NHL News and Notes

As the calendar turns to September, we are now just a few short weeks away from NHL preseason camps, and if all goes as planned, the regular season is set to start on October 12. While the news is usually slower until teams return to camp, there is still big news from around the league. 

Here are the top NHL news stories as of September 1.

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Clock Ticking on Kotkaniemi Offer Sheet

On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes engaged in one of the greatest acts of pettiness the NHL has ever seen by signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet at one year, $6.1 million (actually $6,100,015, with the $15 to represent Kotkaniemi’s jersey number). Kotkaniemi is currently a restricted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens. 

At first glance, this may seem like a rather standard offseason move to make a team better, but there’s a loaded recent history behind the move. 

Last offseason, the Canadiens signed Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet. While Carolina matched the offer to keep Aho in the building, it is quite rare for an NHL GM to make such a move. Offer sheets are rare and aren’t usually used on star players due to the draft pick compensation involved with such a move. 

However, the pettiness extends beyond just attempting to sign Kotkaniemi. As part of the contract, Carolina offered Kotkaniemi a $20 signing bonus; Aho wears #20 for the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes also announced the move on Twitter in both English and French (as Montreal is known to do on social media) and updated their Twitter bio to French only. Carolina’s general manager Don Waddell also released a statement after announcing the deal that was eerily similar to Montreal GM Marc Bergevin’s comments after Montreal signed Aho’s offer sheet. 

The Canadiens are now in a precarious position. At the moment, they can’t afford to match Carolina’s offer on Kotkaniemi due to salary cap restrictions without making another move. If Montreal does not match the 1x$6.1 offer, Kotkaniemi is off to Carolina while the Canadiens receive the Hurricanes’ 2022 first and third-round draft picks as compensation. 

While Kotkaniemi has not broken out as a superstar player, the 21-year old has been Montreal’s top center over the better part of the past four seasons. He has just 22 goals and 40 assists in 171 regular-season games. However, his strong showing in the 2021 playoffs (nine goals in 29 games) and the fact that Kotkaniemi has not yet reached his prime were enough to entice Carolina to make the offer sheet. 

Montreal has until September 4 to decide whether to match the offer or accept the compensation.

Sharp Returning to Vermont as Coaching Advisor

Longtime Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp is returning to the University of Vermont as a coaching advisor, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Sharp played two years of collegiate hockey at Vermont before turning pro in 2002. 

One of the stronger two-way players of the last 20 years, Sharp was an instrumental part of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup wins in 2010, 2013, and 2015. He scored 30+ goals four times in his career and received Selke Trophy votes as the league’s top defensive forward in five consecutive seasons from 2008-12 (including finishing fourth in 2008). 

In 65 games with Vermont, Sharp scored 25 goals and added 28 assists. He also earned ECAC rookie honors in 2001. 

Coyotes Sign Guenther to ELC

On Monday, the Arizona Coyotes signed one of their top prospects to his entry-level contract. Dylan Guenther, selected ninth overall in the 2021 draft, has an excellent shot at making the roster out of camp. 

In 12 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings in an abbreviated 2021 campaign, Guenther scored 12 goals and 12 assists. He also scored four goals and three assists with Canada’s U18 squad at World Juniors. 

“We are very pleased to welcome Dylan to the Coyotes organization,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said. “Dylan is an extremely skilled and smart player with a great work ethic. We are confident that he will become a very good NHL player and look forward to watching his development this season.”

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