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Canadiens will not match Kotkaniemi offer sheet; he will join Hurricanes

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 29: Look on Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) at warm-up before the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first round game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens on May 29, 2021, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jesperi Kotkaniemi is officially moving from Montreal to become a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

He joins the team a week after signing a restricted free agent offer sheet worth $6.1 million for the 2021-22 season.

Montreal had one week to match the offer and officially announced on Saturday that It will not be matching it.

In return, the Canadiens will get Carolina’s first-and third-round picks in the 2022 NHL draft.

“Carolina has used a tool available to them in the collective bargaining agreement and we accept that decision,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in a team statement.

Not only are restricted offer sheets incredibly rare (this is only the fifth attempt since 2009), a successful offer sheet is almost unheard of.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

This is the first successful offer sheet since the Edmonton Oilers signed Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks back in 2007. The Penner and Kotkaniemi signings are the only two successful offer sheets of the salary cap era. There have only been four successful offer sheets going all the way back to 1995.

Kotkaniemi now joins a Hurricanes team that is already one of the best in the league and has added to its center depth. It will also give him a fresh start and a chance to take a big step in his development. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft by Montreal and instantly went to the NHL. Over the past three years he has shown flashes of that potential with strong underlying numbers, but his offensive production has not yet progressed much.

He scored five goals and 15 assists in 56 games for the Canadiens a year ago and has 22 goals and 62 total points in 171 career games. He just turned 21 earlier this summer so there is still obviously time for that aspect of his game to develop. If it does, the Hurricanes’ young core gets another significant piece to build around.

This also closes the book, at least for now, on the ongoing RFA feud that has been waging between the Hurricanes and Canadiens for the past two years, dating back to Montreal’s attempt to sign Sebastian Aho away from Carolina in 2019. Carolina matched that offer but clearly did not like the attempt, with Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell using the same quote to announce the Kotkaniemi signing that Marc Bergevin used to talk about tendering an offer sheet to Aho.

The big question for Montreal now is what it does without Kotkaniemi.

[Related: Canadiens options]

His departure, combined with the free agent loss of Phillip Danault, has put a significant dent in their center depth for this season. Nick Suzuki remains, but there are some major question marks behind him.

By not having to pay Kotkaniemi they do have some salary cap flexibility and also have some serious draft pick capital to deal from. With the two new picks from Carolina, Montreal now has 12 draft picks in the 2022 class, including six in the first three rounds (two first round picks, a second round pick, and three third round picks).

Does this put them back in the market for Jack Eichel?

Or Christian Dvorak from Arizona?

Or maybe a wild card offer for Tomas Hertl?

Something has to give here if the Canadiens have any hope of contending for a playoff spot this season.

UPDATE: The Canadiens have traded for Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes.