RALEIGH, NC - When the Carolina Hurricanes tendered an offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi on Aug. 28, the hockey world was abuzz. After all, it came just two years after the Montreal Canadiens tendered Sebastian Aho an offer sheet, and the intrigue was set as to whether Montreal could match given their salary cap space.
The Canadiens decided not to match the Canes' one-year, $6.1M offer, and with the 21-year-old officially joining the Hurricanes on Sept. 4, it became clear both he and Carolina view the deal as a win-win.
"I was really excited when I saw the offer sheet for the first time," Kotkaniemi said at his introductory media availability. "I've been talking with the Finnish guys over there and I've only heard good things about the team and the city, so I think it will be a great fit for me."
The forward, who Canes President and General Manager Don Waddell projects to play left wing, will get a fresh start in Raleigh with a team that's made three straight playoff appearances, and is fresh off a Central Division title in the shortened 2020-2021 season.
"He'll get to play with some very good players and we think he's got the skill to be able to do that," Waddell said. "We were looking to add to our top group there and to be able to add a player like Jesperi, who's only 21-years-old and will continue to get better, we feel very fortunate to do that."
Video: Jesperi Kotkaniemi Media Availability
Kotkaniemi was selected third overall in the 2018 draft, the same draft the Canes held the No. 2 pick. Just three years removed, there's still a familiarity between Carolina and Kotkaniemi, which led to a natural discussion between the sides.
"At that time we discussed the player (Kotkaniemi) at great length and did interviews, so everybody was very familiar with the player, not only as a player but as a person," Waddell said.
After a flurry of offseason moves - which have spanned the forward group, defensive pairs, and goalie tandem - the Finnish forward figures to be one of the last, if not the last, major acquisition before official team workouts begin Sept. 22.
"With this latest addition we feel very good up front," Waddell said. "As we approach training camp and the season, I think we all feel really good about our hockey club."
For Kotkaniemi, his former organization is in the rearview mirror, and the upcoming campaign is the focus for a player who knows a special season could be ahead in Raleigh.
"I'm just really excited for this opportunity and I can't wait to get things started," he said. "Carolina is a great team, and they will be a contender next year. It's always an honor to be part of a team like that."