Looking back at the most scandalous offer sheet dramas in NHL history

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kevinlowe.jpgI’ve stated this quite a bit the last few days, but it’s surprising NHL teams are so reluctant to send promising players offer sheets. I imagine there’s a lot of “Golden Rule” justification for staying away (“What if I’m in their shoes?,” general managers would shout), but … wouldn’t Bobby Ryan be worth a few bitter glances at the country club?

While the Sharks bidding for Niklas Hjalmarsson seems more like an exception to the rule, hockey does have an interesting history of offer sheets during the last 20 years or so. John Grigg presented his top 10 all-time offer sheet scandals today. Here’s the top three.

3. Scott Stevens, 1990
No one in league history has been as much of a poacher as former St. Louis GM Ron Caron. In 1990 he rolled the dice and made Washington’s Stevens the highest-paid blueliner in the NHL with a four-year, $5.1-million contract offer. An arbiter awarded the Capitals five first round draft picks, putting the Blues’ future pipeline into question.

2. Sergei Fedorov, 1998
The feud between Carolina owner Peter Karmanos and Detroit owner Mike Illitch is a famous one. And it was never more heated than when Karmanos attempted to lure Fedorov to the Hurricanes with a mammoth six-year, $38-million contract that could have paid the Russian up to $28 million with bonuses the first year (one of the clauses was based on the team making the semifinal, something the Canes were far less likely than Detroit to do). The Wings matched and the war continued.

1. Brendan Shanahan, 1991
A year after landing Stevens, Caron went after New Jersey’s burgeoning star winger Shanahan, trying to get him in a Blues uniform. He got his man when the Devils refused to match the offer, but the controversy didn’t end there. The teams went to arbitration, with the Blues offering Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind’Amour and two draft picks as compensation. But the arbiter leaned Jersey’s way and awarded the Devils – dah, de-da, dah – Scott Stevens… meaning the total cost to St. Louis for signing Shanny was five first round picks and Stevens. Ouch.

One name that showed up a lot on this list was Hall of Famer Scott Stevens. His contract situations factored into the top 10 twice (No. 10 in 1994 and No. 3 in 1990) and also were involved in Brendan Shanahan’s scenario, too.

Perhaps former St. Louis Blues GM Ron Caron was preaching my offer sheet gospel in the ’90s as he was clearly very aggressive in that department. (Then again, maybe all those burnt bridges explain why you don’t hear much about “The Old Professor”” anymore.)

The biggest, most recent year for crazy offer sheet situations was 2007. That was the year that Kevin Lowe angered Brian Burke by signing Dustin Penner to a hefty offer sheet while Lowe also forced the Buffalo Sabres to match his ridiculous five year, $50 million offer sheet for sniper Thomas Vanek. (The Sabres had little choice as their fans were already reeling from the loss of Chris Drury and Danny Briere … which, looking at the contracts of those players, actually turned out to be a good thing for money-challenged Buffalo.)

So, yes, it’s not the most socially acceptable thing to do, but offer sheet drama is very interesting when it does happen. Oh, and sometimes it can swing the very flow of the sport. (See: Stevens, Scott.)