Marc Bergevin's negotiation technique towards Kotkaniemi

Published August 2, 2021 at 10:13

At Marc Bergevin's most recent press briefing, at the end of his first day of work following the opening of the free agent market, he took the opportunity to answer reporters' questions, of course, but he was also very careful about certain topics.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Indeed, when it came to the young Finnish forward, the Habs GM was very careful to choose his words in order to remain evasive on the subject. He talked about a likely increased role in the Montreal Canadiens' lineup, skirting around the subject of the second-three center position, but without getting too far into it.

Here's what's going on:

Kotkaniemi is currently looking for a new contract, having just finished his NHL entry-level contract and currently finding himself a restricted free agent player without the right to salary arbitration.

KK, 21, had 20 points in 56 games this season and 8 points in 19 playoff games. With 62 points in 171 games since his NHL debut, Kotkaniemi is struggling to get off the ground and still lacks consistency for some. So, Marc Bergevin can't afford to say loudly and clearly that the young center will officially be his man to pivot the second line of his team next season. That would give KK and his team way too much negotiating power.

It's important to understand that Bergevin is most likely looking for a transitional contract for Kotkaniemi, so that he can really find his identity in the NHL. A contract of this kind, in the situation in which KK finds himself, represents a short-term contract (1, 2 or 3 seasons) with a "not too high" salary (around $2 to $3M annually). So to say that Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be the Montreal Canadiens' second line center next season would give his camp too much ammunition to potentially negotiate the salary upwards because of the importance of the role he is offered.

The third overall pick in the 2018 draft, KK is the last player on the CH's official roster who does not yet have a contract in place heading into the 2020-21 season. It is unknown what Marc Bergevin will do on the trade side between now and the start of next training camp, but if he decides to acquire a 2nd/3rd line center, Kotkaniemi's role would already be less important, which could play on the value of his next contract.

To be continued...
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