Aho, Hurricanes agree to 8-year contract extension

Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho has reached the 30-goal mark for four times in his career. (Mary Altaffer / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — On his 26th birthday, Sebastian Aho committed to playing in Raleigh at least until he will turn 35.

Aho and the Hurricanes agreed to an eight-year, $78 million contract extension Wednesday that will start in the 2024-25 season and carry through until the summer of 2032.

“This is the place I want to play,” Aho said during a video call with the media on Wednesday. “Starting from the front office, the organization has taken huge steps over the course of the last five years, and we feel like we’re building every year.”

The deal is the richest contract in franchise history and will cost $9.75 million against the salary cap annually — just shy of a $1.3 million yearly raise from the five-year offer sheet Aho signed with Montreal in 2019 that Carolina matched.

Aho is entering the final year of a contract that has a $8,460,250 cap hit in 2023-24, 50th highest in the league according to CapFriendly.com. Fifteen players will cost more than $10 million against the salary cap next season — a number that is sure to rise as the NHL’s salary cap gets a boost as the players pay off debt from the seasons impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Carolina, however, kept Aho under that threshold on his new deal. The 35th overall pick by Carolina in the 2015 NHL Draft, Aho has blossomed into the Hurricanes’ best player, leading the team in scoring in five of his seven NHL seasons and totaling 218 goals, 250 assists and 468 points in 520 career regular season games. Last season, Aho led the team with 36 goals and finished second behind Martin Necas with 67 points in 75 games. He tied for the team lead with Jordan Martinook with 12 points in 15 postseason games.

“We all know Sebastian as a great player, but he’s a great person too,” Hurricanes president and GM Don Waddell said during the media availability. “And those are the kinds of people you want to surround yourself with because when times get tough, these kinds of players dig down and make it happen for you. So this was an easy decision for us to sign Sebastian to eight years and we’re very pleased.”

The negotiations for this contract went much smoother than his last when an impasse led to Aho signing a five-year, $42.295 million offer sheet with the Canadiens. The Hurricanes immediately indicated they would match the offer sheet and did, triggering a rivalry with the Original Six franchise that included Carolina poaching Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Habs via offer sheet and Montreal reporting the Hurricanes to the NHL for not playing enough preseason games before the 2021-22 season.

Aho and the Hurricanes were quick to extinguish any suggestion of a schism between the player and team after the offer sheet, and negotiations on his latest extension went much smoother.

The decision to re-sign was a “pretty easy decision for me,” Aho said. “Actually, the only choice I had in my mind was to have another contract with the Canes.”

Now the Finnish center and the Hurricanes continue their quest for the one thing that has eluded them — a Stanley Cup title.

“I want to take that next step and be more of a leader and be an even better player and help the team win the Cup,” Aho said.