Over the years, I’ve honestly been a bit stunned by the rarity of teams going after other clubs’ restricted free agents with offer sheets. Sure, it might cause a little awkwardness between general managers at country clubs and such, but isn’t aggressive improvement worth a little tension?
Of course, the other side of that coin is that signing a player to an offer sheet comes with two more tangible costs: 1) the actual salary and cap-related impact of the contract (as usual) and 2) the draft picks one must give up to compensate the opposing team. Craig Custance of The Sporting News revealed what teams will need to give up to complete offer sheets for the 2011-12 season.
2011 restricted free agent compensation
An offer with a $1,034,249 annual cap hit or less: No compensation
More than $1,034,249 — $1,567,043: Third-round pick
More than $1,567,043 — $3,134,088: Second-round pick
More than $3,134,088 — $4,701,131: First and third-round pick
More than $4,701,131 — $6,268,175: First, second and third-round pick
More than $6,268,175 — $7,835,219: Two first-round picks, a second and third
More than $7,835,219 and higher: Four first-round picks
If you want to compare and contrast the 2011 compensation rates to the rates for 2010 here they are. (H/T to My NHL Trade Rumors.)
$1,020,348 or below: No compensation.
$1,020,348 to $1,545,981: A third-round draft choice.
$1,545,981 to $3,091,963: A second round draft choice.
$3,091,963 to $4,637,944: A first-round choice and a third-rounder.
$4,637,944 to $6,183,925: A first- a second- and a third-rounder.
$6,183,925 to $7,729,907: Two First-round choices, a second-rounder and a third-rounder.
Over $7,729,907: Four first-rounders.
As you can see, the changes aren’t particularly dramatic, but this post might be especially relevant to three teams: the Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s because those franchises employ three outright stars who could become restricted free agents on July 1: Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos.
Each one of those teams are already allowed to sign those players, so it’s quite possible that none will be susceptible to offer sheets. Custance caught up with Barry Trotz to gather his thoughts on Weber, who might be the most likely to have a tough contract negotiation process. Beyond his bountiful size and skills, Weber might be a bigger headache to re-sign since he’s one year from being eligible for unrestricted free agency and the Predators could have a tighter budget than other NHL teams.
Trotz doesn’t seem too worried about those factors, though.
Predators coach Barry Trotz has some advice to Detroit or anyone else thinking about an offer sheet for Weber.
“We’ll just match it,” Trotz told Sporting News. “I can tell you, whatever they offer, it’ll just get matched.”
Even if the Predators will pay any price to keep Weber, an especially devious general manager could drive up Weber’s price a bit to limit Nashville’s options to put a better team around him. Honestly, if I were the GM for Nashville, Los Angeles or Tampa Bay, I would have done whatever possible to follow the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins’ examples* by signing those three players the second it was legal.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Weber, Doughty and Stamkos wanted a season to increase their value that much more (or maybe the teams wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting before handing them huge deals). Either way, the unrestricted free agent market looks pretty dry this summer, so teams might be a bit more likely to opt for offer sheets. Hopefully we’ll get some fun things to talk about in July, August and beyond.
* – The Capitals and Penguins re-signed key restricted free agents such as Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin almost the first day they were allowed.