Updated: Sep 4, 2021
The Carolina Hurricanes shocked the NHL last night by signing an offer sheet.
Two years ago, in a desperate attempt, the Montreal Canadiens made an effort to pry superstar and top player Sebastian Aho away from the Hurricanes by signing him to an offer sheet the Hurricanes had an ability to match. In doing so, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin hoped the Hurricanes wouldn't be able to match the offer because the Hurricanes Owner, Tom Dundon, would be too cheap and wouldn't be willing to pay the heavy price.
Tom Dundon and the Hurricanes took it personally. They matched the offer for Sebastian Aho and waited for their chance at revenge.
While the Carolina Hurricanes had ample cap space and the Montreal Canadiens had already run out of cap space for this year, Carolina decided to sign promising young center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, a previously unsigned RFA who's rights were still owned by the Canadiens. The length of the contract was one year at a surprisingly high salary of 6.1 Million. The contract also included a laughable $20 signing bonus, just to remind the Canadiens of their attempt to pry Sebastian Aho away from Carolina. Aho's number is 20 .
If the hint of revenge was too subtle, they also announced the news on their Twitter page in French, posted a photo of a reverse card symbolizing the revenge, and more.
Did the Hurricanes make a good move?
Kotkaniemi was the third overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Canadiens. Kotkaniemi was the third line center in Montreal's improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. He showed promise, but his production was pretty inconsistent and was not dominant defensively. He put up only 20 points in 56 games last year. Is this worth 6 million dollars?
No. It is obvious the Hurricanes overpaid quite a bit for a third line center, but they had the cap space. Fortunately, for the Hurricanes, the contract only lasts one year. However, the Hurricanes are pressured to resign Kotkaniemi for less, or the compensation price (a first and a third round pick) they would have to pay will not be worth it.
Despite being overpaid, Kotkaniemi would bolster Carolina's depth even more on their loaded offense and would help them in the quest for the Stanley Cup. In order to remove the former third overall pick away from Montreal, the Hurricanes needed to overpay.
Carolina obviously sees a lot of potential in him because there are less risky, less costly, and less complicated ways to improve a team. This move is probably risky for a team that would now be at the salary cap and also has to worry about signing Martin Necas next year.
Does Montreal match the offer sheet?
The pressure is now on the Montreal Canadiens, because matching the offer sheet would put them way over the salary cap. The Canadiens would need to trade a king's ransom of salary to get them back under the salary cap. Yet Montreal wouldn't want to see their recent third overall pick leave.
However, Montreal is desperate for a center after shutdown center Phillip Danault left to the Kings through free agency. Montreal has less than a week to respond to the Hurricanes' offer, and they must be discussing the possibilities of if they could simply take the compensation (A first and a third round pick) and trade their new draft picks for a cheaper center.
One possible option seems obvious. The rebuilding Arizona Coyotes have been shopping Christian Dvorak this summer, a center cheaper then Kotkaniemi and better production wise with 31 points in 56 games last year.
Either way, Montreal is in a vulnerable position. Nine of the last eleven offer sheets have been matched, but Montreal would have to do some serious cap management to fit in Kotkaniemi. If Arizona is demanding way too much for Dvorak, or Montreal cannot find other cheaper centers in the trade market, Montreal should keep Kotkaniemi and trade other wingers to stay under the salary cap.