Aho has signed the offer sheet, so the Hurricanes will have one week to match the offer or let their 21-year-old leading scorer slip away to Montreal. If they let him leave, the Hurricanes would receive a first, second and third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft.
''Sebastian Aho accepted our offer," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "He wants to come to Montreal. He sees our youngsters coming up in the organization and he wants to be a part of that. We're proud, but there's still a waiting period.''
Aho led the Hurricanes with 83 points, with career highs of 30 goals and 53 assists in 82 games. In three years with the Hurricanes, Aho has 197 points (83 goals, 114 assists) in 242 games.
The contract tendered by the Canadiens is loaded with bonus money in an attempt to dissuade the Hurricanes from matching it. The offer sheet features $11.3 million in signing bonus money in the first year, and then $9.87 million in signing bonus money in the second year -- the idea being that the Hurricanes would bristle at having to ante up $21.17 million to Aho in the span of a year. It also carries trade protection in the latter years of the deal.
The term of the contract would walk Aho up to unrestricted free agency.
Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said the team is reviewing the offer sheet to Aho, which they received at 2:40 p.m. ET via email. He said the term, rather than the average annual value of $8.454 million, is the problematic part of the offer sheet.
"We look at Sebastian as our best player. We certainly wanted to keep him long term," he said, joking that "I know my summer just got better, because I'm not going to be negotiating a contract all summer. We make a decision and move on."
Waddell said he wasn't sure how much of the seven-day span he would take to decide whether to match the offer or let Aho walk.
"There's no reason to do it immediately. It could help [the Canadiens] if I do it immediately," he said, adding that matching sooner would allow the Canadiens to tender an offer sheet to another player with their available picks.
The Hurricanes had some fun with the process on social media.
Will we match the offer sheet for Sebastian Aho?— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) July 1, 2019
The Hurricanes have been steadfast in saying that they would match any offer sheet given to Aho, and that they planned to have him signed before training camp.
"I know he's going to play for us. I don't know how we're going to get it done, but we're going to get it done," owner Tom Dundon told ESPN in February.
A former second-round draft pick, Aho has increased his goals and assists in each of his three seasons in the league. He led the team in goals and was second in assists this season.
He also led Carolina in points during the playoffs with five goals and seven assists in 15 games.
Aho is coming off his three-year entry-level contract that carried a cap hit of $925,000.
In January, the Hurricanes took their other big potential restricted free agent off the table when they signed forward Teuvo Teravainen to a five-year, $27 million deal.