By initialing a deal on an astonishing hostile offer, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Carolina Hurricanes pulled the National Hockey League out of its late summer torpor.
The daring maneuver to snatch from Montreal, with a one-year contract offer worth US $ 6.1 million, a free agent with compensation, and the Canadian’s possible decision to let go of his youngster center player surprised many people.
Tyler Toffoli is one of those who probably must have read the dispatch at least twice before reacting to it. “I thought this whole situation had been bizarre,” said the 29-year-old Habs winger this week as part of the media tour organized jointly by the NHL and the NHL Players Association. in Toronto. “This whole situation has been strange. “
In deciding not to match the offer, the Canadian received the Hurricanes’ first and third round picks in 2022.
21-year-old Finnish Kotkaniemi never lived up to the Canadiens’ high expectations. In 2019-2020, it was ceded to the minors, and in 2020-2021, a season reduced to 56 games because of the pandemic of coronavirus, he was limited to five goals and 20 points. This Kotkaniemi production last year made the Hurricanes’ contract offer even more astonishing.
Kotkaniemi, whose potential remains significant, added five goals and three assists in 19 playoff games, in which the Canadiens caused a big surprise by reaching the final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
However, he was sidelined in Game 1 of the Initial Round, and again in Game 4 and 5 of the Final.
“Things are what they are […] You’re not going to turn down $ 6 million, “said Toffoli, who led the Canadiens with 28 goals and 44 points after signing a four-year contract worth $ 17 million as a player. stand-alone before the start of the last season. “It’s unfortunate, but we have to move on. “
Nick Suzuki believed he and Kotkaniemi would become the building blocks of the team at center position for a decade or more.
“That’s the way business works, I guess,” said the 22-year-old center, who has 41 points during the season and 16 more during the playoffs.
“There is so much movement in the league, it’s hard to keep everyone together for a long time,” he said, before adding that “hostile offers are part of business mode” .
Toffoli at least paid tribute to the Hurricanes for attracting attention.
“People who don’t follow hockey have noticed,” he noted. “It makes the sport grow. For a week, everyone was talking about hockey. “
The Canadian, who also lost the services of Phillip Danault, who accepted a contract offer from the Los Angeles Kings as a free agent, reacted quickly by acquiring center Christian Dvorak in return for two picks. in the draft.
« [Bergevin] did an excellent gesture by adding Dvorak, ”said Toffoli. “I always found it difficult to play against him when I was playing with Los Angeles. I am excited to see what he will bring. “
The Canadian won’t be able to count on his captain Shea Weber (foot / ankle) next season – the veteran defender’s career could be over due to his injury.
Meanwhile, Suzuki understands goaltender Carey Price, who has had surgery on his knee, will have been given the green light when training camp begins next week.
The Canadian went to seek reinforcement in defense with the addition of David Savard and signed contracts to forwards Mathieu Perreault and Cédric Paquette. Additionally, Jonathan Drouin is expected to return with the squad after leaving for personal reasons towards the end of April.
“We lost a few things, but I think we added some great players,” Suzuki said. “We are in a position to be competitive. “
If they are, it will be without Kotkaniemi, whose first stopover at the Bell Center in the Hurricane uniform is due on October 21.
“I was happy for him,” said Suzuki. “It’s a tough offer to refuse, of course. It’s hard to see him go, but we wish him all the best. It’s going to be fun to play against him. “