Training camps open soon and valuable restricted free agents (RFAs) remain unsigned. An RFA has two options if he cannot reach a deal with his current team: sit out or sign with another club via an offer sheet. There are rules and restrictions regarding offer sheets, and the following guide should help navigate the thicket before training camp starts.
Offer Sheets are governed by Section 10.3 and 10.4 of the CBA. The basic premise is that an RFA can sign a contract with any club, but the RFAs prior club has seven days to match the principal terms—salary, bonuses, and length. If a prior club matches, then they are bound to the contract. If the prior club declines to match, however, they get compensated with draft picks from the RFA’s new club. The draft pick compensation is commensurate with the average annual value (AAV) of the RFA’s new contract. The prior club gets better (and more) draft picks the higher the contract value.
Determining draft pick compensation is easy. Take the full salary offered and divide it by the contract term, but only up to five years. Even if a player signed a seven year contract, the CBA dictates that the salary only be divided by five. The resulting number determines the draft picks a prior club receives from the new club. The CBA breaks the compensation down into tiers, and CapFriendly published a convenient guide:
The draft pick compensation mechanism limits the teams that can submit offer sheets. A team must only use its own draft picks—not picks previously owned by another team—and must have them available for the next draft. General Fanager has a great resource that keeps track of which teams can submit offer sheets at each value tier. If a team owes two picks in the same round, both picks must be available in the next three drafts. If they owe four, then they must be available in the next five drafts.
Fourteen RFAs remain unsigned as of writing, and with NHL training camp only two weeks away, time is ticking for both players and teams. The following players still have yet to sign, in order of last season’s scoring:
- Johnny Gaudreau – Calgary Flames
- Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning
- Rickard Rakell – Anaheim Ducks
- Rasmus Ristolainen – Buffalo Sabres
- Tobias Rieder – Arizona Coyotes
- Dmitry Orlov – Washington Capitals
- Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars
- Hampus Lindholm – Anaheim Ducks
- Ryan Strome – New York Islanders
- Jacob Trouba – Winnipeg Jets
- Zemgus Girgensons – Buffalo Sabres
- Nikita Nesterov – Tampa Bay Lightning
- Stefan Elliott – Nashville Predators
- Freddie Hamilton – Calgary Flames
Some teams are close to signing their RFAs—like the Flames and Gaudreau—but others, like Arizona and Rieder, are far apart. The next two weeks should bring a wave of signings, but for now offer sheet speculation ramps up as fans ponder what a player is worth and whether a team is better off receiving draft picks or matching value.