Congratulations Habs fans, you got used.
For the first time in almost six and a half years, there was an offer sheet in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens signed Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet worth $42.27 million over five years, paying out an AAV of $8,454,000.
If you thought that number was a little low for an offer sheet, you’re not alone. Just about everyone thought that in fact. The money to be paid to Aho is more than agreeable from a team standpoint. Paying a young star centerman just under $8.5 million per season would be fine by any team in the league.
The Canadiens’ only real hope of this offer sheet succeeding was it’s front-loaded $21 million in signing bonuses to be paid out over the first year of the contract. This is a bonus that the big market Canadiens could easily pay and were hoping would be too steep for the much smaller market Hurricanes.
The only problem with that is that the Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon is a multibillionaire who had been saying for weeks that any offer sheet made to Aho would be matched without a second thought. In a press conference just after news of the offer sheet broke, the Hurricanes front office was almost joking about it, saying that they thought an offer sheet would have been a lot higher.
The thing is, Aho didn’t really want to join the Canadiens or leave the Hurricanes for that matter. He as much as said it himself in a tweet once the offer sheet was officially matched.
As Aho said, restricted free agents in the NHL have very little leverage and options at their disposal to move along negotiations and get the term and money they’d like. Aho’s agent negotiated a deal with the Habs that Aho would sign knowing that it would be matched by the Hurricanes.
The real genius here by Aho’s agent is the term of the contract. Five years will expire right when Aho reaches unrestricted free agency, which will guarantee him a huge payday unless something drastic happens.
While the Hurricanes didn’t have a problem with the value of the contract, they undoubtedly would have wanted longer than five years in length. The Hurricanes have a lot of young players that will be due for pay raises of their own soon, including Andrei Svechnikov, Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury just to name a few.
In addition to that, Teuvo Teravainen will also be an unrestricted free agent the same year Aho is and both Justin Faulk and Dougie Hamilton will see their contracts expire a handful of years before that, provided neither of them are traded.
This certainly puts the Hurricanes in a stressful cap situation in the coming years despite currently having about $7 million in cap space. For Aho though, this deal couldn’t be better and the Canadiens delivered it to him on a silver platter.
This was a low risk, high reward Hail Mary on behalf of Marc Bergevin and the Habs. Best case scenario, they land Aho from the Hurricanes and give up very little in return. As the offer sheet was matched, they lost nothing for their attempt, but might have gained some hard feelings from at least one other GM.
At the end of the day, the Hurricanes got their man and Aho got his payday, including a very handsome signing bonus. But in a very uncommon turn of events for the NHL, the deal was done on the terms of the restricted free agent.