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One assist in 11 playoff games: Jesperi Kotkaniemi needs to be redeemed
Credit: Photo by Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images

Ah, dear Jesperi Kotkaniemi…

The Carolina Hurricanes don’t know what to do with him anymore. He played very little in the playoffs… and it was particularly obvious when he played less than 10 minutes in a game that went into the second overtime period earlier in the series against the Rangers.

His one small point in 11 playoff games perfectly explains why he wasn’t playing more. In fact, I’m surprised he played at all, in the end.

(Credit: Hockey DB)
In fact, this year, he regressed. In both the regular season and the playoffs, he had his worst season by far since leaving Montreal to play in Carolina.

Even in the playoffs on the bubble in 2020, at 20 years of age following a stint in the AHL and after not wanting to train properly before the playoffs, he found a way to score four more goals than he did this year in the playoffs.

Inevitably, this brings up the old question of contract buyouts. After all, with another six years on his contract at $4.82 million, the six-year NHL veteran doesn’t have a contract to match his performance.

And since Kotkaniemi is under 25 (he’ll be 25 in July 2025), the Hurricanes can buy him out at 1/3 of his contract (not 2/3) this season or next. Will the Canes do as the Kings did with Pierre-Luc Dubois… or will they act?

After all, the time is right to do so. KK, who will have a partial no-trade clause in a little over a year, will never be tradeable in the short term, and I think the Canes realize that he’ll never be the player they “stole” from the Habs.

And as we can see, buying him back in a few weeks wouldn’t hurt on the block.

(Credit: Cap Friendly)

The club’s cap hit on the payroll would be less than a million dollars for 12 years. That’s a long time, 12 years, but at the same time, the cap will go up in mass within 12 years, if all goes well.

If the club buys him out next year, instead, the amounts would be similar, but “only” over 10 years.

I get the feeling that the club, which will be losing players via the autonomy market, wants to buy itself time by giving him one last chance, but that next year he won’t have any wiggle room. I don’t think he’ll be bought out.

And if that’s the case, I think it’s a mistake. I believe that for the sake of the club’s culture (which could take a hit if Rod Brind’Amour were to leave), KK must go. And what’s more, in real money, the club would save over $20 million.

Let’s note that, publicly, there’s a lot of talk about the buyout. Elliotte Friedman asked the question this morning on his podcast, BPM Sports asked its listeners, and the question is all over Twitter…

Finally, I laughed out loud when Maxim Lapierre asked the Hurricanes if they wanted their famous $20 signing bonus back…

In Brief

– No first pick for the Penguins in the Jake Guentzel deal.

– Read more.

– Craig Berube, favourite for the Toronto coaching job. [RDS]

– Samuel Montembeault’s refusal to go to the World Championships is the talk of the town. [98.5 FM]

– A case that’s getting a lot of attention.

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