I have to question myself for agreeing with you, but you are correct in this. If our best offer to Aho was really 8 years at $7.5M, we effectively told him we didn't really think he was that important. If there is any truth that out first offer this summer was 8 years at $6M, that's down right insulting.
I am a professional contract negotiator. It's what I do everyday. If you are buying a commodity (inanimate object) , you want to get it for the lowest possible price. If you are acquiring a service, you are essentially buying a partner. You should not be looking for the lowest possible price. You should be looking for a win/win. If the acquired service feels cheated or unappreciated, you will never achieve a fully committed partnership with your asset. If you overpay, the contract becomes a burden on the team and creates hardship for the player.
If Aho has another year of increased production, he is looking at Panarin value. Why would he agree to something that would pay him Zucarela money for the majority of his prime years? If we wanted lower AAV, we needed to offer shorter term. That would allow Aho to bet on himself. If we wanted longer term, we needed to offer more money. That would be us betting on Aho. The win/win negotiation, is medium term, medium money. That is pretty much what Montreal did with the offer sheet, although I still think its a little light financially.
The 5 year contract really is the perfect length for the player and the team. Aho is 21. He will be 26 when this deal expires. Assuming he will be seeking full term on the next contract, the 8 year extension takes him 34. All 8 years should be solid producing years. If this contract was for 8 years, he would be 29 when this contract expires. Assuming he would be seeking full term at that point, the extension would take him to 37. That would create one of those situations where you are over paying for the last 3 or 4 years of the contract.