NHL '11 news: GM Mode will feature restricted free agency, offer sheets, qualifying offers

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Video games will never be able to truly duplicate what it’s like to be an NHL player or an NHL general manager. Sure, you can make a controller that mimics your movements and simulate the Scouting Combine experience, but human factors are often very difficult to translate.

Still, it’s fun to play general manager even if its a rudimentary version of the real-life job, so every accurate detail is greatly appreciated. An EA Sports programmer wrote today that NHL ’11 will feature restricted free agency after years of treating every player like an unrestricted free agent.

The game’s off-season mode will factor in qualifying offers and offer sheets as well (though I haven’t heard any discussion of the added difficulty level of dealing with Dale Tallon’s fax machine). One simple-yet-unprecedented tweak is that the game will now feature more than the next year’s worth of draft picks.

We now track 6 years of Draft Picks in NHL 11, so the user can offer/trade draft picks in future years (not just ‘this year’s picks) when it comes to completing a deal or an offer sheet. Because of changes to how we’ve done our Rookie Generation engine this year, teams will have a fairly accurate idea of what type of quality of player that can be expected to be received via a pick that is 4 or 5 years out. This is a significant change to our draft pick engine from the past, as before, there was a disconnect between the perceived value of a pick, and the rookie that would be drafted in that position. This year, we have a much stronger correlation between picks and the rookies that will eventually be ‘cashed in’ for them. Generally, even with this extra awareness, you’ll find that CPU teams will not be as anxious to trade for picks several years out.

One of the ways you can “exploit” video game general managers is by trading first round draft picks and lesser players to get stars in deals that would never happen in reality (Daryl Sutter notwithstanding), so any increase in accuracy would also be welcome.

Playing virtual general manager can often be almost as fun as playing the games themselves, so I – for one – am excited about these alterations. Stay tuned for more news on NHL ’11 and other hockey video games going forward.

(H/T to Sean Leahy.)