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The Montreal Canadiens May Let Jesperi Kotkaniemi Go

from Lukas Weese of Sportsnet,

There is a "legitimate chance" the Montreal Canadiens are considering not matching the offer sheet tendered by the Carolina Hurricanes to forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi over the weekend, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Friedman reported on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, that the Canadiens are potentially weighing the merits of the one-year, $6.1-million deal against the haul of draft picks from the Hurricanes and the flexibility offered by the 21-year-old coming off the books.

"I do think there is a legitimate chance that Montreal's considering not matching the offer sheet," Friedman said on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. "Famous last words, it could change. It might just be a visceral reaction. They do have a week."

The Canadiens drafted Kotkaniemi third overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Through 171 games played with the Canadiens, the centre has 22 goals and 40 assists. However, the 2020-21 season saw Kotkaniemi struggle to generate offence, evidenced by his five goals and 15 assists through 56 games.


added 1:49pm, Matt Larkin of The Hockey News on what Bergevin may do.

So let’s celebrate the anarchy of inking Kotkaniemi to a one-year, $6.1-million offer sheet in blatant retaliation to the Canadiens signing the Canes’ top center, Sebastian Aho, to a five-year, $42.27-million offer sheet in 2019 which they matched. In the team news release this past Saturday, Carolina GM Don Waddell even used almost identical language to that of Habs GM Marc Bergevin in 2019. The Canes sent a secondary tweet of the news in French. The chef’s kiss was the $20 signing bonus, a nod to Aho’s number. It’s difficult to imagine a precedent for a team taking such public glee out of putting a rival club in a pickle. Raise your hand if you can’t wait for the teams’ first game against each other in 2021-22. It goes down Oct. 21.

Back to the Habs’ pickle. With Phillip Danault gone to the Los Angeles Kings as a UFA, the Habs’ center depth got depleted over the off-season, and Kotkaniemi was likely to rise as high as second on the depth chart despite the fact he was scratched for two of five games in the Stanley Cup final. At 21, he’s hardly finished his ascension. Of the 597 forwards who played NHL regular-season games in 2020-21, 577, or 96.6 percent, were older than Kotkaniemi. But does that mean Bergevin should match on a player who has not delivered anything close to $6.1 million in value? It’s not an easy decision.

Historically, the offer sheets that have led to teams not matching occur when there’s a major discrepancy in how each team values the player. When the Edmonton Oilers swiped left winger Dustin Penner in the “barn fight” incident of 2007, they did so successfully because GM Kevin Lowe offered Penner a number Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke did not believe Penner was worth. It compelled the player to sign and his original team to walk way (as parties involved explained to me in this 2019 story). It appears the Canes are hoping to recreate those conditions. They know Kotkaniemi isn’t yet a $6.1-million player and are counting on the Habs to agree. Then again, a one-year deal isn’t so prohibitive that the Habs can’t match in hopes of negotiating a fairer pact for 2022-23 and beyond.

So what does Bergevin do? He has seven days from the date of the offer sheet to match, meaning he has until this Saturday, Sept. 4. Let’s explore the pros and cons of matching.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Montreal Canadiens, | KK Hockey | Permalink


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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