The Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell said yesterday that the offer sheet made to Jesperi Kotkaniemi was not one of retaliation to Montreal for the offer sheet they made to Sebastian Aho in the summer of 2019. With this, he spoke about Kotkaniemi’s abilities and putting praise on the player while trying to make the point “This was about the player”.
Now, we all know that the PR team of the Carolina Hurricanes had fun with this. From the Uno reverse card, the $20 signing bonus, and even just the fact it was to a Montreal Canadien did make this a little more enjoyable than offer sheets in years past. Yet, there’s a case to be made here that this offer sheet would have been made regardless of the Aho saga years ago.
For starters, Montreal is in a lot of cap trouble and they had a gap down the middle. If that gap isn’t there, Carolina likely doesn’t make the offer as high as it is to Kotkaniemi which means he may not accept. But the cap situation is the most important thing here. If Montreal has $20 million in cap space, what’s the point in the offer sheet? They’ll just match it. It was all the right pieces in place for this.
There’s also the player’s rumored unhappiness from his time in Canada. Kotkaniemi has been rumored to say to friends and family that he had played his last game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. If the player was genuinely unhappy in Montreal, it would have made him very unlikely to extend for a lot of years in Montreal and he did have a qualifying offer that was more than $6.1 million.
It’s also worth noting that Carolina had a need for this player. Why offer sheet someone if you do not need them? What is the point? You can’t trade them, you’re going to lose a compensation package of picks to that team. There’s no point in offer sheeting someone who you do not need. Carolina needed a winger, and they went out and got one in a very unconventional way.
You also have to acknowledge Kotkaniemi’s potential ceiling. This kid had the world at his mercy in his draft year because he was showing himself to be a true spark. You can make the case Montreal drafted him at number three based on their positional needs, but he had been climbing up draft rankings at speed for a while.
All of these things combined make this a perfect situation for an offer sheet. The revenge aspect of the offer sheet is unique and it makes for a cool narrative to push, but there is a logical reason why they would target someone like Kotkaniemi in an offer sheet just for the player. If Kotkaniemi played for any other team and they were in the same situation Montreal was, I think this still happens.