Sebastian Aho will not be joining the Montreal Canadiens.
The Carolina Hurricanes announced on Tuesday that the club intends to match the five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet tendered by the Habs on Monday and will do so "within the timeframe allowed by the League's Collective Bargaining Agreement."
"This was an easy decision," general manager Don Waddell said in a press release. "Sebastian is one of the best players in the league and the centerpiece of what we're building here. We've spoken to him throughout this process and he's made it clear that he wants to be in Raleigh and be a part of this organization."
The Hurricanes had up to seven days to officially match, though their announcement Tuesday came shortly after owner Tom Dundon announced the team's intentions.
“I’m not angry. I’m just surprised that any team thought this had any chance of working," Dundon told TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun for The Athletic. "I guess the Carolina Hurricanes are still misunderstood if anyone anywhere thought this would be hard for us. I’m not upset with Sebastian, I am actually relieved to have this done. We all understand the players should do what they can to get their best contract. But this was never going to work for Montreal.”
On Monday, Aho's agent, Gerry Johannson, told The Athletic that though the Hurricanes and Aho weren’t close on a contract extension, the offer sheet was not simply used for leverage in negotiations.
“I think that Sebastian 100 per cent wants to play in Montreal,” Johannson said. “He wouldn’t have signed an offer sheet if he didn’t want to play in Montreal.”
Aho became the first player since 2013 to sign an offer sheet and Johannson said he thought the offer sheet would give the Hurricanes pause.
“I don’t think it is easy for Carolina,” Johannson said. “I can tell you for sure, it’s not easy for Carolina. Anybody who says this is easy is wrong. You can armchair quarterback any decision, but I can promise you this is an aggressive move … It’s a lot of money, and it’s a lot of front-loaded money.
“Who knows? Carolina is going to do what they’re going to do, but trust me, this is not an easy decision for them.”
The contract offered by the Canadiens will see Aho earn more than $21 million in signing bonuses by next July.
Last month, Waddell said the subject of offer sheets was "overblown by the media" but vowed he would match any one given to Aho. He did not make the same promise Monday, though he did say he expected the offer to be higher.
"It's our job to manage our cap space as our players develop and hit free agency," Waddell said on Tuesday. "There was no concern at any point that we would not be able to match this contract. Once again, the Carolina Hurricanes should not be underestimated. We have a plan and all the resources to win a Stanley Cup."
Waddell, who called Aho the Hurricanes' best player on Monday, said it would likely benefit the Canadiens if he matched the offer immediately, and noted he wasn't overly interested in helping them at the moment.
Johannson, meanwhile, praised Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin for reviving the offer sheet after a six-year drought.
“When management steps up and makes an aggressive move like this to try and help their team, I think that’s fantastic,” Johannson said. “I think that’s what you want to see from your team and, you know, I give the Canadiens management team credit for making an aggressive move.
“Like anything you try, you never know if it works, but certainly I think they did a nice job of pushing the envelope and there is a good chance this will work.”
Aho, 21, scored 30 goals and recorded 83 points in 82 games this past season.