Hurricanes offer sheet Habs’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi; payback for Sebastian Aho in 2019

Hurricanes give Habs some payback.

nhl news kotkaniemi
Jun 20, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) during the warm up session before the game four against Vegas Golden Knights of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens were given a dose of their own medicine yesterday.

Offer sheets in the NHL are rare, and successful offer sheets are even rarer. The last time one was attempted happened on July 1, 2019. That’s when the Habs went after Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho.

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin gave Aho a front loaded 5-year contract worth $8.46M AAV against the cap. The play here was $11.3M in the form of a signing bonus which is what the Canes needed to come up with to match.

“Sebastian Aho accepted our offer,” Bergevin said in a statement. “He wants to come to Montreal. He sees our youngsters coming up in the organization and he wants to be a part of that. We’re proud, but there’s still a waiting period.”

The Canes did indeed come up with the money. Aho is still in Carolina but apparently Owner Tom Dundon and GM Don Waddell never forgot the Habs sneak attack.

Hurricanes payback Canadiens; offer sheet Kotkaniemi

hurricanes offer sheet
Jun 2, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) scores a first period goal against Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) in game one of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

According to Pierre LeBrun, the Canes tried trading for Jesperi Kotkaniemi prior to the move. The 21 year-old signed a 1-year deal with Carolina for $6.1M. If the Habs match they will be roughly $8M over the cap, which is why Carolina did it.

Whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen. One thing is clear, this was not just a hockey move, it was payback.

In the offer sheet is a signing bonus of just $20. Why? Sebastian Aho wears the number 20 for the Canes. And if that hint was too subtle, well the Hurricanes tweeted the announcement of the offer sheet – in French! To double down on that, their Twitter bio is also in French and reads, “Compte officiel des Hurricanes de la Caroline.”

GM Don Waddell also released a statement, let me know if it sounds familiar:

“Jesperi Kotkaniemi accepted our offer,” Waddell said. “He wants to come to Carolina. He sees the core we’ve built here and he wants to be a part of that. We’re proud, but there’s still a waiting period. When you make an offer like that, we saw a vulnerable position. The offer, with the compensation and the core we have, we realized that it was the best chance we had to get the player.”

Touché.

Is Kotkaniemi worth it?

When the Habs made the play for Aho, he just completed a season where he scored 83 points in 82 games. Kotkaniemi this past season recorded 20 points in 56 contests. Not exactly worth $6.1 million.

Remember, Aho received $2.3 million more but was coming off a point per game season. This is no doubt a reach and an overpay by the Hurricanes, but how else can you steal an RFA?

The ceiling for the youngster is still high, and if the offer sheet is successful it could be a great move for the Canes. Kotkaniemi would also benefit playing behind fellow Finn, Aho.

Montreal has one week to match the offer. If they don’t, this will be the first successful offer sheet since the Oilers signed Dustin Penner from the Ducks in 2007.