Will there be any offer sheets this summer?


Any time a young, big-name player enters the restricted free agent market, fans wonder if an offer sheet might be coming.

And sometimes they are. For example, Philadelphia Flyers attempted to snatch defenseman Shea Weber from Nashville last season, but the Predators matched. Which is part of the problem: Historically, teams have almost always matched.

“Offer sheets aren’t a concern,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in June.

Armstrong’s negotiating with arguably the most appealing restricted free agent in defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

“It’s part of the business and you know that they’re there,” he added. “Nothing in an offer sheet is going to be that much crazier than we’re willing to spend anyway.”

That’s especially true now. Going back to the Weber example, the Flyers attempted to out-muscle a smaller market team by heavily frontloading the contract, but the new CBA prevents teams from trying that now.

With that in mind, would Pietrangelo even bother to sign an offer sheet, knowing that all it would serve to do is create a potential rift with the Blues once they match it?

Maybe not, but the Blues are in a somewhat unique situation this year and it’s with that in mind we can’t dismiss the possibility of offer sheets in general. St. Louis has plenty of cap space to work with, but the ceiling has fallen significantly, which means that other teams are more vulnerable to offer sheets now than they have been in a while.

For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs still have five noteworthy restricted free agents and they just handed big deals to David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak. Their cap situation isn’t critical yet, but an opposing team could put them in a difficult position by throwing a big contract at 22-year-old forward Nazem Kadri.

“Whenever you have a certain number of teams that are at or near the cap with restricted free agents, they don’t have the ability to match the offer sheet,” said agent Allan Walsh, according to the Toronto Star. “Or they’re put into a situation where they match the offer sheet and have to let somebody else go.”

That tactic seemed to work out for the San Jose Sharks in 2010. They signed Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four-year, $14 million contract. The Blackhawks matched, but that made a bad cap situation worse and they were ultimately unable to fit goaltender Antti Niemi under the ceiling as well. The Sharks then scooped up the Stanley Cup-winning netminder.

Alternatively, teams could snatch up lower profile, but still noteworthy young players on cap vulnerable teams, such as Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Chicago’s Marcus Kruger, and Vancouver’s Chris Tanev.

Those deals would have the added benefit of being more appealing to the offering team from a draft pick compensation perspective. The cap hit of the new contract needs to exceed roughly $3.36 million for the original team to get more than a third rounder as compensation.

In the end, the next offer sheet might not be a blockbuster, but it could result in an up-and-coming complimentary player changing teams.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.