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Hurricanes GM: Kotkaniemi offer sheet 'was not revenge' for Aho

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Despite the Carolina Hurricanes' numerous references suggesting otherwise, general manager Don Waddell insists the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet wasn't about getting back at the Montreal Canadiens for doing the same to Sebastian Aho two years ago.

"It certainly was not revenge," Waddell said Sunday. "We talked about this player, we know this player."

"(We used) the CBA as other teams have in the past to try to acquire a 21-year-old player," he added. "So to us, it was all about the player. We looked around the league and thought this made the most sense from where we are as a team.

"We have a couple of other good Finnish players on our team and thought this would be a great fit."

On Saturday, Montreal chose not to match an offer sheet for $6,100,015 that Carolina tendered to Kotkaniemi one week earlier, making the forward a member of the Hurricanes. Carolina was also forced to surrender a first- and third-round pick to Montreal as compensation.

Last Saturday, in the immediate aftermath of the move, the Hurricanes' press release included a quote from Waddell that was nearly identical to what Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said after issuing an offer sheet to Aho in 2019. Carolina also included a $20 signing bonus in Kotkaniemi's deal (Aho wears No. 20), and the Hurricanes' social media team repeatedly poked fun at Montreal with callbacks to the earlier ordeal.

The club even posted a screenshot of the signing bonus on Twitter with a caption reading, "People don't forget."

"The (press) release, that's a marketing thing," Waddell said. "We're trying to continue to build our franchise here in Raleigh (and) trying to keep our fans engaged. Our social team gets huge marks from the NHL, and they had some fun with it."

The Canadiens signed Aho to a five-year offer sheet with a $8.454-million cap hit on July 1, 2019. The Hurricanes matched it several days later.

Kotkaniemi's deal is the first unmatched offer sheet since the Edmonton Oilers plucked Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

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