Revenge is a dish best served three years old. It was announced last night that the Carolina Hurricanes had tendered an offer sheet to Montreal Canadiens restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi. This has a whole host of irony attached to this, accompanied with some revenge and some logical sense.
Kotka’s deal is one year at a little more than $6 million. With that in mind, the draft pick compensation is a 1st and a 3rd round pick. This makes a lot of sense considering at the end of this deal, Kotkaniemi will be a restricted free agent still. I know that this price will be viewed as a lot for someone who has 22 career goals and 40 career helpers but stay with me.
Kokaniemi was the draft choice after Andrei Svechnikov in 2018. Kotka went 3rd to Montreal and although he hasn’t quite hit the same heights as Svechnikov, it’s clear to see his talent and how much potential is within this player. Kotkaniemi was rather fed to the wolves in Montreal and wasn’t particularly NHL ready, but he was thrust into the limelight anyway, and his results have been mixed.
I did mention that the Finnish center signed a one-year deal in Raleigh. That means this is just a deal to pry him away from Montreal. After this season, when cap space becomes an issue, they have the chance to bring him back long term at a lower cap hit. This is almost like the team is playing NHL 22 with what they are trying to do.
Carolina has been crying out for a top-six forward, specifically on the left-hand side, which Kotkaniemi can fill. While he has not spent a lot of time in the top six as a Montreal Canadien, he’s only 21 years old and is still young enough to reach the potential that Montreal saw in him before he was drafted.
This offer was crafted with a few jabs intended to be thrown at the Montreal Canadiens for the whole Sebastian Aho saga. Kotka’s deal is worth $6,000,035. It comes with a $20 signing bonus, because Aho is number 20, and makes his base deal 6,000,015. Kotka wears number 15 in Montreal. Oh and that 35? Aho was drafted 35th overall in 2015. See, loaded with shots at the Habs.
Offersheeting Kotkaniemi was risky but has the potential to work. Working on the assumption Montreal doesn’t match this offersheet (which they have until September 4th to do), Kotkaniemi will be under Carolina’s team control until 2026 at a minimum. He also gains arbitration eligibility going into next season, which could even void the whole “offersheet back” debacle.
This does make Kotkaniemi’s qualifying offer value $6,000,015 but that’s a different issue. If Montreal matches this, it’s their problem. This really asks questions about Marc Bergevin’s ability to be a general manager in the NHL. Do they give up on another 3rd overall pick, or do they continue with his progression in the hopes he pans out?
Rumors have recently surfaced that this offersheet was a last resort from Carolina. Originally, they were interested in trading to acquire the center, but for whatever reason, they did not progress and resorted to a revenge offersheet. With that in mind, it’s safe to say this wasn’t purely about revenge and the team is actually interested in acquiring the Pori, Finland native.
So, what about Kotkaniemi as a player? While he has shown flashes of being a fantastic player, he’s never had the consistency to bring it most nights and that’s a big worry. He’s more than capable defensively and he’s not great in the dot, but Rod Brind’amour made Aho a genuinely good center so anything is possible there. This is a lot to ask of Rod, but it has so much potential to pan out.
I like the intention of this move to sign the player. I think the 1-year value is a little high, but a multi-year extension at a lower AAV is very nice to have with this player. To have the chance to get him for a (hopefully) late 1st round pick and a 3rd is a chance worth taking in my opinion. I have been wrong before though.
It also gives off the notice that Carolina is not a team to be messed around with. You can’t try to sign one of the star players from this team under their nose and not expect recourse from the organization. Make no mistake, losing Kotkaniemi would weaken a center core that wasn’t particularly strong to begin with, over in Quebec.