It actually happened. After years of wondering if an offer sheet would ever be signed again, the Montreal Canadiens waded into the forbidden waters by tendering Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho to a five-year contract worth $42.3 million – but the devil is in the details.
The offer sheet is severely front-loaded, with signing bonuses worth $11.3 million this summer and $9.8 million next summer. With the actual salary itself, that adds up to more than $21 million in real dollars over 12 months.
The logic here is pretty clear: The Canadiens are looking at the Hurricanes as a team that has always been prudent with their money and that an aggressive amount of money would be the deterrent in Carolina matching the offer sheet. I think they have erred here, however.
Sure, Carolina hasn’t been a cap team, but they are now owned by a deep-pocketed finance guy in Tom Dundon. This is a man willing to pour a ton of cash into a second-tier football league, only to shut it all down soon after when he realized it was built on a foundation of sand. And Dundon is a competitor: Would he really let another NHL team punk him for one of his best players?
Yes, this is all rather exciting – and a little surprising, given that the obvious candidate for an offer sheet was thought to be Toronto’s Mitch Marner – but it feels like Montreal didn’t go high enough here. Getting Aho for a cap hit of $8.4 million is great, but it would also be great for the Hurricanes if they match. In terms of compensation, Montreal would have to surrender a first-rounder, a second-rounder and a third-rounder – and that’s simply not enticing enough a package for Carolina to accept while surrendering their No. 1 center. In fact, Canes GM Don Waddell even remarked that he was surprised the offer sheet wasn’t for more money.
Officially, the Hurricanes have one week to match the offer sheet. I suspect they will do so much sooner than that. Assuming I’m correct, what is the fall-out? Will other GMs start looking side-eyed at Marc Bergevin for actually making an offer sheet? Will there be a barn fight? Or, is this simply a tool that will be used for leverage against rivals now? Perhaps Bergevin has broken the seal on this ‘forbidden’ move.
Just as pertinent: what does this do to Aho’s relationship with Carolina? Because he had to sign the offer sheet – the Habs couldn’t just deliver it to him like a court subpoena. So now the Canes know that Aho was willing to leave his team. Does that strain the relationship at all?
In a snap press conference, Waddell noted that the Hurricanes may not match the offer sheet right away, because then Montreal could go out and sign other players. That’s a bit of revenge that Carolina can take on the Habs, though it’s hard to see the Canadiens as contenders in the East right now anyway, especially if they don’t get Aho.
If anything, it’s a very intriguing situation that will play itself out in the next few days. The offer sheet is back, folks.
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