[UPDATE: Montreal has declined to match. Kotkaniemi is now a member of the Hurricanes.]
It was just two years ago that the Montreal Canadiens attempted to snag Sebastian Aho away from the Carolina Hurricanes by signing him to a restricted free agent offer sheet. The Hurricanes easily matched and everybody just moved on and forgot about it.
That is when the Hurricanes returned the favor to Montreal and signed restricted free agent center Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet.
The contract is a one-year term that carries a salary cap hit of $6.1 million.
“Jesperi Kotkaniemi accepted our offer. He wants to come to Carolina,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said in a team statement. “He sees the core we’ve built here and he wants to be a part of that. We’re proud, but there’s still a waiting period. When you make an offer like that, we saw a vulnerable position. The offer, with the compensation and the core we have, we realized that it was the best chance we had to get the player.”
The Canadiens now have seven days to match the offer. If they choose not to match it, Kotkaniemi will go to the Hurricanes while Carolina will surrender its first-and third-round picks to Montreal as compensation.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported on Twitter that Carolina had tried to trade for Kotkaniemi over the past couple of days but did not make any progress in those talks. So they made the RFA offer, which Kotkaniemi accepted.
[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]
The 21-year-old Kotkaniemi has played three years for the Canadiens after being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. He has 22 goals and 40 assists in 171 games during that time. That includes five goals and 15 assists in 56 games this past season.
Montreal is already over the salary cap this offseason so matching the offer does seem to be difficult right now, but Shea Weber‘s $7.5 million salary cap hit will end up on LTIR once the season begins.
This is only the fifth offer sheet that has been signed in the NHL since 2010, following Niklas Hjalmarsson, Shea Weber, Ryan O'Reilly, and Aho. All of those were matched. The last time an offer sheet was actually successful was was Dustin Penner going from Anaheim to Edmonton in 2007, resulting in the Oilers surrendering a first, second, and third round picks as compensation. That is the only successful offer sheet in the salary cap era.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.