July 7: The Carolina Hurricanes have officially announced that they have matched the Montreal Canadiens offer sheet, as expected. This will free up the cap room that Montreal had tied up in the offer sheet for the last five days.
July 2: It may come as little surprise but the Carolina Hurricanes are set to match the Montreal Canadiens offer sheet signed yesterday by Sebastian Aho. Aho will remain part of the Hurricanes organization and will now be on a five-year, $42.27MM contract that takes him to unrestricted free agency in 2024. The Hurricanes will not be allowed to trade Aho for one year. The important part of the release for Montreal fans is that the Hurricanes will likely take the entire week allowed to formally submit the paperwork. Carolina GM Don Waddell explained the decision:
This was an easy decision. 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, has developed into a premiere offensive talent in the NHL through his three seasons and will now be paid like one. The deal will carry an $8.454MM cap hit throughout, but also includes more than $38MM in signing bonuses. Aho will earn the minimum NHL salary in each season, earning the rest of his money in a lump sum every July. That structure is what was included by the Canadiens in a hope to steal Aho away from Carolina, or at least what was negotiated in by his agent in order to facilitate a deal. The Hurricanes and their star center will now not have to go through a summer of contract talks, instead having things resolved by a third party.
The deal actually doesn’t represent a real over-payment by the Hurricanes, in fact some have dubbed it a bargain after some of the numbers that had been floating around attached to this year’s restricted free agent crop. Aho will slot in as the 25th-highest cap hit in the league for the time being, right between Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux. After his 83-point season in 2018-19 he deserves to be considered among that group, especially after moving to center full-time.
A downside to the deal for the Hurricanes though is the length. It will buy out just a single season of unrestricted free agency and could have him poised to start a bidding war for his services if the team can’t work out an extension down the line. While that is years away from consideration, having a contract thrust upon you in this manner is not an optimal situation.