Can Hurricanes get more out of Kotkaniemi than Habs did?

Can Hurricanes get more out of Kotkaniemi than Habs did?
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Whether it’s true or not, Hurricanes GM Don Waddell denied that the (eventually successful) Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet was about getting revenge on the Canadiens. Waddell indicates that the trolling aspects of the fallout were about marketing, and letting the Hurricanes’ social media team have a little fun.

In the grand scheme of things, what happens on the ice matters the most.

So, about that. Can the Hurricanes get more out of Jesperi Kotkaniemi than the Canadiens did?

Contract/cap considerations

When you zoom in on the 2021-22 season alone, you don’t get the full picture of why the Hurricanes went after Kotkaniemi.

Things get more interesting if you take a wider view. Center Vincent Trocheck‘s $4.75M cap hit expires after 2021-22, and he enters this contract year at age 28. Jordan Staal, 32, will see his $6M AAV dissolve after two more seasons.

On one hand, Waddell claimed publicly that the Hurricanes only discussed Kotkaniemi’s one-year, $6.1M (plus trolling change) deal.

It’s possible that’s a matter of playing coy. Way back to when the offer sheet first surfaced, Elliotte Friedman indicated that the high one-year price might factor in a possible, cost-effective future contract for Kotkaniemi.

(Side note: Jake Gardiner is expected to go on LTIR, making room for this new contract.)

A younger (Kotkaniemi turned 21 on July 6), potentially cheaper player could be a nice replacement for Trocheck and/or Staal. With Martin Necas (22) also coming into his own and bouncing between the center and wing, you could picture something impressive forming for Carolina.

They have 24-year-old center Sebastian Aho locked up for three more years (about $8.5M) on that allegedly-not-revenge-inspiring deal. Also, Andrei Svechnikov, 21, just signed an eight-year contract that carries a $7.75M cap hit.

That’s potentially quite the young core, and there could be some good Finnish vibes, as Kotkaniemi joins Aho and 26-year-old Teuvo Teravainen (a $5.4M bargain for three more seasons).

Sounds great, especially after you sell it a bit, right? Well, the success or failure of the Hurricanes investing all of this in an offer sheet for Kotkaniemi ultimately boils down to …

Can the Hurricanes get the most out of Kotkaniemi after bumpy Habs development?

In giving up a first and a third-round pick in 2022, and paying Kotkaniemi far more than he was expected this season, the Hurricanes made a big upfront investment. Much like absorbing Patrick Marleau‘s contract for a first-rounder, the key for Carolina is if the bet will pay off down the line.

So, will it pay off? That’s where things get tricky, interesting, and maybe a bit granular.

On one hand, there was a jittery, staccato rhythm to Kotkaniemi’s development with the Canadiens. Injuries, the occasional AHL demotion, and even playoff healthy scratches didn’t help matters. As Andrew Berkshire discussed on The Hockey PDOcast, there also may have been an essential disagreement about how he should play. Berkshire noted that Kotkaniemi viewed himself as more of a playmaker, while Montreal seemingly wanted him to use his size to play a more straightforward style, focused on getting to tougher areas.

There was at least some sense that Kotkaniemi expects Carolina to be a better fit.

Talking to the press in his car, Waddell noted that Kotkaniemi’s likely to slot in at left wing. At least early on.

The Hurricanes’ early plan: start Kotkaniemi at LW

Playing on the wing, instead of center, might allow Kotkaniemi to assert himself on offense more often. Frankly, the most important difference might be linemates.

During his three seasons with the Canadiens, Kotkaniemi’s linemates were scattered. It’s telling that Joel Armia is the only forward he logged more five-on-five ice time with (757:40 minutes) than without (649:33). His most consistent linemates were Armia and Artturi Lehkonen (703:42 with; 1,186:30 without).

Armia and Lehkonen are both very nice supporting cast forwards. Still, neither are the types of players who will light up scoreboards.

It stands to reason that Kotkaniemi will receive more dangerous linemates with the Hurricanes. Carolina has some incentive, even, to prop him up, after making this big gambit.

(To be fair, it also seems like the Habs were gearing up to give him a bigger role. He was penciled in as a 2C, and likely would’ve played with more dynamic wingers, more often. Whether he was actually ready for them, or not.)

Making the puzzle pieces fit

But will Kotkaniemi’s skills match up with the Hurricanes on the ice to the same degree that he seems to fit in their minds? That’s more complicated, and might boil down to how much leash he receives.

Can Kotkaniemi acclimate to the Hurricanes’ system after struggling with the Canadiens? Will his skating still hold him back? Last season, he scored 20 points in 55 games. His ceiling is almost certainly higher than that, but by how much?

This was already a fascinating and polarizing offseason for the Hurricanes. They’ve made big changes in net. Carolina allowed Dougie Hamilton to walk in free agency, hoping that Tony DeAngelo can be a cheap offensive alternative (while not being too … actually offensive).

Beyond totally not getting revenge, the Kotkaniemi offer sheet is another big Hurricanes gamble. If things really go off the rails, they could’ve squandered key picks in what’s expected to be a strong 2022 NHL Draft. They have some power in making themselves look smart by getting the most out of Kotkaniemi. That said, there’s also balancing getting the most out of their roster, overall.

Will this look like a smart move, or a case of Canes galaxy brain? We’ll see soon enough.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Hurricanes top Stars in OT to win matchup of 1st-place teams

    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS – Martin Necas scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in a matchup of division leaders Wednesday night.

    Sebastian Aho had a short-handed goal and Brent Burns also scored for the Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. The game-winner was Necas’ 19th goal this season.

    Dallas is still atop the Western Conference, and the Central Division, after its second consecutive 3-2 overtime loss at home. Jason Robertson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, and 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston got his 13th.

    Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen didn’t return after the first intermission because of an upper-body injury, soon after a strange sequence that ended with Robertson scoring on a shot from what seemed to be an impossible angle.

    The puck was bouncing on the ice behind Andersen and settled against the post after Tyler Seguin‘s shot before the goalie was able to swipe it away to his right. Robertson then shot from behind Andersen, and the puck apparently ricocheted off him and into the net for a 2-1 Dallas lead. Robertson’s 33rd goal matched his assists total.

    Antti Raanta replaced Andersen and stopped all 15 shots he faced – none in overtime – after the starter had four saves. Raanta had to shake off getting struck in the head by Mason Marchment‘s stick when the Stars forward was behind the net fighting for the puck midway through the third period.

    Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots, including a glove save of Andrei Svechnikov‘s wrister with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

    Aho’s 200th career goal put Carolina up 1-0 midway through the first period. The Stars got even just more than two minutes later when Johnston scored unassisted after a faceoff.

    Johnston also had a shot ricochet off the post with just under six minutes left.

    In between the first two goals, Oettinger went into a fully extended split, with his right skate against the post, to deny Paul Stastny‘s attempt to knock in a loose puck.

    Burns tied the game at 2 in the second period, getting the puck after a faceoff, then skating over the top of the circle and scoring top shelf over Oettinger’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Marchment was coming out of the penalty box at the same time Carolina made an errant pass in the second period. He had a breakaway attempt, but couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot. … Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and Stars center Luke Glendening both got five-minute penalties for fighting in the second period.


    Hurricanes: Will play San Jose on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games.

    Stars: Host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in their last game before the All-Star break.

    Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry out until after the All-Star break

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry‘s on-again, off-again season is now off again.

    Coach Mike Sullivan said that the two-time All-Star will miss at least two games with an upper-body injury.

    Jarry was scheduled to start against Florida but reported an upper-body issue when he arrived at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith got the last-second start as the Penguins pulled out a wild 7-6 victory over the Panthers.

    Jarry is out through at least the All-Star break. Pittsburgh plays at Washington and then hosts San Jose before getting a full week off.

    The 27-year-old Jarry has played well when he’s been in the lineup, posting a 16-5-5 record with a 2.65 goals-against average in 27 games. His availability, however, has been an issue of late. He missed more than two weeks earlier this month after being injured against Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

    The Penguins are not as sharp when Jarry is out. Pittsburgh is 8-10-3 with DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski in goal this season. The Penguins recalled Tokarski from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up DeSmith during Jarry’s absence.

    Letang scores twice in return, Penguins beat Panthers 7-6 in OT

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH – Amid a nightmarish season off the ice, Kris Letang has been searching for joy. A sense of normalcy.

    He found a little of both.

    The veteran Pittsburgh defenseman scored twice in his return from a lower-body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.

    “I was just happy to be out there,” Letang said. “Be in the atmosphere of the team.”

    Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh has been pockmarked by health issues and a profound sense of loss. He missed two weeks after suffering the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. He then tweaked something in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 28.

    His father died unexpectedly a few days later, and Letang spent an extended amount of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making an unexpected stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of a West Coast swing earlier this month.

    The Penguins activated him off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a rollicking game that featured 13 goals, the last Letang’s one-timer from just above the left circle on the power play that gave Pittsburgh just its fourth win in 12 overtime games this season.

    “It was kind of surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month… it’s just great to be back.”

    The Penguins, currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opened up a small bit of breathing room over the ninth-place Panthers by beating Florida for the 18th time in its last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.

    Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for The Penguins. Rickard Rakell and Drew O'Connor also scored for the Penguins.

    Casey DeSmith struggled in place of Tristan Jarry, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. DeSmith stopped 33 shots, including both he faced in overtime, to win for the third time in his last 10 starts.

    “That was a huge two points for us,” DeSmith said. “Obviously we’re battling with them in the standings. Character win at home.”

    Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including a tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White‘s sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third gave the Panthers the lead but Florida couldn’t hold it.

    Alex Lyon made 42 saves after getting the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice would not disclose. The Panthers are 7-3-2 since January 1 to surge back into the fringe of contention.

    “We’re so much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago at this time,” Maurice said. “Rallied around each other, battled as hard as they could to get a point on the road in the circumstances that we’re in. I couldn’t be more proud.”

    Neither Lyon or DeSmith – who got the heads up he was playing less than an hour before the opening faceoff – appeared quite ready to play on short notice. They gave up a six goals – three by each team – during a frantic first period that included Letang’s first goal since Dec. 15 and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.

    Things settled down in the second. Ekblad’s short-handed goal put the Panthers in front but Crosby knotted the game at 4-4 with a pretty backhand through Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds to go in the period to set up a hectic third in which both teams squandered one-goal leads.

    “It wasn’t pretty but you need to find ways to win sometimes,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of that here today.”


    Panthers: Host Angeles on Friday night.

    Penguins: At Washington on Thursday night.

    Avalanche spoil Kuemper’s return, top Capitals 3-2 as Bednar sets mark

    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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    DENVER – Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano and Alex Newhook scored against former teammate Darcy Kuemper and the surging Colorado Avalanche held off the Washington Capitals 3-2 to give coach Jared Bednar his franchise-record 266th victory.

    Logan O'Connor added two assists, Nathan MacKinnon had an assist for his 700th point and Alexandar Georgiev made 37 saves in the Avs’ season-best sixth straight victory. They moved into third place in the Central Division, one point ahead of Minnesota.

    Bednar, coaching his 500th game for Colorado, improved to 266-185-49 and passed former Quebec Nordiques boss Michel Bergeron for the most coaching victories in franchise history.

    Alex Ovechkin returned from an injury to score his 31st goal for Washington. Conor Sheary also scored and Kuemper stopped 23 shots in his first game in Denver since helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in June.

    The crowd stood and applauded after a first-period video tribute for Kuemper, who won 37 games in the regular season and 10 more in the playoffs.

    The Avs chose not to re-sign Kuemper, who then inked a five-year deal with the Capitals in July.

    He had his moments against his former team, including nifty glove saves against Jacob MacDonald and Lehkonen in the second period to keep it a one-goal game. But Newhook’s goal with 4:21 left in the second made it 3-1.

    The depleted Capitals dominated the third period but still lost for the fifth time in seven games.

    Ovechkin’s one-timer at 9:44 of the third was his 811th goal after he missed his first game of the season Saturday with a lower-body injury. But Washington was without T.J. Oshie, who left to be with his wife for the birth of their fourth child. And Nicklas Backstrom was a late scratch with a non-COVID illness.

    Then Tom Wilson exited in the second period after blocking a shot and underwent an X-ray between periods.

    The Avalanche, who haven’t trailed during their win streak, solved Kuemper at 8:57 of the first when MacKinnon absorbed a big hit from Dmitry Orlov and fed Lehkonen for his 15th goal and sixth in six games.

    Cogliano redirected Kurtis MacDermid‘s shot 2:04 into the second to make it 2-0. Sheary cut the. lead in half when he tipped in Martin Fehervary‘s shot for his 12th goal just over two minutes later.


    It also marked the return of Washington’s Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who had 22 points in 67 games for the Avs in 2021-22, He’s remembered for dropping and denting the Cup during the on-ice celebration.

    “It’s part of my journey here,” a smiling Aube-Kubel said of his fumble, adding the season was “the best time of my life.”

    NOTES: Avs D Cale Makar (upper body) practiced Monday and took part in the morning skate, but missed his fourth straight game. … Avs W Anton Blidh cleared waivers and skated on the fourth line. … Aliaksei Protas centered Washington’s third line in his first NHL action since Jan. 5 and was robbed by Georgiev in the first period. … The Capitals have only four games left outside the Eastern time zone.


    Capitals: Host Pittsburgh.

    Avalanche: Host Anaheim.