The Hurricanes pulled off the first unmatched offer sheet since 2007, snatching young center Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Canadiens after Montreal declined to match the one year, $6.1 million deal.
Carolina general manager Don Waddell insists the move wasn’t about getting back at the Canadiens for doing the same to center Sebastian Aho two years ago.
“It certainly was not revenge,” Waddell told reporters Sunday. “We talked about this player, we know this player. [We used] the CBA as other teams have in the past to try to acquire a 21-year-old player. So to us, it was all about the player. We looked around the league and thought this made the most sense from where we are as a team.
“We have a couple of other good Finnish players on our team and thought this would be a great fit.”
But the way the situation unfolded seemingly tells a different story.
After the Hurricanes’ decision to tender an offer to Kotkaniemi went public, Carolina issued a release that included a quote from Waddell that was nearly identical to what Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said after offer sheeting Aho in 2019.
The Canes also included a $20 signing bonus in Kotkaniemi’s deal, another ode to Aho, who wears No. 20. The organization’s official Twitter account also promoted a $20 giveaway, writing, ‘Who else wants $20?’
“The (press) release, that’s a marketing thing,” Waddell said. “We’re trying to continue to build our franchise here in Raleigh (and) trying to keep our fans engaged. Our social team gets huge marks from the NHL, and they had some fun with it.”
Since the Canadiens didn’t match the offer, they received the Hurricanes’ 2022 first- and third-round picks. Bergevin quickly went to work, acquiring center Christian Dvorak from the Coyotes in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick. Arizona is set to receive the better first-round pick of Montreal and Carolina in 2022, along with Montreal’s 2024 second-rounder.
If either the Canadiens or Hurricanes — or both — end up with top-10 picks based on the final draft order, Montreal will send the worse of those two picks to the Coyotes, as well as the second-round pick in 2024.
Montreal signed Aho to a five-year offer sheet that carried an $8.454 million cap in July 2019, a deal the Hurricanes matched a few days later to keep the forward.