Will the Canadiens declining to match Hurricanes offer sheet increase future attempts?

The Montreal Canadiens declined to match the offer sheet signed by restricted free-agent center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, making him officially a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

It’s the first time a player has switched teams through an offer sheet since 2007, when Dustin Penner joined the Edmonton Oilers. His previous team, the Anaheim Ducks, received three draft picks in compensation.

By declining to match the one-year, $6.1 million offer for Kotkaniemi, the Canadiens received Carolina’s first- and third-round picks in 2022.

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Canadiens get taste of their own medicine

“Carolina has used a tool available to them in the collective bargaining agreement and we accept that decision,” said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

The Canadiens had seven days to decide whether to match it.

While the use of offer sheets is rare, the Canadiens tried it in 2019 with Carolina forward Sebastian Aho. The Hurricanes matched that offer to keep Aho in the fold.

Many viewed this as “revenge” by Carolina for what took place with Aho.

“It certainly was not revenge,” Canes GM Don Waddell said. “We talked about this player, we know this player.”

nhl offer sheets
Oct 3, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) skates with the puck against Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Kotkaniemi, 21, had five goals and 15 assists in 56 games last season. In three NHL seasons, all with Montreal, the No. 3 overall pick in 2018 has scored 22 goals and added 40 assists in 171 games.

Yet, with the way the Hurricanes handled things on social media, which included changing their bio to French it was obvious.

While a professional sports team would not spend $6.1M just to get back at another team, it’s a little ridiculous to say there wasn’t some level of payback here.

Waddell himself reused Marc Bergevin’s statement when the Habs signed Aho. Furthermore, they gave Kotkaniemi a $20 signing bonus which is Aho’s jersey number.

What is the future of offer sheets in the NHL?

Any NHL GM looking to take advantage of another team’s cap situation and steal a young star, will be up for reprisal. It really is that simple.

When the Habs signed Aho, Waddell almost immediately laughed it off. He first thought the offer would be higher than the $8.45M AAV that was signed. Waddell also sat back and waited to match since Bergevin did his job for him by negotiating the deal.

Now, I am pretty sure the Hurricanes did not start plotting their revenge in 2019, but they had to look at Kotkaniemi who was drafted in 2018 as someone that they might consider attempting one with in the future.

Listen, offer sheets rarely work, and even this one between the Canes and Habs may backfire on Carolina in the end. One thing is clear, the Habs attempt at trying to steal Aho in 2019 cost them in 2021.

So how do you think other general managers around the league view this? I doubt many opinions have changed considering you just don’t see tons of offer sheets in the summer.

The Vancouver Canucks have a 21 year-old star center in Elias Pettersson just sitting there as an RFA. Their cap situation is bleak, so why no offer sheet?

Instead, of all the players the Canes could go after they went back at Montreal for Kotkaniemi? The two players aren’t even in the same stratosphere for production.

In the end, nothing is going to change. GM’s seem to have an unwritten rule about going after another team’s cost controlled players. It’s almost like the Golden Rule of Hockey regarding RFA’s is to treat others as you would like others to treat you.

–Field Level Media contributed to this article.