Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet drama is amazing for the NHL

·Editor
·7 min read
The Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet drama and everything surrounding it is great for a league constantly starving for intriguing off-ice narratives. (Getty)
The Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet drama and everything surrounding it is great for a league constantly starving for intriguing off-ice narratives. (Getty)

We don't yet know if Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is going to match the offer sheet the Carolina Hurricanes tendered to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. We do, however, know that this whole thing is entertaining as hell.

Canadiens fans, Hurricanes supporters, and the hockey world at large lost their collective minds over the news of the one-year, $6.1-million offer sheet given to the 21-year-old. This story stole headlines over the weekend both because of how rare offer sheet-related drama is in the NHL (a shame, really) and because of how equally rare any non-criminal or non-controversial off-ice stories are in this league — especially in the offseason and compared to other major, drama-filled leagues like the NFL, NBA, UFC and European soccer. 

So few exciting and interesting things actually happen in the NHL, especially in late August, that something as seemingly trivial and ordinary as an offer sheet and a rift between two intra-conference clubs has just absolutely gobbled up headlines and consumed the attention of fans and media types over the past couple days.

Scarcity of NHL storylines aside, however, this saga has some real legs to it and is an intriguing and pretty hilarious bit of drama to save us from the usual boring junk floating around the hockey sphere in the dog days of summer. 

Let's dissect this wonderful and petty front-office war a bit, shall we?

History behind the offer and outrage

This glorious little off-ice rivalry really took hold in the offseason of 2019. On July 1, the opening day of NHL free agency, Bergevin went scorched earth with a seemingly out-of-nowhere offer sheet to star RFA center Sebastian Aho worth $42.27 million over five-years — including the maximum amount of signing bonus allowable. 

That last caveat is a big one, as Aho was reportedly owed over $21 million in cold hard cash in the first calendar year of the contract, testing the Hurricanes' finances and forcing owner Tom Dundon and his stingy reputation to really stress his bank account in order to keep his star, top-line center on his roster.

From a contract structure standpoint, the deal ended up sort of working out for Carolina, as Aho would have likely either been in line for a larger payday in terms of both AAV and term fairly soon, or would have walked for greener financial pastures in free agency similar to the way star blueliner Dougie Hamilton did this offseason. However, the offer also walks Aho right to his first year of unrestricted free agency, which often leads to that player leaving or becoming unaffordable after sparking a bidding war.

But that assault on Dundon's wallet and ego clearly didn't sit well with the dude, and is the main (or only) reason the Canes tendered such a strange, overpay-ish type of offer for revenge on the Canadiens for their attempt at stealing Aho — according to a fair chunk of Habs fans (and most rational hockey followers) at least.

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Many are thinking and reacting rationally, and some are unsurprisingly a little more bitter than others, to put it mildly.

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Canes stir the pot, rub some salt

Just like a large chunk of Hockey Twitter did following the news of the shocking offer, the Hurricanes' account took its own opportunity to dunk on Montreal-based sportswriter Jack Todd for his very online meltdown over the ordeal, sharing his Gazette article along with a little parting shot.

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The team's social accounts were in full-out troll mode all damn day, announcing the offer sheet on Twitter, in French, like Bergevin did a couple years ago with the Aho move. 

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And they just kept 'em coming. It was an onslaught:

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And they finished off their big revenge meal with a couple servings of medium-well Troll D'Aho:

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Blessing in disguise for Canadiens?

As aggressively and gleefully as the Hurricanes owner, the team's front office and its social teams went at the Canadiens and their fan base, it might not end up being all bad for the Habs — despite the optics and potential disaster scenario of losing the 2018 third overall pick a year or two before he really develops into an all-world player.

This could go a little sideways for Carolina and work out not too badly for Montreal, as many fans flocked to Twitter to point out.

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The case, of course, can be made both ways, though.

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We need way more of this sweet, sweet pettiness in this far-too-serious sport. 

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