The Montreal Canadiens, making a major move on the first day of NHL free agency, extended an offer sheet Monday to All-Star center Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The offer sheet to Aho, a restricted free agent, was a five-year deal at $8.454 million a year. The Habs would also forfeit a first-round pick, second-round and third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft if the Hurricanes do not match the offer sheet.
Canes general manager Don Waddell the offer sheet came as a surprise and that he had not been able to discuss it fully with team owner Tom Dundon.
Waddell said Saturday at the team's Summerfest that the team would match any offer sheet for Aho, 21, who set career highs this past season in goals (30) and points (83) and was the team's top scorer.
"We're reviewing it and haven't had time to bring everybody into the inner circle and talk about it," Waddell said. "We'll make an announcement in the near future but it's certainly a surprise and we're surprised it wasn't more."
The Hurricanes have a week to match the offer sheet and Waddell said the Canes might use the whole week, saying, "To do it immediately probably helps the other team, they can go out and sign players, and maybe I don't want to help them right now."
Waddell said Saturday that Aho had been offered an eight-year contract by the Canes during the recent NHL draft in Vancouver.
"They said they'd get back to us with a counter (offer) and told us Friday there was no counter coming, so we figured this (offer sheet) was in the workings," Waddell said.
Waddell said he had not been in contact with Aho on Monday.
There had not been an NHL offer sheet tendered since 2013, when forward Ryan O'Reilly, then with the Colorado Avalanche, accepted a two-year, $10 million offer from the Calgary Flames. The Avalanche in turn matched the offer.
The Aho offer sheet came on a day when Waddell said the Canes were negotiating with goalies Petr Mrazek and Robin Lehner. Both became unrestricted free agents on Monday -- Lehner a Vezina Trophy finalist with the New York Islanders this past season.
The Canes reached the playoffs last season as Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney split the workload. McElhinney, who became also a UFA on Monday, signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Waddell had said he expected to have Aho signed by September, eliminating any chance of a holdout by the Finnish forward. That won't happen now.
"I know my summer just got better," Waddell said. "I won't spend all summer negotiating a contract."
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