Canadiens’ Bergevin Has Much to Consider Before Matching Offer

Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi has signed in offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes for $6.1 million. This leaves Canadiens general manager (GM), Marc Bergevin, in a precarious position as to whether he should match the offer or let Kotkaniemi go. Bergevin will have seven days to make his decision, and will need to consider all the options and scenarios to determine what is best for the Canadiens — not just for this season but also for the long term.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It would be wrong to get upset with Kotkaniemi for signing the deal — he will be making three times more in Carolina than his projected signing would have been with the Canadiens. If the Canadiens do not match, they will receive a first and third-round pick for the 2022 draft as compensation.

Bergevin Started a Fire With Carolina

Diving into this offer sheet from the Hurricanes, there are hints that this could be out of spite or be revenge for the Canadiens putting in an offer sheet for Sebastian Aho in 2019. The Canadiens offered Aho $42.27 million with an annual average value (AAV) of $8.454 million. This also included the maximum allowable amount for a signing bonus of $21 million. The signing bonus was the part the Canadiens hoped Carolina wished to avoid and therefore not match the offer. The Hurricanes did match the offer, though, and Aho remained in Carolina.

Marc Bergevin Canadiens
Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens general manager (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fast-forward to 2021: Kotkaniemi is a restricted free agent (RFA), and Carolina offers him a $6.1 million offer sheet, which of course, he signs. Some immediately see this as revenge for the Aho offer sheet, and they could be right. The signing bonus for Kotkaniemi was $20. Not $20 million but $20, which is definitely a little tongue in cheek. The statement made by Carolina’s GM Don Waddell was very similar to Bergevin’s after he announced the offer sheet to Aho. In the end, hockey is a business, and Carolina made an offer. Now Bergevin must decide what to do.

Bergevin Must Answer Lots of Questions

Many questions need answering before making a decision. The first and foremost is, can Kotkaniemi be replaced? This question is important due to the lack of experienced depth down the middle. The Canadiens have to determine if they can swing a trade for a legitimate number two centermen and what they would be willing to give up for one. They would have two first-round picks to dangle at teams, but only after they didn’t match the offer. They need to know before making the decision, making this a difficult question.

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The second question is the money. Is Kotkaniemi worth the $6.1 million, or will he be in the near future? Can the Canadiens sign him to a better team deal the next season when he’s still an RFA? How will this affect signing Nick Suzuki next season? The $6.1 million this season could be easily soaked up; the issue with the money will be the qualifying offer next season, which will be no less than $6.1 million unless Bergevin can sign him to a long-term deal at a lower cap hit. As of now, Kotkaniemi isn’t worth the money he’s going to get, but he could be relatively soon. When that future is unknown, but the Canadiens feel Suzuki is their number one guy, Kotkaniemi’s contract becomes an issue if they match the offer.

Nick Suzuki Montreal Canadiens
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The last question is whether or not the Canadiens feel that Kotkaniemi is worth first- and third-round picks on the open market. Based on potential and stats, probably not; this really shouldn’t decide whether or not they match, but something to take into consideration. If the Canadiens don’t think he’s worth the money but value the draft picks, they don’t match. If they think the opposite, then obviously they match the offer. If they don’t think he is worth either, they don’t match and consider the picks as a bonus. Before making a decision, Bergevin must answer these crucial questions in the next few days.

To Match or Not to Match, That Is the Question

So will Bergevin match or let Kotkaniemi go to the Hurricanes? To some on social media, this is an easy choice; it’s too much money so let him go. However, the reality is that many factors are going into the decision other than money. Bergevin will have to determine how much faith and confidence they have in Kotkaniemi going into next season and whether or not they believe he is their second-line center of the future.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Personally, I wouldn’t match the offer. I think the Canadiens are better off in the future if they don’t, but I’m not Marc Bergevin, and I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes or even remotely know what it’s like to be a GM. Bergevin will factor in all the information he has and determine what he will do from now on. If Bergevin submits an offer sheet to Martin Necas in 2022, assuming he signs an extension, another chapter will be added to an entertaining and somewhat silly hockey feud.

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