It is probably not a good sign for the hoped-for success of your offer sheet when the team on the receiving end of it dunks on you — in two languages — less than two hours later.
So it came to pass that the Canadiens’ bonus-laden offer sheet for Sebastian Aho, worth an average of $8.454 million against the cap for the next five years, was matched with an almost quizzical fervor. Every quote out of the Hurricanes camp was basically along the lines of, “Did they really think this would work?”
Yeah, it was the first offer sheet in the NHL since Ryan O’Reilly got one from Calgary in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, but if you never even gave the other team something to think about, some sort of cause for concern when matching it, then what was the point?
Aho way too important for Hurricanes to lose
The Canadiens were clearly banking on Tom Dundon being loath to cut Aho $21-plus million in bonus checks over the next 364 days, but if he’s just lighting tens of millions more than that on fire to fund a doomed-to-fail football league, that’s still couch-cushion money to a subprime auto loan billionaire. Marc Bergevin also might have been banking on the shorter-than-max term — five years instead of seven, or eight if the Hurricanes had gotten to him first — being a source of anxiety, but the money’s so good that two fewer years was never going to matter.
But the insta-reaction from every pundit, and the team itself, told the story: Aho’s a steal at $8.454 million, because if he had been a UFA, he would have blown Artemi Panarin’s deal out of the damn water. This is a 21-year-old coming off a 30-goal, point-a-game season who truly does it all for Carolina. And to lock him down for that kind of short money over a five-year period while Mitch Marner (who, admittedly, is better) looks for almost 50 percent more AAV? Alright, man.
(Plus there’s the whole thing about the compensation being tied to a five-year average rather than the term beyond five years, which would have pushed the compensation into the stratosphere on a sixth, let alone seventh, season.)
All of that just highlights what a missed opportunity this was for Bergevin. The compensation level for this offer sheet was a first-, second-, and third-round pick, which also made it a very easy call for the Hurricanes. Maybe if it’s a few dollars higher, and they get three firsts, they at least have something to kick around for more than five minutes. But Bergevin wanted to save his picks, as though Aho weren’t worth three firsts. At a minimum. And as a result they’re going to screw around for the next week, tying up the Canadiens’ ability to extend another offer sheet elsewhere until, perhaps, more RFAs are off the market.
The problem with this offer sheet, too, was that even if the Habs went nuts on that AAV — we’re probably talking $11 million, even — the Hurricanes would have said, “Yeah we’re gonna match that.” Aho is that important to them, and while he might not be worth $11 million right this second, he ain’t far off, either. Like, he just wasn’t the guy to target, as good as he is.
Canadiens had other options
If Montreal really wanted to get a player — and in doing so screw over a rival — it should have targeted Brayden Point or Marner. Their teams are getting pretty close to the cap and even if they matched, they have to start making some hard decisions, and they’re both in your division. Bergevin could have materially weakened their ability to keep his team down, and this was a team that missed the playoffs by a whopping two points last season.
Not that they’re even in the same conference, but wouldn’t a similar offer be useful for, say, Kyle Connor, Kevin Labanc, or Matthew Tkachuk? I bet you could get those guys for what you’d call “Aho offer sheet” money and all of a sudden, their teams might not be in a position to match. Maybe you also don’t value them as much as you do Aho, but if you’re free-agent shopping — even for restricted free agents — well, you gotta overspend.
All Bergevin did with this offer sheet was waste everyone’s time, including his own, and probably piss off half the GMs in the league. The outcome we got was the only one that was ever going to happen.
So let this be a lesson to all the other teams out there: If you’re going to offer sheet someone — and you definitely should — do it for more than just the sake of doing it.
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