RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s all just part of the game.
As the opening day of the 2019 NHL Free Agent signing period progressed on Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes kept their head on a swivel, anticipating that some organization might take a shot at vying for restricted free agent Sebastian Aho.
After puck drop, with Carolina maintaining possession of their 21-year-old leading scorer, the Montreal Canadiens eventually raced in and gave the Hurricanes a high elbow by mid-afternoon.
Fighting for possession
Digging in the corners, trying to create an opportunity for his organization, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin’s email at 2:40 p.m. indicating that an offer sheet for Aho was on the table, scraped his Hurricanes counterpart Don Waddell’s chin a little bit.
Waddell knew the possibility existed for a team to try to seize that opportunity, particularly after not receiving a counteroffer from Aho and his agent after both sides had discussions in Vancouver during the 2019 NHL Draft.
While the Canes were looking to sign a deal with Aho sooner than later, the Habs ‘forecheck’ guaranteed that an end to it all would take place in seven days.
What they said
“We knew this was coming, so we figured this was in the workings,” Waddell said.
“Player’s got (negotiating) rights in the CBA, management’s got rights in the CBA – they exercise those rights.
“We’re just reviewing it – we haven’t had time to talk – the inner circle here – to really talk about it.”
“Obviously, it’s something we talked about all along. We’ll make an announcement here sometime in the near future, but it’s certainly a surprise. Surprised it wasn’t (for) more; so we’ll figure that out.”
From the wide-angle view, Bergevin just exercised the option he had available to him.
“We’re all competitive. It’s part of the CBA, it’s within the rules,” Bergevin noted during his press conference.
“I’m responsible to the Montreal Canadiens and not any other team. I owe it to (owner) Geoff Molson, our players, and our fans. I’ve always said that it’s not about spending foolishly, it’s about spending on the right people. We felt that Sebastian was the right person to go after.”
And go after Aho Montreal did.
How bad do you want him?
Carolina’s numbers were fully visible, and it wasn’t a cheap shot from behind administered by Montreal – just a little stinger from the side.
Not according to Bergevin, as he emphatically pointed out what the young Finn’s intentions apparently were.
“”I looked at the options of what was available and that’s what, as an organization we looked at the closest, and we identified that Sebastian Aho was the player. After the window opened, we were able to talk, and he wants to be here,” Bergevin said.
“He agreed to this. He believes this is a really good offer for him and he wants to be part of the Montreal Canadiens.”
When asked whether Hurricanes fans should be concerned about the situation, considering that, according to Waddell’s recollection, it was the first offer sheet presented in six years, he provided a reassuring tone.
“We look at Sebastian as our best player,” Waddell said.
“We certainly want to keep him long-term. There’s been very few offer sheets – I think there hasn’t been one since 2013. Going back in time, I think every offer sheet, but maybe one was matched. It’s part of the equation, and we’re gonna keep moving forward.”
Play for Aho now continues early into the second.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport