The recent Montreal Canadiens’ offer sheet to Sebastian Aho that the Carolina Hurricanes matched Saturday was the hope of a team to take advantage of its owner. No one was quite sure what to make of billionaire owner Tom Dundon and whether he would be willing to pay up for his franchise. His early reputation made many wonder if he would be willing to pay a significant amount of money up front and Aho’s offer sheet was frontloaded with $21MM being paid out in the first 12 months of the deal. However, Dundon proved that he is willing to pay for his team as he matched the offer sheet, but it could start a precedent.
While an offer sheet to another player this year remains possible as there are a number of restricted free agents out there looking for a big contract, but the chances of a second offer sheet this offseason seems unlikely. However, many teams may look at Montreal’s plan to target an owner who may not want to pay up and that opportunity could present itself next season in Ottawa and owner Eugene Melnyk.
The Senators have seen their young defenseman Thomas Chabot develop into a star in his second season in the NHL last year. The 22-year-old broke out with a 14-goal, 55-point season and made fans quickly forget about the loss of Erik Karlsson. Now in the final year of his entry-level deal, he will become a restricted free agent next offseason. The Athletic’s Chris Stevenson (subscription required) reported last week that Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion didn’t seem worried about signing Chabot to an extension.
“I think we get too much caught up with contract talks in this city,” said Dorion. “We know what we have to do. We’ll get it done. It’s not like he’s a UFA. He’s an RFA. We have a plan in place along with all our RFAs that are up this year, we’ve had a plan and we’re going to meet it sometime over the course of the summer.”
Chabot could have signed an extension on July 1 and the fact that Ottawa hasn’t already done so could present a problem, according to Stevenson. Chabot is likely to be a prime target by other teams in one year to target for an offer sheet as many know of Melnyk’s penny-pinching ways. A front-loaded offer sheet is a very realistic possibility and it’s likely that Chabot and his representation knows this and may be very willing to take advantage of Ottawa, which has made it clear that they intend to lock up their young talent this time around as they are in the middle of their five-year rebuilding plan. It was Melnyk’s lack of willingness to pay up that led Ottawa to lose most of their top talent, including Karlsson, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman in the past year.
If Ottawa can’t lock up Chabot soon, the Senators could easily lose control of the situation as many teams wouldn’t mind adding a franchise-changing defenseman with a high-priced up-front offer sheet next season.