One week after the Carolina Hurricanes caused a stir on social media by signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a one-year offer of $ 6.1 million, the Montreal Canadiens formally refused to match it on Saturday.
As a result, the 21-year-old striker will join the Hurricanes for at least this season, and Carolina will more than likely seek to sign the previous draft of the first round for a contract extension. Meanwhile, the Canadiens, who originally drafted Kotkaniemi, will receive two 2022 draft picks, one in each of the first and third rounds.
“Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a player who has been on our radar since before his draft year,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said in a statement. “We believe he will flourish [coach] Rod Brind’Amour’s system and culture, and he will be an important part of what we build in Carolina for years to come. “
When Carolina offered the tender sheet, an ongoing story continued between the hurricanes and the Canadiens, though this may have been the end of the soap opera.
Two years ago, Carolina star player Sebastian Aho received a $ 42 million five-year offer as a limited free agent from the Canadiens, a deal that the hurricanes reluctantly matched.
Kotkaniemi, a sharp shooter who was sometimes left out of the lineup when Montreal drove to the Stanley Cup final last season, was a person Carolina coveted, no doubt, but the hurricanes also enjoyed that it was the Canadiens who had to deal with the headache .
The Hurricanes noted in their original press release last month that they also gave Kotkaniemi a measly $ 20 signing bonus, which further added junk throughout the league on social media. Aho’s jersey number is ironically 20.
However, the contract price is no joke, as a winger who finished with just 20 points last season does not often command such a high a paycheck in the NHL.
“He wants to come to Carolina,” Waddell said last week. “He sees the core we have built here and he wants to be a part of it. We are proud.”
The Hurricanes – who lost in the second round last season to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the same team that Montreal eventually lost to – have salary caps this offseason due to a few departures from last year’s list, especially star defender Dougie Hamilton, who signed with New Jersey Devils.
But the core, especially offensively, that led the Hurricanes to a division title last season is largely back, including Aho, 24, who led the team by 57 points. Last month, Carolina also gave a new deal to forward Andrei Svechnikov, 21, securing him for eight years and $ 62 million.
Kotkaniemi – a Pori, Finland, native who will wear jersey No. 15 and was No. 3 overall pick in 2018 – could fit well into the youthful offensive mix. In 19 games after the season for the Canadiens, he finished with five goals and eight points.
– Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) September 4, 2021
“His age and natural skill set suggest a very high ceiling, and the opportunity to acquire such players simply does not come up very often,” said Carolina assistant general manager Eric Tulsky. “Jesperi is a smart player who sees the ice extremely well. It seems that every time he touches the puck, he puts his team in a better position.”
With room under the salary cap to maneuver ahead of training camp, especially with injured captain Shea Weber out of season and placed on the NHL’s long-term injured reserve list, the prevailing thought around the league was that Montreal would shop the Carolina drafts to see if they could land. an established forward to join the Stanley Cup finalists and replace Kotkaniemi’s production.
That turned out to be the case when later Saturday night, Canadian center Christian Dvorak acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in return for two draft picks. Arizona will receive the better of either Montreal’s own election in the first round of 2022 or the Carolina election it just acquired, and also an election from Canada’s fourth round in 2024.
Dvorak, 25, played in 56 games for Arizona last season and finished with 17 goals and 31 points. He is a power-play and faceoff specialist respected around the league, ending the season with an 18:24 time on the ice average.
Dvorak and Kotkaniemi get a chance to meet each other early this season. The Canadiens and Hurricanes meet in Montreal on October 21st.