Hurricanes get revenge on Canadiens with Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet

Jesperi Kotkaniemi could be on his way to Carolina. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Jesperi Kotkaniemi could be on his way to Carolina. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes have gotten their revenge.

Two years ago, the Montreal Canadiens sent an offer sheet to star forward Sebastian Aho — which the Hurricanes quickly matched — in an effort to snatch themselves a top centre. To return the favour, Carolina has tendered an offer sheet to young Montreal forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the offer sheet is for a one-year, $6.1-million contract. If the Canadiens do not match, they will be given the Hurricanes’ 2022 first- and third-round picks — and that might actually happen.

As of Sunday, the Canadiens were over the NHL’s salary cap by more than $2 million. During the offseason, teams can go over by 10 percent ($8.15 million) but that offer sheet signed by Kotkaniemi would put them a hair over that limit, forcing them into another transaction, even with captain Shea Weber and centre Paul Byron currently on injured reserve.

Montreal has seven days to come to its decision.

Not only is Hurricanes management poking fun at the Canadiens by trying to swipe their former third-overall pick, but their social media team is joining in on the soap opera-esque drama by posting the news in French.

The idea of an offer sheet is foreign in the NHL — before Aho in 2019, there wasn’t one for six whole years — and Carolina has also thrown in a signing bonus of 20 whole dollars as another cheeky touch.

That’s enough to get you a nice little snack on the plane going south. To dig in a little further, 20 is Aho’s jersey number for the Hurricanes. It's a multi-dimensional dig that might even make one question whether or not Carolina even wants Kotkaniemi or if it's just messing with Montreal GM Marc Bergevin.

To crank up the pettiness even further, Carolina GM Don Waddell gave his statement when the announcement was made, matching it almost identically to Bergevin’s when Aho signed the offer sheet in 2019.

This is straight out of a mid-2000s professional wrestling promotion.

With just 62 points to his name in 171 NHL games, Kotkaniemi is certainly not the ideal player you get for that kind of salary. They will either have to keep him at that number with next summer’s qualifying offer or sign him to a long-term deal on a lower cap hit. The Hurricanes certainly have future options when it comes to keeping the 21-year-old Finn in the fold.

Going the other way, if the Canadiens decide to match, they can be stuck with a high qualifying offer for a player that has previously been in trade rumours and was a postseason healthy scratch. No matter what, it's going to be dramatic.

The last time an offer sheet was not matched was in 2007, when the Edmonton Oilers tendered one to then-Anaheim Ducks winger Dustin Penner and were forced to give up a first-, second-, and third-round pick. Since then, only six have been handed out and all have been matched.

Whichever way it goes in one week’s time, we can all agree that it shakes the league up and gives us some top-tier entertainment.