Sebastian Aho

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PHT Morning Skate: Juggling owners wishes, team success; Aftermath of Aho

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Trading Alexander Nylander became inevitable. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Making a team good and juggling the wishes of an owner can be difficult for general managers. (Yahoo Sports)

• Sabres have built a formidable right side on defense, but something needs to be done to address the logjam now. (Die by the Blade)

• Having done what he can to make his team competitive next season, Jim Benning should now find a way to get rid of Loui Eriksson. (Sportsnet)

• Another chapter in the Jesse Puljujarvi saga. (Oilers Nation)

• Darryl Sutter saying it’s not a big deal he’s joining the Anaheim Ducks is a very Darryl Sutter thing to say. (LA Times)

• The aftermath of Sebastian Aho and that offer sheet. (Section 328)

• Hurricanes hoping to build off breakout season. (NHL.com)

• Bruce Boudreau is exploring his newfound options with Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman. (StarTribune)

• Question: What does the Danton Heinen signing mean? (FanSided)

• A shorter courting period and an earlier opening to free agency? It could be coming. (The Hockey News)

• Second buyout window for the New York Rangers is looming large. (Elite Sports NY)

• A look at the Canucks and their salary cap crunch. (Daily Hive)

• The Winnipeg Jets should have an Atlanta Thrashers night. (Jets Nation)

• Rangers, Islanders take different approaches for engaging female youth hockey players. (The Ice Garden)

• Why Bryan Hicks was chosen to lead the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. (ESPN W)

Seth Jones: a year in review. (1st Ohio Battery)

• Can Travis Dermott be the new top-pairing defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs? (FanSided)

• New Senators defenceman Nikita Zaitsev plans on doing his talking on the ice. (Ottawa Citizen)

• Analyzing Victor Mete’s role as a top-pairing defenseman. (Eyes on the Prize)

• Winning > new arena for the Arizona Coyotes this summer. (AZ Central)

• QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads hire J.J. Daigneault as head coach. (Halifax Mooseheads)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Power Rankings: Looking at every NHL team’s offseason

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With the 2019 NHL Draft in the rear-view mirror and all of the major unrestricted free agents signed, it is time to check in on how each team has improved (or failed to improve) so far this offseason.

In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we will be taking a look at the teams that have done the most (and the least) to get better.

Before we get to the rankings we do need to specify something very important: This is NOT a ranking of where each team stands in the league in terms of Stanley Cup contender or playoff status, or a ranking of how good each team is overall. It is simply a look at which teams have had the best and worst offseasons. If you have had a good offseason, you rank high. If you had a bad offseason, you rank low.

Obviously there is still time this summer for teams to get better (or worse), but this is simply a progress report of where their offseason stands right now.

Teams that are significantly better

1. New York Rangers. It would be difficult to have a better offseason than the one the Rangers have had. They added one of the league’s top offensive players (Artemi Panarin), a potential superstar thanks to some draft lottery luck (Kaapo Kakko), and a top-four defender (Jacob Trouba). They did all of that while giving up nothing of significance from their NHL roster. Is it a playoff team this season? That probably depends on how much Henrik Lundqvist has left in the tank, but they are close.

2. New Jersey Devils. Jack Hughes and P.K. Subban joining a core that already has Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall makes the Devils a fascinating team to watch. Now they just need to find a way to keep Hall beyond this season. Like the Rangers they may not be a playoff team this season, but they are definitely improved.

3. Colorado Avalanche. Losing Tyson Barrie off the blue line might hurt, but the Avalanche are loaded with young, impact defenders and by trading Barrie they found a perfect second-line center (Nazem Kadri) to complement Nathan MacKinnon … as long as Kadri stays on the ice and out of the player safety office. Along with the additions of Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky they now have some actual scoring depth to support their big three.

4. Dallas Stars. It would not be an NHL offseason without general manager Jim Nill raising another offseason championship banner. Even if Joe Pavelski shows some signs of decline and regresses from his 38-goal output this past season he is still just what the league’s most top-heavy team needed.

5. Arizona Coyotes. Phil Kessel is the big, headline-grabbing addition but Carl Soderberg could be a nice depth pickup as well. Even if Kessel starts to slow down he should still be able to run the Coyotes’ power play and make a significant impact.

Teams that are probably better

6. Florida Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky‘s contract will almost certainly be an albatross on their salary cap in the next three or four years and probably end up in a buyout, but he might get them to the playoffs a couple of times before that. Bobrovsky is the big name, but don’t sleep on Anton Stralman and Brett Connolly as depth additions.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs. Their salary cap concerns were always overblown and they were always going to find a way to get out of them. They not only shed a lot of bad contracts and almost certainly created enough space to re-sign Mitch Marner, but they also managed to add a much-needed top-defender in Barrie. Jason Spezza may not be what he once was, but he should be fine as a third-line center for this team.

8. Chicago Blackhawks. The worst defensive team in the league made two solid additions in Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan, then found a starting caliber goalie that just so happened to be a Vezina Trophy finalist this past season.

9. Minnesota Wild. Still do not understand the direction Paul Fenton has this team going in, but Mats Zuccarello is a definite upgrade in the short-term.

10. Nashville Predators. Matt Duchene is a nice addition and gives them another impact forward that might help a dreadful power play. So why only “probably” better? Because they had to trade an impact defender for almost nothing to be able to sign him. How much better you think the Predators are depends on whether or not you think they needed Duchene more than Subban. Or, probably more accurately, if you think Duchene is that much more valuable than Subban.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Good teams that have stayed the same

11. St. Louis Blues. It has been a quiet offseason for the champs, adding nothing of significance and losing nothing of significance. Nothing wrong with that when you are parading the Stanley Cup around.

12. Boston Bruins. The Bruins look to be returning mostly the same roster next season, and it will still be a Stanley Cup contender.

13. Carolina Hurricanes. Some musical chairs in net, but there should not be much of a drop off. The big win this offseason was Montreal helping them out with Sebastian Aho’s new contract.

14. Washington Capitals. Radko Gudas is probably a better player than Matt Niskanen at this stage of his career. Andre Burakovsky never panned out, but they made a couple of solid depth signings to fill his spot.

15. Calgary Flames. Still a potential Stanley Cup team with one pretty massive flaw in net.

Bad teams that are marginally better

16. Buffalo Sabres. Colin Miller, Marcus Johansson, and Jimmy Vesey are all solid additions for what amounts to very little in cost. That is the good news. The bad news this team still has a long way to go before it is a serious threat in the Atlantic Division or Eastern Conference Wild Card races.

17. Vancouver Canucks. J.T. Miller is pretty good and an upgrade for their forward group, but does this team, in this position, in this stage of its rebuild, need to be doing things like trading a future first-round draft pick or giving Tyler Myers a five-year, $30 million contract? It’s like … you’re kinda better, but what’s the point? The Jim Benning era, folks.

Good Teams that have gotten worse

18. Pittsburgh Penguins. Does swapping Phil Kessel and Olli Maatta for Alex Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun, and Brandon Tanev move you closer to a Stanley Cup? You should have serious doubts about that. At least the speculation on trading Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang turned out to be just that and nothing ever came from it.

19. San Jose Sharks. Keeping Erik Karlsson is significant, but losing Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and returning the same starting goalie is also significant … for the wrong reasons.

20. Tampa Bay Lightning. The salary cap crunch and the RFA status of Brayden Point has resulted in some subtractions to the roster and no significant additions. That makes them a little worse simply by default, but they are still going to be one of the top teams in the league. Instead of 60 games, they might win … 50? 55?

21. Winnipeg Jets. I don’t really want to call Kevin Hayes a “loss” since he only played 20 regular season games with the team, but they have lost a lot off of their blue line with very little coming in to replace it.

22. Vegas Golden Knights. They are going to miss Colin Miller, and might really miss out on Nikita Gusev if they move him before they even realize what they had.

23. New York Islanders. They kept all of their key unrestricted free agent forwards, but going from Robin Lehner to Semyon Varlamov in net could be a huge downgrade. Given how important goaltending was to the Islanders’ success this past season that could be a problem.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets. The free agent exodus that everyone expected to happen took place with the departures of Panarin, Bobrovsky, and Duchene (and probably Ryan Dzingel). Gustav Nyquist is a fine pickup on a pretty fair deal, but they still lost a ton. And they still do not have a clear replacement for Bobrovsky.

Bad teams that have stayed the same 

25. Montreal Canadiens. The Aho offer sheet had us excited for about 20 minutes until we realized it was just a waste of everyone’s time. The only solution now is to try and offer sheet someone else!

26. Philadelphia Flyers. Kevin Hayes isn’t bad, but there is no way he plays out that seven-year contract in Philadelphia. They added Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen to their defense about four years after they should have. In the end, downgrading the defense (which I think they did) kind of cancels out whatever upgrade Hayes might be at forward. They have made a lot of transactions to remain right where they were.

27. Edmonton Oilers. Based on the moves this offseason (as well as the lack of moves) it seems likely that another prime season of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is about to be wasted. Such a shame.

28. Ottawa Senators. They brought in a bunch of new faces but nothing that is going to prevent this team from continuing to be one of the worst in the league.

29. Detroit Red Wings. Steve Yzerman has a lot of work to do and has been fairly quiet this summer.

30. Anaheim Ducks. They had to get rid of Corey Perry’s contract, but they still have a ton of money tied up in players on the wrong side of 30 (or very close to 30).

31. Los Angeles Kings. So far their effort to rebuild and get younger has involved trading Jake Muzzin and buying out Dion Phaneuf. The longer they drag their feet in gutting this roster the longer this team will remain in the basement.

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.

Hurricanes make it official, match Aho offer sheet

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Sebastian Aho will not become a Montreal Canadien.

In one of hockey’s worst kept secrets over the past week, the Carolina Hurricanes officially matched an offer sheet for their superstar forward on Sunday after Canadiens threw a wrench into the mix last week when they put forth an offer sheet for Aho’s services.

The deal came in right under the third tier threshold — an annual average value of $8.45 million or some $871 under the limit — meaning that if Hurricanes would have agreed to let Aho go, they’d received a first, second and third-round pick in 2020 from the Canadiens as compensation.

The offer sheet also meant that Aho agreed to the terms of the contract, including the money. For that price — given than some had Aho in the $10 million range per season — it seems he would have been happy to play with the Habs had the Hurricanes not matched it.

On Sunday, however, they did.

“I am grateful for the offer from the Montreal Canadiens, but it was always my hope to return to the Hurricanes,” Aho told NHL.com. “As a restricted free agent, I had limited options for moving along the process to get a deal done. It was always important to me to be on the ice for the first day of training camp. This entire situation has been difficult for me and my family, and I am happy it is at an end.

“We have a young and exciting group in Carolina and I can’t wait to be there with my teammates and get to work. I love it in Raleigh and I am thrilled that we can continue what we started last season.”

With a day to spare to make the decision, it was one that was already made much earlier last week.

The Hurricanes announced they’d match it on July 1, just a day after Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens tendered the offer.

“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.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

“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.”

Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said the team was both surprised and happy to have the deal done.

“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.”

With a week to digest the first offer sheet since 2013, some have wondered why the Canadiens didn’t go bigger and bolder if they wanted to actually sign the player.

To move to the next tier, they would have been able to offer Aho upward of $10.5 million while only giving up a second first-round draft pick as compensation.

Given the talents Aho possesses, it seems like a no-brainer and still falls short of the final tier where a team would have to give up four consecutive first-round picks for a deal worth over that $10.5 million amount. If nothing else, it would have put more pressure on the Hurricanes to commit.

It’s hard to envision a world where they would have just let Aho go, but if you’re going to try, why not at least go all-in?

Carolina had seven days to match the deal. Montreal is now free to throw another iron into the fire if they so choose.

Meanwhile, Aho is about to be a very, very rich man.

He’s over $21 million in the first year of the contract — all a part of two signing bonuses.

And this deal takes Aho right up to unrestricted free agency. In five year’s time, he will have the world at his feet throwing bags of money his way to obtain his services. At 21, Aho will just be entering his prime, so he takes a little less now and will likely have a larger salary cap and, by extension, a massive deal waiting for him on the other side.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

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.

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

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

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin caused quite a stir on Monday when he submitted an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes restricted free agent Sebastian Aho. But what’s next? Well, the Habs just have to sit and wait for the ‘Canes to make a decision.

What happens if the Hurricanes decide to match the Canadiens’ five-year, $42.27 million offer for Aho? What does Bergevin do next? Can he still make a move or two this week? There’s so many questions that need to be answered.

Before the offer sheet was signed, the Habs had $11.806 million in cap space. If Carolina doesn’t match, Montreal will have $3.352 million in cap space remaining, but CBA rules allow teams to spend 10 percent above the cap until the start of the upcoming season. So if Bergevin wants to dip his toe into the free-agent waters while waiting for a decision on Aho, he can do it but it doesn’t sound like he wants to.

“Like you mentioned, (other) guys are getting signed. But you can’t when you have that cap space tied up, you can’t go out and spend it and then you get the player and then you’re in that position,” Bergevin said on Monday, per the Montreal Gazette. “So you need to be smart. And that’s the risk we take. Yeah, the chair’s going to be gone by the time … but that’s the business we’re in. But we felt even though if it doesn’t happen we still have a very good hockey team.”

And whether they get Aho or not, the Canadiens still have needs.

They have to find a left-handed puck-moving defenseman that’s capable of playing next to captain Shea Weber. Many have linked Jake Gardiner to the Habs but that hasn’t happened yet. Gardiner would command about $6 million or $7 million per year, which Montreal could easily digest if they don’t get Aho. Will Gardiner still be around in a week? Probably not.

They could also look to make a trade for a left-handed blueliner. T.J. Brodie‘s name has been out there over the last few weeks. Could they figure out a way to get him out of Calgary? That’s entirely possible. Whether it’s Brodie, Gardiner or someone else, Bergevin has to find a way to improve the left side of his defense. That’s the most pressing need after adding some scoring.

As much as Bergevin says he likes his roster, he can’t deny that improvements will have to be made if they’re going to make the playoffs. The Canadiens missed the postseason by a point in 2018-19, and outside of adding goaltender Keith Kinkaid, and trading Andrew Shaw and Nicholas Deslauriers, they haven’t done much to tweak the roster.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Non-playoff teams like the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers have all made significant acquisitions to bolster their teams. Can the Habs sneak into the postseason without making at least one major move?

Clearly, they liked Aho and felt like they could put Carolina in a difficult spot with their creative, signing-bonus heavy offer. It was a great and aggressive idea, but one that’s not guaranteed to work out in their favor.

“I looked at the options, what was available, and that’s what as an organization we looked at the closest and we identified that Sebastian Aho was the player,” Bergevin said. “And then, after the window opened, we were able to talk and he wanted to be here in Montreal. He agreed to this, he believed it’s a really good offer for him and he wants to be part of the Montreal Canadiens.”

Here’s the biggest question for Montreal right now: Would they extend an offer sheet to a second player if they don’t get Aho?

Could they go after Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning? They’ve made it clear that they’d prefer going the RFA route, so could he be an option? This would be a different kind of offer sheet, but one that could still put the Tampa Bay Lightning in a tough situation. The Bolts have the hard cash to pay Point, but it’s the cap space that they’re lacking. Would Point even be willing to leave Tampa for Montreal? That’s a different story altogether.

For now, all Montreal can do is wait.

MORE: Canadiens sign Sebastian Aho to offer sheet

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.