The Montreal Canadiens have actually done it.
According to an official announcement from the Habs, general manager Marc Bergevin has extended an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes star forward Sebastian Aho. Now it seems likely that it will be matched by the Carolina Hurricanes but this is the first time we have seen this tactic even attempted in a very long time.
From the Canadiens official announcement:
The Canadiens have announced that they have tendered an offer sheet to restricted free agent Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes. The proposed contract is for five years, with an average annual value of $8.454 million.
Now rumors have suggested that the Hurricanes and Aho have been more than $2 million apart in negotiations, with the Canes reportedly unwilling to offer Aho more than $7.5 million per season on a new deal. This certainly has increased the pressure on the Hurricanes and is an offer that comes in well above that number of $7.5 million. Aho's camp was reportedly seeking somewhere in the neighborhood of $9.5 million at the time so this new number of $8.454 from the Habs come in at right about the middle ground between the two sides.
There had been rumblings over the past 24 hours that the Habs were planning a hostile offer sheet, but I must admit that this one hardly seems to be that hostile. Sure the Canadiens have undoubtedly made Aho what they feel is an offer of fair market value, but it hardly seems like it would be a contract that would be particularly difficult to match on the part of the Hurricanes.
I will say that in defense of Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens that we do not know the current structure of the contract. If we think back to the last NHL offer sheet, the one the signed by star defenseman Shea Weber with the Philadelphia Flyers, the structure of that deal was almost as much of a challenge for the Predators as the terms of the contract itself. Weber's deal was heavily front loaded, an attempt to make it impossible for the Predators to shell out that much cash in the early years of the deal, although the Predators were eventually able to match the offer from the Flyers. The Canadiens may have attempted something similar here, but we simply do not have all that information at this time.
Update: As it turns out this is exactly the case. According to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston the deal contains the maximum amount of signing bonuses allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement. That is to say Aho will be owed a staggering $21 million in the first year of the contract alone.
Stay tuned for more details on this developing story.