There is a lot of talk surfacing just hours after the Carolina Hurricanes trolled the Montreal Canadiens with their offer sheet to forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. A $6.1 million offer with a $20 signing bonus, the talk now will shift to how the Canadiens respond and debate will rage over how the Habs got themselves into a situation where the Hurricanes could put them in such a tough spot.
Elliotte Friedman and Jess Marek produced a special episode of the 31 Thoughts podcast, while names like Pierre LeBrun weighed in while still on vacation. Both sources claimed that the Hurricanes had conversations with the Canadiens about trading for Kotkaniemi prior to this offer sheet. Obviously, those talks went sideways and as LeBrun writes, “Hurricanes did try to trade for Kotkaniemi instead over the past several days but nothing that came close to making the Habs interested. So Dundon gets his offer sheet revenge.”
Friedman said during the podcast, “Carolina’s been looking for a center, I think that’s the case and I do believe they were talking to Montreal about Kotkaniemi and they discussed the possibility of a trade. That definitely occurred. They couldn’t work out a deal.” The offer sheet was the next step and it became clear the Hurricanes were trying to kill two birds with one stone: get their center and send a loud and clear message to the Canadiens and Marc Bergevin.
The details of the offer sheet, down to the signing bonus and the last $15 on the base salary are clear indications there was a motive behind this exact deal. That the Hurricanes also released the same quote-for-quote statement that the Canadiens did two years ago hammers home that point.
What Now for the Canadiens?
What will be really interesting is to see what the Canadiens do and whether or not the Hurricanes really want them to let Kotkaniemi walk.
This is not a $6.1 million player. He could become one, but even that is a question mark at this point in Kotkaniemi’s career. Can the Canadiens — who weren’t even sure they wanted to commit $2.5 million to him as a second-line center — be convinced to give him this kind of money, especially knowing his qualifying offers moving forward will ensure he’s a $6 million player from now on? It seems unlikely.
At the same time, there’s got be some concern the Canadiens have triggered Kotkaniemi to the point he’s not actively looking to return and was happy to sign this deal with Carolina. This is not an offer anyone should expect Montreal to match and Kotkaniemi must know that more than anyone. He knows that signing this means he’s ultimately leaving. But, as Arpon Basu writes in The Athletic, “perhaps Kotkaniemi was in a headspace where trolling the Canadiens was not all that disagreeable to him.”
What About the Hurricanes?
Do they have that much faith that Kotkaniemi will become a star in the NHL? Their offer and the “massive” signing bonus suggests so. Not only that, but the Hurricanes let Dougie Hamilton walk for not much more than they just offered Kotkaniemi. This is a huge price to pay if the exclusive motivation behind the deal is clapping back at the Canadiens for a two-year old offer sheet that actually helped get Sebastian Aho under contract.
This is a big risk the Hurricanes are taking. It’s hilarious and it makes offer sheets even less likely in the future (no team will want this to happen to them), but if Carolina winds up with the player, they do actually have to pay him all of this money.
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