The Carolina Hurricanes say they will match the offer sheet tendered to restricted free agent Sebastian Aho by the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal signed the centre a front-loaded, bonus-heavy contract worth $ 42.27 million US over five years on Monday as NHL free agency opened. It carries an average annual value of $ 8.454 million.
“Writing that check is no big deal,” Hurricanes owner and billionaire Tom Dundon said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want to do contracts that are best for the organization.”
Dundon said the offer sheet tug-of-war ultimately won’t hurt his relationship with his young star.
“I am so happy for Sebastian and so happy that he’s part of the organization,” Dundon said. “It’s never going to come up again.
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‘We have a plan … to win a Stanley Cup’
The Canadiens offered an $ 11.3 million lump sum payment within a week of Aho’s signing and another for $ 9.87 million July 1, 2020. Overall, the offer is 91.3 per cent bonuses and 8.7 per cent salary. The Hurricanes have until July 8 to make the match official, and Waddell said he didn’t know exactly when that would happen. But when they do, Aho’s initial lump sum payment is due within another week of that date.
“It’s our job to manage our cap space as our players develop and hit free agency,” Waddell said in a statement. “There was no concern at any point that we would not be able to match this contract. Once again, the Carolina Hurricanes should not be underestimated. We have a plan and all the resources to win a Stanley Cup.”
If the Hurricanes had declined to match the offer sheet given to the 21-year-old Aho, the Canadiens would have had to surrender first-, second- and third-round draft picks as compensation.
The deal carries an average annual value of $ 8.454 million and will run through the 2023-24 season, at which time Aho will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
Under terms of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Hurricanes won’t be allowed to trade Aho for 12 months from the date they match the contract.
“This was an easy decision,” Carolina president and general manager Don Waddell said in a statement. “Sebastian is one of the best players in the league and the centrepiece of what we’re building here. We’ve spoken to him throughout this process and he’s made it clear that he wants to be in Raleigh and be a part of this organization.
Bergevin, Waddell in feisty mood
The 21-year-old Aho had 30 goals and 83 points in 82 games with the Hurricanes last season. He added five goals and seven assists in 15 playoff games, leading his team in scoring as the Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference final.
Extending offer sheets to restricted free agents has been a rare move in the NHL, with Aho the first player to receive one since Calgary tendered one to then-Colorado centre Ryan O’Reilly six years ago. The Avalanche matched it. And not since 2007, when Edmonton signed Anaheim forward Dutine Penner to an offer sheet, has a team declined to match one.
This one had both general managers a bit feisty.
Waddell, speaking about half an hour after learning of the offer to Aho, quipped that he was “actually surprised it wasn’t more” and added that his summer instantly became more stress-free because “I’m not going to spend all summer negotiating a contract now.”
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said his team “saw a vulnerable position” in extending the offer, adding “we all have a competitive edge” and maintaining that Aho “wants to come to Montreal.”
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