Stieg Larsson once said “To exact revenge for yourself or your friends is not only a right, it’s an absolute duty.” As we continue through the NHL offseason, the Montreal Canadiens might have an absolute duty on their hands to exact revenge.
In order to understand the context, we need to go back in time three years. It was July 1, 2019 and free agency was about to get into full swing. The Canadiens decided to make some major news. They dropped an offer sheet on Carolina Hurricanes’ star forward Sebastian Aho.
A Quick History Lesson
The offer sheet was for an AAV of $8.454 million for five years. The Hurricanes had seven days to match. Then GM Marc Bergevin didn’t mince his words when it came to Aho. “He’s a player who wants to come to Montreal,” Bergevin said of the offer sheet. “It was an offer that he did not have to accept, so for him it’s an offer that for the value he sees in himself, the group of young players coming up in our organization, he wants to be part of that. He’s 21, he’ll turn 22 this summer.”
Hurricanes GM Don Waddell fired right back after seeing the offer sheet.
“It’s certainly a surprise. It’s a surprise it wasn’t more,” Waddell said. “I know my summer just got better, because I’m not going to be negotiating a contract all summer. We make a decision and move on.”
Six days later, Waddell and the Hurricanes made their decision. They stuck to their word.
The Hurricanes matched the offer sheet on Aho keeping him in Carolina. In the end, it was an easy decision for everyone involved.
“I’m just relieved that it’s done and Sebastian’s not going to have to worry about this anymore. He’s a great player and a big asset for us,” owner Tom Dundon said.
“We said all along that we would match any contract offer,” Waddell said. “It should come as no surprise from anybody that we are (matching) it.” Then in one last shot to the Canadiens, Waddell said that Aho “never wanted to leave Raleigh.”
While this situation was fun while it lasted as we finally got to see an actual offer sheet presented, we all thought this was the end. But in a plot twist, it was only the beginning. It seemed the Hurricanes wanted to get some revenge. A little more than two years later, they struck.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the third-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, was given a one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet by the Hurricanes. The Canadiens now had seven days to match. Like Bergevin before, Waddell didn’t mince his words.
“Jesperi Kotkaniemi accepted our offer. He wants to come to Carolina,” Waddell said. “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.”
Familiar sounding words, right? But then the Hurricanes took it even a step further and offered Kotkaniemi a $20 signing bonus, the same number as Aho. Not only did Waddell not forget about the Aho offer sheet, he wanted to make sure the Canadiens never forgot it either. He got his revenge. But unlike the Aho offer sheet, the Canadiens elected not to match allowing the player to join the Hurricanes.
Yes, Bergevin might be gone. But don’t think the Canadiens have forgotten about this series of events. In fact, they are now in a position to exact some revenge of their own. How crazy would that be? Given what’s led to this, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for this to happen.
The Canadiens should send the Hurricanes a revenge offer sheet. The target? 23-year old forward Martin Necas.
Let’s set the scene for you. On the surface, the Hurricanes appear to have more than ample cap room to answer any offer sheet thrown their way. As of this writing, they have over $19.3 million in cap space available.
But looks can be deceiving. They are in this case. Not only do they have to fill out their roster, they have the eventual task of signing Aho to a long-term deal after the 2023-24 season coming off an AAV of $8.46 million. That’s going to be a doozy.
So from an actual dollars available standpoint, it’s considerably less than what we see. Necas is coming off his rookie deal and due a considerable raise given he’s reached 40 points the last two seasons and averaging 15 goals in his first three seasons. The talent is tantalizing.
It’s the perfect opportunity for the Canadiens to come in and send a massive offer sheet to the Hurricanes. It makes sense from a roster perspective. The Canadiens need young talent to build around. Necas would fit that perfectly. Plus if the offer sheet is high enough, it would put Waddell and the Hurricanes in a tough spot knowing what’s coming. Also if the offer comes in higher than what Waddell thinks Necas is worth, the Hurricanes won’t match.
The Canadiens would be perfectly justified in doing this too. They’re likely thinking “if you take someone from us, we’ll take someone from you.” It’s the perfect opportunity to exact revenge from having the third-overall pick taken from them in this manner.
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Two questions have to be considered though. First, would this new management under Kent Hughes go down this road? Second, what is the cap situation of the Canadiens and can they swing something like this? I don’t see the cap being a problem especially if Jeff Petry and Josh Anderson are dealt. It also depends on the health of Carey Price. But there are paths available that will lead to the needed cap space to pull this off.
In all, the Canadiens have the leverage and are in position to exact revenge from August 2021 should they choose to go down that road. Given the skill set of Necas, they should go down this road as he would improve their team.
Seriously, how chaotic would that be if this actually happened? Given the history of these two teams, it cannot be ruled out. It would make for amazing theatre that would set the hockey world on fire.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.