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Hurricanes will match offer sheet for Sebastian Aho

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Sebastian Aho will not become a member of the Montreal Canadiens. At least for the next year.

On Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they would be matching the offer sheet that Aho signed with the Canadiens on the opening day of NHL free agency. The team had seven days to make a decision, and they only needed one.

“This was an easy decision,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell in a statement. “Sebastian is one of the best players in the league and the centerpiece of what we’re building here. We’ve spoken to him throughout this process and he’s made it clear that he wants to be in Raleigh and be a part of this organization.

“It’s our job to manage our cap space as our players develop and hit free agency. There was no concern at any point that we would not be able to match this contract. Once again, the Carolina Hurricanes should not be underestimated. We have a plan and all the resources to win a Stanley Cup.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The five-year deal carrying an $8.454 million average annual value was designed creatively in hopes that the Hurricanes would not match. According to Pierre LeBrun, Aho, who will become an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires, is due $21.87 million in signing bonuses over the next year with a salary of $700,000 in the first two seasons and $750,000 in the final three. Per the terms of an offer sheet, he’s not eligible to be dealt for 12 months.

Had the Hurricanes not matched the offer, the Canadiens would have sent them a first-round pick, second-round pick and third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft as compensation.

“We’re surprised. We love the player and we’re happy to have this done. And surprised someone would have thought this would work,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon told the News and Observer. “We were never going to let him go. He didn’t want to go. This is just part of the business of getting the deal done. I said the day I bought the team and nothing has changed, he’s one of if not the most important part of our future and we’re lucky to have him.”

Waddell, who said on Monday he was surprised the offer sheet wasn’t larger, played coy a bit when asked how long he’d take to decide. While the Hurricanes’ release announced their “intention” to match, they could still take the full period to officially do so and hand over that signing bonus to Aho. This at least allows Bergevin and the Canadiens to know that the cap space they were saving for Aho is now free to be spent. They cannot, however, attempt another offer sheet until this matter is officially resolved.

By the way, the Canadiens visit the Hurricanes on Oct. 3 in Raleigh.

MORE: What should Habs do if they don’t get Aho?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canadiens sign Sebastian Aho to offer sheet; Hurricanes have week to match

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(UPDATE: The Hurricanes will be matching the offer sheet for Aho.)

For the first time in six years an NHL team has tendered an offer sheet to a restricted free agent.

The Montreal Canadiens announced on Monday that they have tendered a five-year contract to Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho that would carry a salary cap hit of $8.45 million per season.

General manager Marc Bergevin said that Aho has accepted the team’s offer and wants to be a part of the Canadiens.

”Sebastian Aho accepted our offer,” said Bergevin. “He wants to come to Montreal. He sees our youngsters coming up in the organization and he wants to be a part of that. We’re proud, but there’s still a waiting period.”

The Hurricanes have one week to match the offer.

If they do not match it they will receive one first-round pick, one second-round pick, and one third-round pick as compensation.

According to Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the contract is structured in a way so that Aho’s base salary would be between $700,000-$750,000 per season, with the rest of the money coming in the form of bonuses.

That includes approximately $21 million in bonuses in the first 12 months of the contract.

“When you make an offer like that, we saw a vulnerable position,” said Bergevin. “The offer, with the compensation and the youngsters we have, we realized that it was the best chance we had to get the player.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The total dollar amount in the contract shouldn’t be an issue for the Hurricanes to match, and it’s kind of surprising that the Canadiens went so low on the dollar amount if they were committed to tendering an offer sheet. If anything keeps the Hurricanes from matching the contract — and that is a big if — it might be the amount of money to be paid up front. Even then, that should not prohibit them from matching an offer for their franchise player, and if anything, it will probably just save them the trouble of having to go through an extended negotiation. The hard work should be done for them.

“I know my summer just got better,” reacted Hurricanes GM Don Waddell, who added he was surprised the offer wasn’t bigger. “I won’t have to spend all summer negotiating a contract. So we’ll make a decision on it and move on.”

Aho just completed his third season in the NHL and has shown consistent improvement every season. The 21-year-old scored 30 goals and added 53 assists this past season and was a major part of the Hurricanes unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Final.

This is the first offer sheet signed since Ryan O'Reilly was tendered one by the Calgary Flames in February of 2013 when he was involved in a contract dispute with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche matched that offer.

The last time a restricted free agent changed teams on an offer sheet was when Dustin Penner went from the Anaheim Ducks to the Edmonton Oilers during the 2007 offseason. That was the second offer sheet the Oilers signed that summer after the Buffalo Sabres matched their offer for Thomas Vanek.

Related: PHT Time Machine: Offer sheet history

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Here’s the compensation chart for RFA offer sheets

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According to James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail, the NHL has released compensation rates for teams that sign restricted free agents via offer sheets.

Same rules apply as previous years — teams with players under contract get the opportunity to match, yadda yadda — so all that’s really changed is the compensatory pick total, which Mirtle describes as a “moving target” that increases yearly based on NHL average salary.

From The Globe:

Here are the draft pick compensation figures for the 2012-13 season:

$1,110,249 or below – No Compensation

Over $1,110,249 to $1,682,194 – 3rd round pick

Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 – 2nd round pick

Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 – 1st round pick, 3rd

Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 – 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd

Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 – Two 1st Round Picks, 2nd, 3rd

Over $8,410,976 – Four 1st Round Picks

Historically speaking, RFA offer sheets have been more alluring in theory than practice. Many GMs consider them dirty pool and only six have been signed since the lockout: Ryan Kesler (Philadelphia), Thomas Vanek (Edmonton), Dustin Penner (Edmonton), David Backes (Vancouver), Steve Bernier (St. Louis) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (San Jose).

Penner was the only one to actually sign with the offer-sheeting team, a move that caused great acrimony between then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke and Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe.

Flyers will not extend offer sheet to Steven Stamkos

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There have been rumors over the last week that the Philadelphia Flyers were going to extend an offer sheet to Tampa Bay Lightning restricted free agent Steven Stamkos on July 1. A day before free agency opens, the rampant rumors can finally be put to bed once and for all. After three days of intense discussions within the organization, the Flyers will not submit an offer sheet for Stamkos.

Not that there’s been any confusion on the matter over the last few days.

Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren told CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio that the organization strongly considered the Stamkos option, but they have chosen to go in a different direction:

“We’re not going to do anything on it. We explored it and decided it’s not the way for us to go at this time.

“We’re excited about the additions we made and the direction we’re going right now. We’ll explore things tomorrow [when free agency begins] but a restricted free agency offer sheet is not the way we will go.”

People can make the argument that the real story is that the Flyers were so strongly considering the offer sheet to begin with. Sure, the organization has a reputation for throwing away first round draft picks like they were confetti, but there would have been plenty more to signing Stamkos this summer. Obviously, the first cost for Philadelphia would have been their next four first round draft picks if they were acquire the 21-year-old Ontario native. But as Holmgren intimated in his comments, the Flyers would probably have to move two more players to clear out enough cap space for Stamkos. Considering they’ve already moved would-be franchise centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter over the last week—and want to re-sign Ville Leino for next season—there would be a lot of moving parts for one player.

Not to mention the fact that Tampa Bay already announced they’d match any offer sheet.

Since the lockout, extending an offer sheet to a restricted free agent has been breaking an unwritten rule. Kevin Lowe was criticized when he went after Thomas Vanek and then-Ducks GM Brian Burke hammered him when he signed Dustin Penner to an offer sheet. Sharks GM made great use of offer sheets a year ago when he put the Chicago Blackhawks in a situation where they choose between Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Niemi. GMs have always been free to use offer sheets; but they understood that they used them at their own peril.

If any player were worth an offer sheet, Steven Stamkos is certainly in the running. The former #1 overall pick in 2008 was 2nd in the league last year with 45 goals and 5th in the league with 91 points. In 2009-10, he won the Maurice Richard Trophy by leading the league with 51 goals. No one in the league can match his 96 goals over the last two years—and he just barely hit the legal drinking age in February.

The Flyers can now turn their attention to other pressing matters. Since they are not going after Stamkos, there are already rumblings that they could make a play for Brad Richards when free agency opens at 12:00 ET on Friday. They still want to lock-up Ville Leino to an extension and need to come to terms with two new restricted free agents of their own in Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. No doubt there’s still plenty to do in Philly to keep GM Paul Holmgren busy.

For the Lightning, they’ll continue to negotiate with Stamkos and his agent until a deal is reached. According to Damian Cristodero at the St. Pete Times, the two sides have already met today and plan on meeting again tonight. Once the two sides agree on fair compensation for an NHL superstar coming off of his entry-level deal, GM Steve Yzerman will be able to turn his attention to the rest of his team that was only 1 goal away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Keeping Stamkos around is obviously the first step to getting back.

Why chasing Steven Stamkos could be an ‘exercise in futility’ for Flyers, rest of NHL

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For at least the next two nights, the hockey rumor mill will crank out ridiculous ideas about who might target pending restricted free agent star Steven Stamkos. Some people will also find convoluted ways to argue that Stamkos dislikes being a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning; others simply will find ways to think up wacky offers that GM Steve Yzerman cannot stomach.

That being said, it seems like any rumor is semi-reasonable about at least one team: the Philadelphia Flyers. GM Paul Holmgren stunned the hockey world by trading two of their best players (and nicest salary cap bargains) in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last week, leaving many to wonder if there are any boundaries to the team’s strange dealings.

With that in mind, it seems necessary to at least ponder the far-fetched (let’s repeat that: far-fetched) notion of the Flyers throwing an expensive offer sheet at Stamkos. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio took the temperature of the team’s brass on that high-risk, high-reward subject in this story.

“A lot of indecision within a very decisive group, which isn’t like the Flyers,” said a source with knowledge of the talks.

The Flyers can’t decide among themselves whether it’s in their best interests to make an offer.

While the aggressive (and occasionally illogical) Flyers front office struggles with the pros and cons of making such a decision, they might want to ask themselves an important question: how much do they really want to waste their own time?

Look, if the last week or so taught us anything, it’s that desperate teams will do some crazy things if they think it will improve their chances. That being said, Yzerman must be aware of how damaging it would be to lose a star of the present and future like Steven Stamkos. If Stamkos isn’t a once-in-a-generation player, he’s at least likely to earn Hall of Fame consideration whenever he retires.

Maybe a team will mess up the Lightning’s collective balance by sending a maximum salary-type offer sheet Stamkos’ way, but Panaccio does a good job in capturing how unlikely it would be for any other squad to snatch Stamkos away.

“Whoever does this, Tampa has to match,” said the source. “It’s a bad position, but you have no choice. If you don’t sign this player in that market, you are guaranteeing yourself you have no upside with your fans. Yzerman knows that.”

So do the Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

“I cannot believe Philly is seriously considering an offer sheet,” said one prominent person familiar with the talks. “[Owner Jeff] Vinik is a billionaire. Tampa will match any amount. It’s an exercise in futility.”

That’s the key phrase: “exercise in futility.” Since the Lightning will probably match any offer sent Stamkos’ way, there’s really only one motive in sending an offer sheet: to hurt Tampa Bay’s depth. Perhaps a gargantuan Stamkos deal might cause the team to part ways with Vincent Lecavalier after they resisted moving him (and his bloated contract) for all this time. Maybe keeping Stamkos means parting with some combination of Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell and/or Simon Gagne.

But let’s be clear about this: a 2011-12 Lightning team without Stamkos is almost unfathomable. Give the possibility a 1 percent chance. Then again, as the Flyers and Florida Panthers showed us during the last week, the implausible can become possible in the NHL.

(Don’t bet on it happening in this case, though.)