The Carolina Hurricanes will match the offer sheet made Monday to star center Sebastian Aho by the Montreal Canadiens, Canes owner Tom Dundon said Tuesday.
Of his reaction to the offer sheet, Dundon, said, “We’re surprised. We love the player and we’re happy to have this done. And surprised someone would have thought this would work.
“We were never going to let him go. He didn’t want to go. This is just part of the business of getting the deal done. I said the day I bought the team and nothing has changed, he’s one of if not the most important part of our future and we’re lucky to have him.”
Aho, 21, set career highs last season with 30 goals and 83 points as the Canes returned to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009. Waddell and Aho’s agent, Gerry Johannson, had been negotiating a new contract in which the Canes hoped to sign the Finnish forward to an eight-year deal.
The figures in the Canadiens’ offer sheet -- $8.454 million a year for five years -- did not cause gnashing of teeth among Canes management, even with a front-loaded bonus of more than $21 million to be paid in the first 12 months.
Dundon, a Dallas billionaire, called an offer sheet a “waste of time” and no one should question the Canes’ or his ability to make such a large payment, noting, “I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am. This sounds terrible but writing that check is no big deal.”
Canes general manager Don Waddell said Tuesday an eight-year deal could have given Aho more guaranteed money than the $42.77 million total in the offer sheet. The $8.454 million per-year price tag is believed to be higher than the Canes had offered in negotiations.
“It is what it is, right?” Dundon said. “Our job is to allocate the (salary cap) properly and we should be able to do it just fine. (Waddell) said we would have liked more term. That’s the main difference, where it would have ended up if there had not been an offer sheet.
“I’m relieved this is done and Sebastian doesn’t have to worry about this anymore. It’s nice to have it done. It’s probably not the way we’d like to have it done.”
Waddell said Monday he was surprised the figures weren’t higher while Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin was saying he had spoken to Aho and how much the 21-year-old Finn, who signed the offer sheet, wanted to be a Canadien.
Dundon on Tuesday disputed that notion, saying, “I think the other team got manipulated into believing something that might not have been true.”
“There’s no scenario where Sebastian Aho doesn’t want to be on the Hurricanes,” Dundon said. “It is in his right to use that leverage the (collective bargaining agreement) provides to get the most money from us and that’s all that happened. I have not heard Sebastian say that. If he said that it would be different but he didn’t. So the fact that an agent said it means that there’s no credibility to it.”
The Canes have a week to match the offer sheet but Waddell said no decision had been made on when that official notice would be sent.
“It obviously will be in the time frame allotted by the CBA,” he said.
Of note: the Canes open their season Oct. 3 against the Montreal Canadiens at PNC Arena.