Why restricted free agents don't see much action

marcstaal.jpgSo you’re a bit disheartened that things have slowed down on Day 2 of the free agency frenzy and you’re still wondering when Ilya Kovalchuk is going to either come to his senses or run away and hide with a huge contract. That’s understandable, but what gives with the lack of action for all of those restricted free agents (otherwise known as Group II free agents, full list found here) from teams that aren’t their own? Oh sure, we remember past offer sheets for Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner drawing the ire of Darcy Regier and Brian Burke alike (and earning Kevin Lowe an instant enemy in Burke), but those were different, more spend-crazy times.

Now? The price for offering up an offer sheet to a player and having the team holding his rights giving that player away are steeper than you might understand, and not just from the standpoint of creating an instant front office enemy either. Say you’re interested in Bobby Ryan in Anaheim and want to fulfill his wishes for a short-term, big money deal. Or say you’re interested in the Rangers’ Marc Staal or the Wild’s Josh Harding, what will that cost your team should they end up signing with them? Depending on the salary, it could turn out to be really pricey.

OFFER                                         COMPENSATION

$1,020,348 or below                       None
Over $1,020,348 to $1,545,981        Third-round choice
Over $1,545,981 to $3,091,963        Second-round choice
Over $3,091,963 to $4,637,944        First-round and third-round choice
Over $4,637,944 to $6,183,925        First-round, second-round and third-round choice
Over $6,183,925 to $7,729,907        Two first-round choices, one second- and one third-round choice
Over $7,729,907                             Four first-round choices

If you’re looking for reasons why it’s harder for teams to justify going after restricted free agents, look no further than those compensation points. If a player only commands little in salary, you can likely find unrestricted players at similar salaries and don’t need to risk giving up the picks, or the compensation is so much that going after them may not be worth the risk at all.

Most restricted free agents available aren’t going to command a price of over $7.7 million dollars, so coughing up an astounding four first-round picks won’t be necessary. But what about the $5 million a year that Bobby Ryan wants? Would you want your team to give up a first, second and third-round pick to get him? That’s a tough call, one that requires you to believe that strongly in a player to pull the trigger on such a deal.

One fun part of that is that a team that doesn’t have their own picks to give as compensation cannot make an offer for a restricted free agent if they don’t have the picks to give up. That means a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs is immediately shut out from offering a RFA anything over $3,091,963 as the Bruins own their first round pick in 2011. A team can always get their picks back if they traded them away, but good luck making that work out for you.

Are there prime players out there worth taking a shot at? Definitely. Ryan and Staal are probably two of the most attractive players to shoot for, but is it worth the potentially bad PR and ugly media fight to get it done? A lot of teams won’t want to deal with the hassle, leaving it to be a somewhat unwritten rule, a “code” if you will, that you don’t vulture in on another team’s property. That said, if I was a GM with a highly-touted RFA to deal with, I’d keep my eye on that wily Kevin Lowe though… He seems to have a bit of a history for this thing.

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    Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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    Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

    With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

    PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

    Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

    Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

    And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

    Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

    He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

    MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

    And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

    Misc.

    Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

    • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
    • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
    • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

    All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

    There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

    Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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    Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

    After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

    Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

    …. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

    Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

    Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

    Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

    It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

    The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

    Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

    After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

    Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

    Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

    And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

    As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

    The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

    Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

    Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

    The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

    The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

    Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

    From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

    Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.