When the Carolina Hurricanes announced their intention to match the Montreal Canadiens’ offer sheet to Sebastian Aho, they made owner Tom Dundon and GM Don Waddell available. Aho himself was supposed to participate from the call, but “technical issues” apparently prevented Aho from calling in from Finland, which seems like a bit of a stretch. But it was probably for the best, since having Aho on the line would have potentially made for some awkward moments.
There’s a lot of stretching going on here, though, starting with the five-year, $42.27 million offer itself. Truth be told, it was a bold move, but a weak offer. Dundon spent $70 million to shut down the Alliance of American Football – he’s seeking a refund through bankruptcy courts – and the prospect of spending almost $21 million over the next 12 months to keep Aho was not going to make him flinch. “The fact that you’re asking whether $20 million is a lot of money for me or for the Hurricanes, it’s not. It’s not a concern,” Dundon said. “I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am…it sounds terrible, but writing that check is no big deal.”
Another area where credulity is being stretched is with Dundon and Waddell, who both claimed that Aho’s agent, Gerry Johannson, misled Bergevin into thinking the Hurricanes would not be in a position to match Montreal’s offer and would have to instead take the compensation package of a first-, second- and third-round pick. “The agent sold a bill of goods,” Waddell said. “I think the other team got manipulated into believing some things that might not have been true,” Dundon said, intimating that Bergevin had been played in this process. Bergevin made that offer knowing full well that there was a good chance the Hurricanes would match. The fact that he didn’t make it more challenging for Carolina was the real head-scratcher. Waddell himself said yesterday that he was surprised the offer wasn’t higher. Had Bergevin been willing to go up to $10.5 million on the AAV, it would have cost another first-round pick and that might have made the Hurricanes squirm.
For his part, Johannson would not respond directly to Waddell’s and Dundon’s comments, but saw it as part of the process in negotiating. “I’ve been called worse,” he said, “and I’ll probably be called worse in the future.” He went on to say, “Hey, hockey’s a contact sport and sometimes negotiations get a little bit tough. I give Marc Bergevin and his staff in Montreal credit for making an aggressive move. But sometimes when you’re aggressive, the other side doesn’t like it and that’s sort of normal. So it’s not a big problem for me at all. This is what I get paid for.”
Dundon also took issue with the fact that Johannson was saying that Aho “100 percent wants to play for Montreal.” There was undoubtedly some friction between the two sides, otherwise things likely would not have gotten to this point in the first place.
Waddell said the two sides were working on an eight year deal where the AAV was “a little lower, not a whole lot lower,” and said Johannson wanted less term. Dundon said the fact that Johannson said Aho wanted to play in Montreal should not be taken at face value. “The question is, ‘Do you think you should believe an agent?’ and you guys can figure that out,” Dundon said. “If (Aho) said it, it would be different. But he didn’t. The fact that an agent said it means there’s no credibility to it.”
So the Hurricanes will match Montreal’s offer and Aho will be under contract and this incident will blow over rather quickly. Waddell said that Johannson took a course, “that he knew and everybody else knew wouldn’t work.” Again, another stretch. Did it really not work? Let’s see. Johannson used a mechanism available in the collective bargaining agreement to guarantee his client security and big money for five years, either with the Canadiens or the Hurricanes. There will be no contract stalemate that will keep Aho out of training camp or missing any of the 2019-20 season, which could very well have happened. And Aho gets to be John Tavares, playing for five years on a contract that will probably look as though he’s underpaid by the time it’s finished, with the chance to become an unrestricted free agent when he’s 27.
Seems as though things worked out pretty well for Aho and the Hurricanes. The Canadiens? Not so much. Which is why you have about the same chance of seeing the Hale-Bopp Comet as you do a successful offer sheet.
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