The easy reaction when the Montreal Canadiens announced they would not match the Carolina Hurricanes’ offer sheet for Jesperi Kotkaniemi would be that the Canadiens failed to develop another high draft pick.
In reality, it’s a little more nuanced than that. One thing that comes up again when going through the relationship between Kotkaniemi and the Canadiens organization is timing, and impatience.
It’s a bit ironic that it worked out this way, because Bergevin was pretty measured when it came to Kotkaniemi’s immediate future at the 2018 Draft when he selected the centre.
“He’s coming to Montreal next week for our Development Camp. We’ll look at him closely and we’ll go from there,” said Bergevin after the 2018 Draft. “We’ll do what’s best for him in the long run, but we also have to look at the big picture and his future.”
At the team’s development camp, Kotkaniemi showed enough to earn his entry-level contract after the final on-ice session. That earned him an invitation to the team’s rookie and training camp before a decision would be made on his future at that time.
By now, you know what happened. Max Domi got suspended in the pre-season, providing an opening for Kotkaniemi to grab a hold of a roster spot and earn his opening night place on the roster.
This is where the impatience starts to come in. You can argue about whether it was the right or wrong decision, and the circumstances that made Kotkaniemi one of the team’s top centres through that camp. It’s similar to what happened with Victor Mete and the lack of other options on defence the previous year at camp. In fact, in that same press conference after the 2018 Draft, Bergevin used Mete as an example as a player who could play his way onto the roster.
“It’s easy to re-do things three, four years later,” said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on Monday. “He had a very good training camp, a very good first half of the season, it was in the second half where he started to struggle. At the time I remember thinking maybe it’s his age, maybe it’s the 82 game schedule… and today, I look back and maybe it was the better decision to send him back to Finland.”
When you pick in the top three, you would be more inclined to try to keep the player on the opening night roster. You just went through a tough season, and it’s a lot easier to point to the prize from going through that bad season. The fact that Kotkaniemi performed well early on was even more incentive to do that.
There was a next phase to the impatience from the Canadiens perspective. After Kotkaniemi’s struggles in the second half of his rookie season, expectations were high that he would bounce back in his second year. An injury he tried to play through saw Kotkaniemi struggle, and he finished the pandemic-shortened regular season in the American Hockey League with the Laval Rocket. Kotkaniemi played well in Laval, and when the Canadiens made the post-season, he raised his game to a level we hadn’t seen from him.
Once again, expectations were high for his third season, but Kotkaniemi was inconsistent. He couldn’t be at the level he needed to be at for the entire season. The result was that he was scratched three times in the team’s playoff run.
“Sometimes it takes longer, or their view of what’s happening is different than the reality,” Bergevin said. “Sometimes a young player feels like ‘I shouldn’t be going through this because I’ve been here before’… Well, we have to win hockey games. That’s the job that coaches have.”
Quite frankly, the team could not afford to be patient enough to play through his growing pains. Some might say that it was the result of a failed development path, but reading between Marc Bergevin’s words, it was more a mismatch of the role Kotkaniemi was going to have to play, and the ability he had at this point in his career.
“There are things that I saw in the last two years that I don’t think that would have changed [with a different path in his first season]… It’s more than just going back to Finland,” Bergevin said.
At this point, we looked at the decision making process from the Canadiens’ point of view. But even accepting Carolina’s offer in the first place showed a bit of impatience from Kotkaniemi’s point of view. He wanted to secure his financial future in a way a bridge deal just wouldn’t do. And if he wasn’t understanding the reasons he wasn’t in the lineup — as Bergevin might have alluded to as well — you can understand why he may not have felt he would have had the opportunity to prove his worth during that contract.
The decision to accept the offer sheet — and the offer’s structure itself — then forced Bergevin’s hand.
“He put us in a situation where we had to make a decision on what was best for our team now and moving forward,” Bergevin said. “With the offer sheet, for me it was excessive at $6.1 million for one year for the stage he’s at in his career. We made a decision based on that, but also based on the future of the Canadiens, and the future of our salary cap that we need to manage. We have some good players who are pushing, so we need to be careful, we need to do good things as a manager, so the decision was made.”
So the story between Kotkaniemi and the Canadiens ends here. It’s clear that there’s still promise in Kotkaniemi, otherwise Carolina wouldn’t want to pay him the amount that they are paying him. It still provides Bergevin with an ability to learn from it. The results from Nick Suzuki’s return to junior — the same year that Kotkaniemi made his NHL debut — may have solidified Bergevin’s learning when he later took a more patient approach with Cole Caufield.
“It is a lesson, I can say that. I’m not perfect,” Bergevin said. “Sometimes we don’t make the right decision but we do it for the right reasons. … It is something that we’ll watch closely moving forward.”
The Canadiens didn’t necessarily want to lose Kotkaniemi, but they weren’t sure if he was the ideal centre behind Suzuki at this time. They wanted him signed at an amount that was reflective of the player he is to give them the flexibility to improve their current roster.
The bridge contract, like the offer sheet, is a tool in the collective bargaining agreement so teams can use all of their up to seven years to decide what to do with their young players.
Kotkaniemi has yet to show what he could be. The Canadiens simply decided they didn’t want to pay the inflated amount of the offer sheet to find out.
NHL Rumors: Oilers, Islanders, Blues, Canadiens, More – The Hockey Writers
In today’s NHL rumors rundown, now that Kailer Yamamoto has signed, there’s already talk about whether or not the Edmonton Oilers can fit both him and Jesse Puljujarvi into their long-term plans. Meanwhile, the New York Islanders have potentially too many contracts and may need to move a prospect. What’s the latest on the status of Vladimir Tarasenko and are the Montreal Canadiens going to be down a prospect due to a refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Can Oilers Only Keep One of Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi?
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal writes that Yamamoto’s one-year, $1.175 million deal certainly isn’t going to pose problems for this season, but wonders what happens if Yamamoto has a bounce-back 2021-22 campaign. If he ups his production, he could be eyeing Drake Batherson and Joel Farabee‘s six-year deals around $5 million per season.
If so, Staples suggests this could be problematic. He writes:
The Oilers are pressed up against the cap and there’s going to be little cap space for years to come, what with the flat cap and big-ticket and long-term contracts for Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman. Where will the Oilers find the money to pay players like Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi, both on expiring contracts now, if they have big years? Good luck with that, Ken Holland. You will need it.
source – ‘All systems go? Yes. Edmonton Oilers sign Kailer Yamamoto to a one-year deal’ – David Staples – Edmonton Journal – 09/18/2021
Staples suggests the Oilers may end up having to sign one of Yamamoto or Puljujarvi and trade the other.
Islanders Logjam in Terms of Contracts, Could Lose Bellows
While the salary cap doesn’t appear to be a massive concern, CapFriendly already has the New York Islanders roster at the maximum of 23 players. This does not include the recent signings of Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise. A move is likely on the horizon to free up spots.
Pro Hockey Rumors reports that one of the players worth watching is Kieffer Bellows. The unsigned prospect is the kind of player who is on the bubble to make the roster in such a tight competition for spots, but they’d have to try to sneak him through waivers if he doesn’t make the main roster. It might turn out the GM Lou Lamoriello looks at a potential trade if he cannot re-sign Bellows to a new deal or if he believes someone else has a better shot at a roster spot.
Still with the Islanders, Chara discussed why he chose to sign with the team this summer and said he talked to his family all summer about returning to the NHL for one more year and admitted there were other teams interested in him. He said: “We made the decision to go with the Islanders.” He’s honoured to be returning to the team that drafted him.
Tarasenko Trade Update
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blues GM Doug Armstrong expects Tarasenko to remain a member of the team to open the NHL regular season. He will continue to look at trade options out of respect for the player’s request but the team is expecting Tarasenko to return and contribute.
Armstrong noted the ideal scenario would be that Tarasenko contributes so much that he changes his mind on the trade request. “I guess my (hope) is that he’ll be playing so good that he won’t want to be traded,” Armstrong said with a laugh. “And we won’t want to trade him.”
As for whether or not he thinks Tarasenko returning will make for an awkward situation in the locker room, he responded:
“They’re all pros. Our medical staff are pros. Our players are pros. And Vladi’s a pro. So we just have to have a good season. He has to have a good season. He wants to play for a number of years, and to do that, he’s gotta make himself marketable. And to do that, we have to be a good team for him, too.”
source – ‘Armstrong expects Tarasenko to be on Blues’ opening-day roster’ – Jim Thomas – 09/18/2021
Canadiens’ Ylönen Out Due to Lack of Vaccination
According to a report from La Presse (translated to English) Jesse Ylönen is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and as a result, had to undergo quarantine upon his arrival in the country. What’s intriguing about this is that the report notes: “Ylönen is not vaccinated “for reasons which belong to him”. At the time of this writing, we had not received a response from his agent to our email requesting clarification.”
The NHL has stated that players who elect not to be vaccinated could be suspended without pay if they contract the virus. More interesting in Ylönen’s case is that he’s likely slated to be part of the Laval Rocket’s roster and his participation in games that take place in the United States (22 of 72) could be problematic. Ylönen could end up missing 30% of Laval’s games if the federal quarantine does indeed apply to professional hockey players.
It’s not clear why he hasn’t been vaccinated — pre-existing condition or personal beliefs — but NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly said he expects less than15 players in all of the NHL will not be adequately vaccinated by the time the season starts on October 12. The report doesn’t indicate if Ylönen has plans to get vaccinated or not.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”
Blue Jays give Jose Berrios early run support in win over Twins – Sportsnet.ca
Toronto’s early prowess at the plate generated a 5-3 win over the visiting Twins as the Jays took two of three games in the weekend series.
Berrios surrendered three runs on four hits, gave up a walk and struck out six over six and two-thirds innings of work.
Toronto (84-65) continued to hold second spot in the American League wild-card race entering the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Jays are 15-3 in September, which is the best in Major League Baseball, and are 21-9 at home since returning to the Rogers Centre in late July.
The last time Toronto was 19 games above .500 was Aug. 31, 2016.
The Blue Jays have 13 regular-season games remaining in 2021, including this week’s road trip that has them in Tampa Bay for three games against the Rays starting Monday followed by four in Minnesota.
Toronto sent 10 batters to the plate in Sunday’s first inning against Twins starter Luke Farrell (1-1), who is the son of former Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
Second baseman Marcus Semien started the barrage doubling down the left-field line with one out to then score on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single.
Shortstop Bo Bichette then bashed a two-run shot for his 26th homer.
A single to right from Teoscar Hernandez and an infield hit by Corey Dickerson put runners on first and second. They scored on back-to-back singles from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Breyvic Valera.
Gurriel increased his RBI total to a team-leading 27 in September.
Before arriving in Toronto via a July 30 trade with the Twins, the 27-year-old Berrios spent the first five-and-a-half years of his career in Minnesota.
He still wears the Twins red glove on his left hand on the mound.
Berrios (12-8), has won four of his last five starts, but struggled in Sunday’s fourth inning.
With one out, he hit former Blue Jays standout Josh Donaldson in the right forearm.
Miguel Sano moved Donaldson to third with a double to centre. Shortstop Nick Gordon scored his teammate with a double down the left-field line.
The Twins moved a run closer with a homer from Ben Rortvedt, their ninth hitter in the order, with two out in the seventh inning.
The 2-1 curveball was Berrios’s 100th and final pitch for the afternoon.
Trevor Richards replaced him and pitched well before giving way to stopper Jordan Romano for the final inning. Romano earned his 19th save.
Teoscar Hernandez's 3-run shot spurs Blue Jays to victory over Twins – CBC.ca
The three-run homer launched by Teoscar Hernandez in the fourth inning provided the Blue Jays with enough runs to defeat the Minnesota Twins on Saturday in Toronto, and the blast pushed him past Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the team lead in RBI.
The 6-2 victory also restored the Blue Jays (83-65) to the second wild-card spot in the American League by a half-game over the New York Yankees.
The Yankees (83-66) were thumped 11-3 at home by Cleveland. The Boston Red Sox (85-65) held on to the top wild-card spot with a 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Hernandez has 106 RBI, two more than Guerrero, who has an outside chance at the AL triple crown. He’s first in batting average (.318) and homers (46), and now fourth in RBI, eight behind Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
The 28-year-old Hernandez credits work on his mental game as the reason for his productive and consistent season. He’s not only been reliable at the plate but also in the outfield.
“He’s been the best hitter on a lot of teams,” Blue Jays starter Steven Matz said of Hernandez. “He’s easy to overlook with how good this lineup is. He’s been amazing.”
Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak, a seven-time Olympic medallist, was among 14,722 at the Rogers Centre. She threw out the ceremonial first pitch and tossed a strike.
Twins’ 8-game win streak stopped
The Twins appeared headed for a ninth straight win in Toronto dating back Aug. 17, 2017. They led 2-0 after the first inning on a two-run homer to right field by former Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who also belted a solo shot in Minnesota’s series-opening win Friday.
But Matz settled down after Donaldson’s homer Saturday to retire 16 of the next 17 Twins.
Matz has benefitted from the highest average of run support in Major League Baseball this season at 8.07 a game. He’s won his last four decisions. His 13th win matched Hyun Jin Ryu for the team lead.
“To be in a hole like that, you just want to make good pitches and put up zeroes,” Matz said.
“I just wanted to keep it close and wait for the bats to come alive.”
The bats perked up in the fourth. Minnesota rookie starter Bailey Ober (2-3) took a no-hitter into the inning. The home side got to Ober the second time through the Blue Jays’ order.
Marcus Semien led off the fourth with a solo shot to left field to become only the fifth second baseman in MLB history to hit 40 or more homers in a season.
Yesterday: 31st birthday<br>Today: 40th homer of the season<br><br>Not a bad weekend, huh? 🥳 <a href=”https://t.co/uaSwpoBN6f”>pic.twitter.com/uaSwpoBN6f</a>
Guerrero then walked, and Bo Bichette singled to centre. Hernandez lifted a first-pitch slider high into the sky that barely cleared the left-field fence for his 28th homer and a two-run advantage.
“I knew I hit it good, but just a little high,” he said.
Ober and OUT 💪<br><br>💣 <a href=”https://twitter.com/TeoscarH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TeoscarH</a> 💣 <a href=”https://t.co/9HaQgApXkQ”>pic.twitter.com/9HaQgApXkQ</a>
Toronto padded its lead in the seventh when Twins reliever Jovani Moran loaded the bases with walks to Alejandro Kirk, George Springer and Guerrero. Kyle Barraclough replaced Moran and was greeted with a two-run single to left from Bichette.
Bo adds mo’ 🙌 <a href=”https://t.co/E9JULud582″>pic.twitter.com/E9JULud582</a>
A two-out walk to Donaldson followed by a single to centre from Miguel Sano ended Matz’s day after 96 pitches and five and two-thirds innings of work.
Blue Jays reliever Trevor Richards finished off the sixth for Matz. Tim Mayza generated a one-two-three seventh inning and struck out Nick Gordon to begin the eighth.
Righty Adam Cimber finished off the eighth, aided by a brilliant play from Bichette. He went deep in the hole to his right to throw out Donaldson.
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