STOCKHOLM — Sebastian Aho repeatedly expressed his happiness about returning to North Carolina for training camp with the Carolina Hurricanes next month.
The center put those chances in jeopardy when he signed a five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens on July 1. The Hurricanes matched it July 7 to officially retain Aho, who said he’s relieved with how it worked out.
“It’s done, and that’s the best part of it because now I don’t have to think about it for the next five years,” Aho said at the NHL European Player Media Tour on Thursday. “Last year was awesome in Carolina with great teammates, a great coach. I love it in Carolina.”
Aho said his main goal entering the offseason was to avoid letting contract negotiations carry into September, which would have put him at risk of missing the start of training camp. The offer sheet turned out to be a mechanism to guarantee that would happen because had Carolina not matched within seven days, Aho would have been a member of the Canadiens and the Hurricanes would have received a first-, second- and third-round draft pick from Montreal.
“It was important to me to start on time,” Aho said. “I want to be in camp and this process helped me get there.”
Aho said he isn’t sure he was ever fully prepared to join the Canadiens when he signed the offer sheet, but the risk was worth it because it expedited getting a new contract. He said he especially believes that now, nearly seven weeks later, because of how stagnant the market for restricted free agents remains.
Among the top RFAs remaining are Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner, Winnipeg Jets forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, and Boston Bruins defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but at the same time I had literally like a day or less, actually, to think about it,” Aho said. “It felt right. Now I’m thinking about it, I’m happy with my situation. It worked out. It really did.
“I did sign an offer sheet with Montreal and I’m thankful for them to offer me that contract, but I’m happy to be in Carolina.”
Aho, who turned 22 on July 26, had 83 points (30 goals, 53 assists) in 82 games last season and helped the Hurricanes reach the Eastern Conference Final, where they were swept by the Boston Bruins. He became the first NHL player to sign an offer sheet with another team since Feb. 28, 2013, when center Ryan O’Reilly, then with the Colorado Avalanche, signed a two-year, $10 million offer sheet with the Calgary Flames. The Avalanche matched it.
The Hurricanes announced their intention to match Aho’s offer sheet July 2 but didn’t make it official until July 7 because the collective bargaining agreement afforded them seven days before a decision to match must be made.
“I was pretty sure we were going to [match] that anyway and get him back because we can’t lose that kind of player just like that,” Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen said during the media tour. “I think it’s good for him. He’s got the contract now and he doesn’t have to wait. There are a lot of guys still without a contract and he doesn’t have to think about it anymore, so that’s good.”
The Hurricanes’ season opener is against the Canadiens at PNC Arena on Oct. 3. Aho said that is irrelevant to him.
“That’s media stuff,” he said. “I don’t even think about it. I think there was a lot less drama in this situation than media are letting on to believe.”
Originally published at https://www.nhl.com/news/sebastian-aho-ready-for-training-camp-with-hurricanes/c-308538892