We may look back at July 1, 2019 in a few years and forget that Sebastian Aho was ever linked to the Montreal Canadiens, but for seven days — and likely going forward to the season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes — their names will be connected.
First of all, Aho is a centre, a fact Marc Bergevin went out of his way to mention, and that factor is an important one if you’ve followed the Canadiens. They don’t have a true number-one centre right now, and Aho would change that immediately.
The Finn had 30 goals and 53 assists in 82 games last season, so you know he’s a guy who can make things go offensively. There’s a reason he was targeted by the Canadiens. Bergevin always says that these players don’t get moved very often and he’s right. There’s a very special player in Aho.
The first thing you notice is the positive impact Aho has on the ice offensively. He is above average in shots taken, penalties drawn, and in being an offensive threat. He also takes fewer penalties than average.
Defensively he’s not outstanding, as you can see in the bottom chart in the image. However, Montreal has the ability to turn out very defensively-sound centres in Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and wingers who are good defensively, especially his fellow Finn Artturi Lehkonen. Aho was 12th in Selke Trophy voting, in addition to being 10th in Hart Trophy voting.
Let’s be real: this is all about the offence. Aho would provide the Canadiens with something they haven’t had in a very, very long time: a dynamic number-one centre. That’s why he was targeted, and that’s why the Canadiens went the unconventional route to obtain his services.
Aho controlled shot attempts when on the ice, and despite the chart above, came out ahead in scoring chances and high-danger chances as well at 54% or above in those categories.
If Carolina doesn’t match the offer sheet, Montreal does have to give up the three picks as the current deal dictates — a first-, second-, and third-rounder — in the 2020 Draft, but given the quality of player, many won’t mind the lack of activity in this case.
There’s a real chance that the Hurricanes will match the offer sheet, and that is the likely scenario, but this is more than just going out and hoping to make a splash on a day where the unrestricted free agents were asking for too much money. Aho would provide the Canadiens with exactly what they need.