The Carolina Hurricanes wasted no time in announcing the inevitable.
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes confirmed that they intend to match the offer sheet that Sebastian Aho agreed to with the Montreal Canadiens less than 24 hours prior. Aho’s new contract, a five-year deal, will pay him a total of $42.27 million at an average annual value of $8.454 million.
The wording is key: the Hurricanes did not confirm that they had in fact formally notified the league that they have matched the offer sheet, and with a seven-day window to match as stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement, it seems likely that the Hurricanes will let the Canadiens twist in the wind for the next week before finalizing the match next Monday.
The vast majority of the offer sheet is tied up in signing bonuses. Aho will make the league minimum salary for each season through 2024, with signing bonuses as follows: $11.3 million in 2019, $9.87 million in 2020, $6.95 million in 2021, and $5.25 million each in 2022 and 2023.
“It’s certainly a surprise,” said Waddell. “I’m actually surprised [the AAV] wasn’t more. In time we will figure it out.”
Waddell and Aho’s agent, Gerry Johansson, met in Vancouver at the NHL Draft just more than a week ago, but that was their final face-to-face meeting. Johansson informed Waddell on Friday that no counter offer was coming from the Aho camp, which made Waddell think that this eventuality would come to pass.
As previously reported by multiple outlets including Canes Country, the term of Aho’s new deal was more of a concern to the team than the salary. “Sebastian is our best player and we certainly want to keep him long term,” Waddell said. “It’s not surprising; on an offer sheet five years is the term that makes the most sense. We’ve always talked about [going] long term, but I know my summer just got better because I’m not going to spend all summer negotiating a contract.”
The offer sheet is a rarely used bit of business in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, and Aho’s offer sheet is the first to be tendered in the league since 2013, when the Colorado Avalanche matched an offer from the Calgary Flames for Ryan O’Reilly. Only one offer sheet has been matched since the 2005-06 lockout, Dustin Penner’s deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 2007. Ironically, Waddell was on the receiving end of an offer sheet from his current employer in 1998, when the Hurricanes submitted an offer sheet on Red Wings forward Sergei Fedorov.
Aho’s new deal will buy out one year of unrestricted free agency for the forward, who is first eligible for UFA status in the 2023 offseason. No-trade and no-movement clauses are not allowed in contracts under the most recent CBA for players who have not yet achieved the age or service time required for unrestricted free agency, so Aho’s new deal will, at most, include a NTC or NMC for only its final season.
In other news Monday, Waddell said that restricted free agent forward Brock McGinn has filed for arbitration, which means he will be under contract to the Hurricanes next season in some form. The team is also in on pursuing goaltenders Petr Mrazek and Robin Lehner, indicating that they’ve been in contact with the players’ representatives. Waddell seemed confident that they would strike a deal with one of the two.
With Alex Nedeljkovic now under contract and RFA Anton Forsberg brought in to provide competition, Waddell said that the Hurricanes will follow the same roadmap that brought them success last season. “We’ve learned over the years you can’t have too many goalies,” he said. “Our goal here is to win games, so we have to make sure we give ourselves the best opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it’s a two-way (contract) or a one-way, we have to be the best we can possibly be.”
The release from the team regarding Aho’s new contract is below.
CANES WILL MATCH OFFER SHEET FOR AHO
Deal will pay forward $42.27 million over five years
Don Waddell, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced the team’s intention to match the Montreal Canadiens’ offer sheet to forward Sebastian Aho within the timeframe allowed by the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. By matching the offer sheet, the Hurricanes will re-sign Aho to a five-year, $42.27 million contract. The deal runs through the 2023-24 season and carries an average annual value of $8.454 million.
“This was an easy decision,” said Waddell.“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.”
Aho, 21, registered 83 points (30g, 53a) in 82 games with the Hurricanes in 2018-19. The 6’0”, 176-pound center set career highs in goals, assists and points last season, and became just the sixth player in franchise history to record at least 30 goals and 50 assists in the same season. Aho also became the fourth player in franchise history to record 80 points in a season before turning 22 and the seventh player in franchise history to score 30 goals in a season before his 22nd birthday. He averaged more time on ice (20:09) and took more faceoffs (1,204) than any other Carolina forward in 2018-19. In addition to leading the Hurricanes in points during the regular season, Aho led the team in postseason scoring with 12 points (5g, 7a) in 15 games as Carolina advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.
Aho began the 2018-19 regular season with a 12-game point/assist streak from Oct. 4 to Oct. 30 (4g, 13a). His run set franchise records for longest assist streak and longest season-opening point streak and tied the NHL record held by Wayne Gretzky and Ken Linseman for the longest season-opening assist streak. For his efforts, he was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week on Oct. 15. He went on to add five point streaks of four games or longer, and he was held without a point in three straight games just once all season. Aho registered 20 multi-point games in 2018-19, including his second-career hat trick against Nashville on Jan. 13 and four four-point games. He scored a career-high four shorthanded goals last season, which is tied for the second-highest single-season total in franchise history and the most by a Carolina player since 2005-06, when Justin Williams and Eric Staal each scored four.
The Rauma, Finland, native has recorded 197 points (83g, 114a) in 242 career NHL games with the Hurricanes. He has posted the third-most points through three seasons among Finnish-born players in NHL history, trailing only Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne. Aho has represented his home country at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 IIHF World Championships, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and the 2015 and 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships. He won gold with Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship and silver at the 2016 IIHF World Championship. Aho was selected by the Hurricanes in the second round, 35th overall, of the 2015 NHL Draft.