kotkaniemi to ink an offer sheet for one year and $6,100,015.
And be very clear, this is about revenge and pettiness as much as it’s about Carolina improving its roster, especially because Montreal will want to match the offer sheet and keep a 21-year-old player whom they selected with the third overall pick of the 2018 draft and who scored five goals during the Canadiens’ run to the Stanley Cup Final this year.
How petty? The Hurricanes tweeted the news in French.
How petty? The $15 at the end of the contract is for Kotkaniemi’s uniform number, but the $20 — twenty dollar — signing bonus is for Aho’s number.
Why Montreal will want to match the offer sheet, rather than simply going ahead and doing it is that $6.1 million for Kotkaniemi puts the Canadiens in a salary cap crunch, not just this season, but in years to come. While Carolina has cap space to play with, Montreal is over the $81.5 million cap already and depending on $11.2 million in relief from Shea Weber and Paul Byron being on long-term injured reserve.
What’s more, Kotkaniemi now becomes eligible for a qualifying offer or a long-term deal next summer, right when Nick Suzuki also hits restricted free agency, with Cole Caufield up the year after that. Paying Kotkaineimi beaucoup bucks ahead of schedule is no help to a club that’s got Carey Price on the cap at $10.5 million a year through 2026, as well as long-term deals with Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, Jeff Petry, and David Savard.
But if the Canadiens let Kotkaniemi go to Carolina, and take a first-round and third-round pick as compensation, that qualifying offer becomes the Hurricanes’ issue to deal with, albeit one solved by not re-signing Nino Niederreiter or Vincent Trochek next summer. Don Waddell has set his club up nicely in the short, medium, and long term, something that cannot be said of the man he’s trolled with this offer sheet, Deadspin July Idiot of the Month participant Marc Bergevin.
Hockey’s cronyism usually prevents this kind of situation from taking place. Offer sheets are so rare in the first place because nobody wants to step on their buddies’ toes, even to try to build a better team. It’s way more fun this way, and a great move by Carolina, just as it was a solid play by Montreal to go after Aho.
More of this, NHL teams, please. It’s more fun this way, and good golly, it’s actually made us talk and think about hockey in August. Imagine that.