It’s been four years since the last offer sheet in the NHL, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation surrounding them.
The past two years leave little clue to what could happen this summer. Two summers ago saw several major moves made to avoid the threat of an offer sheet, then last summer saw seven high-end players go the entire summer without a new contract with no whisper of an offer sheet.
Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Evegeni Kuznetsov, Alexander Wennberg, and 23 more 30-plus point scorers are restricted free agents this summer. Those seven names all scored more than 59 points this past season, and would be plug-and-play options on most NHL clubs. And while the official compensation has not been reported for the upcoming season, last season it broke down this way (per Elliott Friedman):
|Less than $1.23MM||No compensation|
|$1.23MM to $1.87MM||Third-round pick|
|$1.87MM to $3.75MM||Second-round pick|
|$3.75MM to $5.63MM||First and third-round picks|
|$5.63MM to $7.51MM||First, second and third-round picks|
|$7.51MM to $9.38MM||Two firsts, a second and third-round picks|
|Over $9.38MM||Four first-round picks|
The price to acquire a marquee name would realistically be two first-round picks, a second, and a third. Arguably, none of those players are in line to make more than $7.5MM on their new deals with their current clubs, but offer sheets need to be high enough to discourage the player’s club from matching, leading to overpaying players. It’s for that reason that offer sheets are so rare; no GM can afford to harm their team’s reputation among their peers (or take part in a barn fight). Additionally, offer sheets raise salaries and no team owner wants to be seen as responsible in the next CBA talks. Back in the mid-90s, Colorado Avalanche superstar Joe Sakic signed an offer sheet with the New York Rangers that raised the standard salary for NHL stars from $3MM to $7MM.
On TSN 690 in Montreal, where fans and media are speculating about a potential offer sheet for the Oilers’ big center Draisaitl, TSN Insider Darren Dreger shot down rumors. Dreger believes the Oilers know what it will likely take to sign Draisaitl and 2018-RFA Connor McDavid and are willing to sacrifice players like Jordan Eberle and perhaps even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in order to keep their two young stars together. As mentioned above, offer sheets harm working relationships and with other big names becoming available from Edmonton for cap purposes in the coming few years, it doesn’t make sense to rule one’s team out of those discussions.
Realistically, the threat of an offer sheet is a more effective way to acquire a player. In 2015, the Bruins and Blackhawks traded Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad quickly to avoid being hit with an offer sheet. In the Blackhawks’ case, losing Saad for draft picks would have lead to future trades to replace him. Acquiring actual NHL players and prospects (like Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano) is more valuable than the risk associated with draft picks because the GM knows exactly what he’s getting back.
While fans and media love to speculate about offer sheets, the combination of losing several high draft picks, CBA issues, and the guarantee of harming the franchise’s reputation, it’s understandable why offer sheets are close to extinct.