Sports Hurricanes vs. Canadiens: Explaining how Sebastian Aho, Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheets created animosity between NHL teams

13:36  21 october  2021
13:36  21 october  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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A Thursday night hockey game in the second week of the NHL season may not normally be a head turner for NHL fans, but this Hurricanes vs. Canadiens matchup has a seven-layer cake's worth of backstory.

You're probably thinking to yourself: "Hurricanes and Canadiens? Of all the teams, these two have drama?" They're not in the same division. They never faced off last season (well, on the ice, at least). Sure, maybe there are a few guys with history and chattiness between them but, while most teams have on-ice beef, the current soap opera is strictly perched high above.

A story that began over two years ago — and seemed to be, at the time, a one-trick pony — was reignited this summer. Here's a timeline of everything that has gone down between the Hurricanes and Canadiens, the root of their animosity, from Canada Day 2019 to today:

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Hurricanes vs. Canadiens: A timeline

July 1, 2019

When free agency opened up on July 1, the Canadiens sent prized Hurricane youngster and restricted free agent Sebastian Aho a five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet.

"Sebastian Aho accepted our offer," Montreal's general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters at the time. "He wants to come to Montreal. He sees our youngsters coming up in the organization and he wants to be a part of that. We're proud but there's still a waiting period."

(Note: Bank this quote for later).

Carolina had a week to decide what to do, although management had already said they would match any offer.

"I know my summer just got better because I'm not going to be negotiating a contract all summer," Hurricanes GM Waddell said during a news conference in which he noted he thought the offer would have been more. "We make a decision and move on."

Then began a bit of a Twitter war in which the Canes were adamant they were keeping the then-21-year-old:

And the Habs stoked the fire by introducing their fans to him:

July 8, 2019

As expected, the Hurricanes officially matched the offer.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi Is In The Right Hands

  Jesperi Kotkaniemi Is In The Right Hands Carolina's offer sheet gave the Finnish forward a chance to reset an NHL career that had been bungled in Montreal. © Provided by Hockey News on Sports Illustrated James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports I still remember the moment. I was at the 2018 NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo when a Montreal reporter came over to chat: he said the Canadiens were leaning heavily towards taking Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the first round that year. Were they going to trade down from No. 3, since Kotkaniemi was more top-10 than top-five at the time? Nope.

"This was an easy decision," Waddell said in a statement. "Sebastian is one of the best players in the league and the centerpiece 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.

"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."

The Canadiens seemed resolved to not snag the budding star.

"In tendering an offer sheet to Sebastian Aho on July 1, our objective was to add a talented young forward entering the prime of his career," Bergevin said. "With Carolina matching our offer, we wish Sebastian and the Hurricanes all the best."

2019-20 season

Nothing major happens; the teams play three times, with Carolina winning the first two. Aho collects just one goal in the series.

2020-2021 season

Montreal and Carolina play in two different divisions and do not meet over the course of the season or the playoffs.

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Aug. 28, 2021

At 5:33 p.m. ET on a quiet Saturday in August, the Hurricanes dropped an atomic hockey bomb when they announced they had tendered an offer sheet for one year and a $6,100,015 million salary to Canadiens restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

"Jesperi Kotkaniemi accepted our offer. He wants to come to Carolina," Waddell said in the team's release. "He sees the core we’ve built here and he wants to be a part of that. We’re proud, but there's still a waiting period. When you make an offer like that, we saw a vulnerable position. The offer, with the compensation and the core we have, we realized that it was the best chance we had to get the player."

So here's where the fun begins: Remember that Bergevin statement above? From "accepted our offer" to " waiting period," it's a word-for-word copy of Bergevin's statement from two years ago.

The amount was something the Canadiens just couldn't match, based on salary cap constraints this season and beyond. But the numbers are quite interesting:

  • The $15 at the end of the $6,100,015 was for Kotkaniemi. He wore No. 15 with the Canadiens.
  • The contract came with a $20 signing bonus. What number does Sebastian Aho wear? Yep, 20. You can say the North doesn't forget, but my goodness, neither does the South.

To pour even more salt into the open wound, the Hurricanes Twitter account's profile was changed to French: "Compete official des Hurricanes de la Caroline." That translates to "Official account of the Carolina Hurricanes," which the Canadiens currently have as their header (albeit for Canadiens de Montreal) in both languages.

The account also posted the following tweet:

Per Twitter translate, it reads:

The Hurricanes announced today that they have made a hostile offer to restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Montreal Canadiens. The proposed agreement is for a one-year term and an average annual value of $ 6.1 million.

Hostile offer, indeed.

Sept. 4, 2021

The Canadiens do not match the offer sheet and receive a first- and third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft as compensation. It should also be noted that the contract is $66,081 below the threshold for Carolina having to give up a first-, second- and third-round pick in the draft. Not saying that was done on purpose in order to give up just a first and a third, but it makes you think.

(One of Montreal's first-round picks was sent with a 2024 second-round pick to the Coyotes for center Christian Dvorak. Arizona gets whichever one is higher).

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Sept. 5, 2021

Waddell speaks to the media the day after officially acquiring Kotkaniemi.

“It certainly was not revenge,” Waddell told reporters Sunday. “We talked about this player, we know this player. (We used) the CBA as other teams have in the past to try to acquire a 21-year-old player. So to us, it was all about the player. We looked around the league and thought this made the most sense from where we are as a team.

“We have a couple of other good Finnish players on our team and thought this would be a great fit.”

OK, sure, no revenge.

Oct. 9, 2021

You'd think everything would be over by now, right? Well, think again. According to a report from the Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli, the Canadiens ratted out the Hurricanes for playing only four preseason games.

The News & Observer in Carolina confirmed through NHL senior vice president of communications John Dellapina that the Canes were one of several teams granted an exemption on the number of preseason games.

“The requirement wasn’t changed. But the pandemic has required us to be agile and flexible in many areas,” Dellapina said in an email. By the way, there is no penalty in the Collective Bargaining Agreement for not playing the minimum.

Oct. 21, 2021

Stay tuned. ...

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