There is a "legitimate chance" the Montreal Canadiens are considering not matching the offer sheet tendered by the Carolina Hurricanes to forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi over the weekend, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.
Friedman reported on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, that the Canadiens are potentially weighing the merits of the one-year, $6.1-million deal against the haul of draft picks from the Hurricanes and the flexibility offered by the 21-year-old coming off the books.
"I do think there is a legitimate chance that Montreal's considering not matching the offer sheet," Friedman said on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. "Famous last words, it could change. It might just be a visceral reaction. They do have a week."
The Canadiens drafted Kotkaniemi third overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. Through 171 games played with the Canadiens, the centre has 22 goals and 40 assists. However, the 2020-21 season saw Kotkaniemi struggle to generate offence, evidenced by his five goals and 15 assists through 56 games.
For Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, the decision comes down to whether he should overspend on a young forward who has upside or go in a different direction with the cap space and draft compensation. Sportsnet's Eric Engels reported that Montreal may be interested in Arizona Coyotes centre Christian Dvorak.
"I think Montreal's going to take those picks around the league and are going to see," Friedman said. "I could see Montreal going to Arizona and saying, 'How would a first and a third be for Dvorak? Do we have the framework of a deal here?'"
Friedman also raised the question of the Canadiens going after Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel.
"I'm not sure Montreal is really big in the Jack Eichel sweepstakes. Their offer they knew was lower than what Buffalo would take," he said.
"We now know that Eichel has switched agents. There is a long history between Pat Brisson and Marc Bergevin. I just wonder does this change the dynamic between the Canadiens and the Sabres at all?"
If the Canadiens decide to not match the Hurricanes' offer sheet, they will lose Kotkaniemi but gain a first- and a third-round draft pick from Carolina. Montreal has until Sept. 4 to make a decision.
You can learn more about the Kotkaniemi offer sheet saga on the latest 31 Thoughts: The Podcast episode, co-hosted by Sportsnet's Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman.