The talk of the summer in both Montreal and Raleigh, Hurricanes center Jesperi Kotkaniemi has reportedly just signed an 8-year contract extension to remain a member of the Hurricanes for $4.25-4.5 million per year.
Kotkaniemi famously became a member of the Hurricanes last August when he signed an offer sheet for 1 year at a $6.1 million cap hit, with a $20 signing bonus. Montreal did not accept the offer sheet and the Canes gave up a 2022 1st and 3rd round pick for the blossoming young center. The Canes became the first team to successfully pull off an offer sheet since the Edmonton Oilers did it in 2007, stealing winger Dustin Penner from Anaheim.
Jesperi started the 2021-22 campaign playing wing on the top line with forwards Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Despite the talent around him, playing a new system at a position he was unfamiliar with proved to be too much for Kotkaniemi and he was moved down to the 4th line center position. Although many saw this as a demotion, it allowed the young Finn to play in a spot he’s more comfortable in.
Jesperi has had an amazing season for the Canes despite playing 4th line minutes, tying a career-high in goals with 11 through just 54 games this season. Kotkaniemi has put up 23 points total, 19 of which have been at even-strength while only averging 12 minutes a night.
There is a lot to look forward to with this reported contract, as Kotkaniemi is just 21 years old and has a lot of time to outplay his reported $4.25-4.5 million AAV. Another huge plus is that the Hurricanes avoid his massive qualifying offer. If Don Waddell and co. had waited until the summer, it is likely they would have had to fork over $6.1 million in order to retain his restricted free agent status, by getting the contact done early they are able to negotiate on their terms.
Although not the main focus of today, this also likely means that current second-line center Vincent Trocheck is on the outs, as he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and one can assume Kotkaniemi will be taking over the role of 2C long-term.
Not all of the details are clear yet, but as it stands now, the Hurricanes reportedly just signed a very important piece of their core for 8 years at an extremely fair price. This front office has proved time and time again they are not afraid of taking estimated risks, and there is a very high chance this Kotkaniemi extension will work out for them.
Question for Cardiac Cane readers: How do you think this contract will playout for the Canes and Kotkaniemi?