For the first time in six years, offer-sheet chaos has descended upon the NHL.
This time around it was the Montreal Canadiens spurring the unrest, tendering a five-year, $42.27-million offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes star pivot Sebastian Aho. With the 21-year-old having signed, GM Don Waddell and his Hurricanes are now on the clock, with seven days from the the date of the signing to make a decision on whether to match the deal.
A fairly reasonable $8.45-million cap hit has many assuming Carolina will match, keeping their young star in the fold and stomaching the bonus-laden financials. But Aho’s agent, Gerry Johannson, appears to feel otherwise, according to comments made to The Athletic’s Marc Antoine Godin.
“I don’t think it is easy for Carolina. I can tell you for sure, it’s not easy for Carolina. Anybody who says this is easy is wrong,” Johannson told Godin. “You can armchair quarterback any decision, but I can promise you this is an aggressive move … It’s a lot of money, and it’s a lot of front-loaded money.
“Who knows? Carolina is going to do what they’re going to do, but trust me, this is not an easy decision for them.”
That front-loaded money will come in the form of roughly $21 million doled out over the first 12 months of the contract, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. The base salary for each of those five seasons would sit within the $700,000–$750,000 range, each accompanied by hefty annual bonuses.
Johannson is certainly anything but an impartial observer of this situation. But it’s also worth remembering that the ‘Canes are now pressed to make this decision because Aho signed the deal, a move that certainly figures to change the relationship between player and team in some way. Whether the decision to sign was because it represented the best possible deal or because he’d prefer to play in a Canadiens sweater is unclear, though Johansson suggests Aho’s actions should be clarification enough.
“I think that Sebastian 100 per cent wants to play in Montreal,” Johannson told Godin. “He wouldn’t have signed an offer sheet if he didn’t want to play in Montreal.”
Johansson also shed light on the negotiations that led up to Aho hitting restricted free agency on July 1, allowing for an offer sheet to be tendered at all.
“We’ve had good conversations with them but we just weren’t able to get to a place where we were able to agree. Maybe we would have in three months, but as of a couple of days ago, or a week ago, or two weeks ago, we weren’t,” Johannson said. “It left the situation open for Montreal to make a move, and they did.”
Though it seems both Aho and his agent are open to the centreman moving north, all signs point to Carolina matching the offer and calling it a day, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
Waddell, speaking to media soon after his club heard news of the Canadiens’ offer, certainly seemed to confirm the likelihood of the Hurricanes matching.
“I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more,” Waddell said Monday. “We’re just reviewing it. We haven’t had time to really bring everybody in the inner circle in to talk about it.
“… We look at Sebastian as our best player. We certainly want to keep him long term.”
For now, the Canadiens and Hurricanes faithful watch and wait, with the implications for both franchises certain to be significant, regardless of the outcome.