This summer’s restricted free agent (RFA) list is quite impressive, with nine 20-goal scorers and 13 players who scored more than 40 points last season. Forwards Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Nikita Kucherov, Marcus Johansson, and Mike Hoffman headline the forwards; while Hampus Lindholm, Tyson Barrie, Rasmus Ristolainen, Danny DeKeyser, and Jacob Trouba are the top defensemen. Detroit’s Petr Mrazek is the only big-name RFA goalie remaining. Most of the above players are eligible for offer sheets.
According to Elliotte Friedman, compensation for offer sheets is as follows:
- Less than $1.239MM (average annual value of contract) – Nothing;
- $1.239-$1.878MM – Third-round pick;
- $1.878-$3.755MM – Second-round pick;
- $3.755-$5.633MM – First and third-round picks;
- $5.633-$7.510MM – First, second and third-round picks;
- $7.510-$9.388MM – Two first, a second and third-round picks;
- Over $9.388MM – Four first-round picks.
With this in mind, teams could target rival teams top young players, with both outcomes having their benefits to the aggressive team: either they acquire a good young player for only picks, or they mess up a rival’s salary cap by inflating the player’s salary.
The threat of an offer sheet was evident last summer, with the Blackhawks trading Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets and the Bruins trading Dougie Hamilton to the Flames. Both players were pending RFAs and in line for a big raise before being shipped out to prevent their teams from being subjected to an offer sheet. However, this summer has been the complete opposite, with teams taking their time to sign the above-mentioned stars, apparently not overly worried about offer sheets.
Why could that be?
The last time an NHL team successfully acquired a player via an offer sheet was in 2007. Then-Oilers-GM Kevin Lowe signed Anaheim Ducks LW Dustin Penner to a 4-year, $21.5MM contract. The Ducks did not match, and the Oilers forked over their first three rounds of draft picks in 2008. Penner enjoyed varying degrees of success in three-and-a-half seasons in Edmonton before being traded to Los Angeles where he won a Stanley Cup. The Penner offer sheet is most fondly remembered by then-Ducks-GM Brian Burke and Lowe’s escalating war of words which nearly lead to a fist-fight in a rented barn in Lake Placid. Commissioner Gary Bettman was forced to have a conference call with the two GMs to get them to stop.
It’s perhaps this sort of reaction that prevents GMs from making offer sheets. Earlier this summer, ESPN and TSN reporter Pierre LeBrun quoted an unnamed GM as threatening opposing GMs with an offer sheet per year for the next ten years as retribution for a potential offer sheet. There appears to be an unspoken agreement between GMs to leave RFAs alone. There hasn’t been an offer sheet tendered since 2013 when Colorado matched Calgary’s contract with Ryan O’Reilly, saving the Flames from an embarrassing and costly mistake.
So despite several fan bases calling for offer sheets, it seems unlikely that any players will be switching sweaters this summer because of one.