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PHT Time Machine: When RFA offer sheets actually happened

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Throughout the offseason we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back at the history of restricted free agent offer sheets and some of the wild signings and situations that have unfolded because of them.

There is probably no greater time-waster in the NHL offseason than discussing the possibility of a restricted free agent offer sheet. Every year we look at the names that are out there, and every year we discuss the possibility of a young player signing a massive contract and wondering whether it will be matched, and every year nothing ever comes of it.

There are a number of theories as to why it never happens, ranging from the more nefarious ones like GM’s wanting to keep the cost of young players down or having some sort of “unwritten agreement” among them to not poach other team’s players, to a far more reasonable one: It’s really difficult to find a perfect match where such a signing can actually happen.

Not only does a team need to have the salary cap space and the appropriate draft pick assets, but the player in question has to actually WANT to sign with the team offering the contract, and the team owning that player’s rights has to be unwilling (or unable) to match it.

That is tough to find.

We do not know how many offers actually get made, but we do know in the history of restricted free agency there have only been 35 offer sheets actually signed, and only eight in the salary cap era.

Only 13 of those offer sheets were not matched and saw a player actually change teams.

We have not seen an offer sheet signed since the Calgary Flames tried to get Ryan O'Reilly away from the Colorado Avalanche during the 2012-13 season (it was ultimately matched by the Avalanche).

This offseason, of course, is no different when it comes to the speculation, and the player that is getting the most attention is Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner due to the team’s salary cap crunch and Marner’s reported contract demands.

Will it actually happen? History says no, but a lot of the circumstances are in place for it to at least be on the table. Speaking of history, let’s take a look back at some of the more noteworthy offer sheets in NHL history.

Hurricanes sign Sergei Fedorov

This might be the wildest offer sheet situation the league has ever seen.

During the 1997-98 season the Carolina Hurricanes were in their first year of existence after relocating from Hartford. They were losing money after the move, they were in last place in their division, and the organization had missed the playoffs in each of its final five seasons as the Whalers.

Fedorov, still fairly close to the height of his powers as an NHL superstar, was involved in an ugly contract dispute with the Detroit Red Wings and by mid-February had still not signed a contract. During the Olympic break that season (the first year NHL players participated in the Olympics) the Hurricanes, led by now Hall of Fame general manager Jim Rutherford, decided to pounce and signed Fedorov to a massive six year, $38 million contract that included a $14 million signing bonus for him to play in the final 25 games of the season, and more than $12 million in bonuses over the next four years.

It would have made him one of the highest paid players in the league.

An excerpt from a Feb. 21, 1998 Associated Press story on the signing.

Rutherford later added in the story, “This is a player in a special situation who rolled the dice, he held out, he’s a world-class player and probably one of the top-five players in the world right now. He deserves to make more money. This is part of the building blocks to being in a new market … and having a franchise player.”

The Red Wings ultimately matched the offer and Fedorov not only ended up making a ton of money to play in only a quarter of the season, he played a massive part in the team winning its second straight Stanley Cup.

But it wasn’t just the fact that a last place team in a new market made the bold move to sign a superstar to a massive offer sheet that made this so intriguing. The underlying storyline here was also the fact the owners of the teams (Peter Karmanos with the Hurricanes and Mike Ilitch with the Red Wings) had a long history of being rivals in pretty much every walk of life.

Karmanos initially tried to move the Whalers to suburban Detroit after purchasing the team in 1994 (they would have played at The Palace Of Auburn Hills) something that obviously did not sit well with the Red Wings, while the two men had extensive business operations in the Detroit area (Ilitch with Little Caesars; Karmonas with a computer software company).

They were also active players in Detroit’s amateur hockey scene that resulted in Ilitch evicting Karmanos’ major junior team out of Joe Louis arena.

So … yeah. These two guys had major beef for a long time, and adding a restricted free agent offer sheet for one of the league’s best players certainly didn’t calm things down.

At least they never tried to fight in a barn, something that nearly happened in our next situation.

The Oilers’ wild summer of 2007

Knowing what we know now about how slow the RFA market typically is, it is completely absurd to look back now and remember that the Edmonton Oilers, under the direction of Kevin Lowe, signed two offer sheets in the same summer.

It all began on July 6, 2007, when he attempted to sign Thomas Vanek to a seven-year, $50 million contract in an effort to pry him away from the Buffalo Sabres. At the time Vanek was one of the league’s best young goal-scorers and was coming off of a 43-goal season. Even though he had played just two years in the league, he had already scored 68 goals and was an emerging star.

The Sabres immediately matched the offer.

So Lowe set his sights elsewhere and three weeks later targeted the reigning Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, signing Dustin Penner to five-year, $21.5 million offer sheet.

Prior to the signing then-Ducks general manager Brian Burke had said he would match any offer sheet that Penner was signed to, but he probably was not anticipating that sort of offer. Even though Penner was coming off of a 29-goal season for the Ducks, he had still only played 101 games in the NHL and had just 33 total goals (less than half of what Vanek had scored at the same point in their careers).

The offer infuriated Burke and resulted in him publicly blasting Lowe in the media the next day.

Along with calling the contract “gutless,” Burke also added that “Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it’s an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job.”

The feud between the two executives reached a point to where Burke wanted to rent a barn in Lake Placid so they could physically fight.

The Ducks refused to match the offer and in return received the Oilers’ first, second, and third round draft picks the following year.

From there, a lot of things happened.

  • The first-round pick Anaheim received ended up being the No. 12 pick in the draft. Anaheim then traded that pick for the No. 17 and 28 picks in 2008. They then used the No. 17 pick to select Jake Gardiner, who would eventually be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs (along with Joffrey Lupul) in exchange for Francois Beauchemin.  The No. 28 pick was traded for two second-round picks.
  • The second-round pick Anaheim received from Edmonton was used to select Justin Schultz, who ended up never signing with the Ducks and once he became a free agent signed with … the Edmonton Oilers.

Penner was mostly okay with the Oilers, but probably wasn’t worth the assets they gave up to get him.

Flyers go all in for Shea Weber

Ah, yes, the Paul Holmgren era Philadelphia Flyers.

If there was a blockbuster to be made this team was going to do it. One year after overhauling his entire roster by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter so he could throw a bank vault at Ilya Bryzgalov, Paul Holmgren made what was perhaps his boldest move yet when he signed defenseman Shea Weber to a massive 14-year offer sheet that was worth $110 million.

[Related: Paul Holmgren’s year of crazy Flyers blockbusters]

The Predators were pretty vulnerable at the time because this was the same summer they had lost Ryan Suter in free agency to the Minnesota Wild, which came just a couple of years after losing Dan Hamhuis. The team was built around its defense and two of its three most important players were already gone. Losing Weber at that time would have been absolutely crushing.

The Predators decided to pass at the opportunity to collect four first-round draft picks from the Flyers and matched the offer.

They eventually traded Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban, and then traded Subban this summer to the Devils for … well … a lot of salary cap space.

Scott Stevens had an extensive — and important — history with offer sheets

One of the first significant offer sheets came when the St. Louis Blues signed Scott Stevens to a four-year, $5.1 million contract to pry him away from the Washington Capitals on July 16, 1990.

The Capitals declined to match the offer and ultimately received five first-round draft picks in return, with two of them turning into Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt, two players that would go on to be long-time staples on the Capitals’ blue line.

Stevens would only play one season with the Blues before he was on the move again in the summer of 1991 in one of the more controversial rulings in league history.

It was then that the Blues signed restricted free agent Brendan Shanahan away from the New Jersey Devils. Because the Blues were sending all of their first-round picks to the Capitals for signing Stevens, they had to agree to other compensation to get Shanahan. There was a disagreement on what that compensation should be.

The Blues offered goalie Curtis Joseph, forward Rod Brind’Amour, and two draft picks.

The Devils wanted Stevens.

An arbitrator decided that Stevens was the appropriate compensation and awarded him to the Devils in a decision that infuriated the Blues and other high-profile players around the league, including The Great One.

Blues superstar Brett Hull was not as calm or measured in his statements.

And more…

Wild times.

This was during a CBA fight between the players and league with the players trying to get greater free agent rights. So it is not hard to understand why the Blues (and other players around the league) were so angry about it.

Stevens initially refused to report to Devils camp. He eventually did and would go on to become one of the most important players in franchise history and was the backbone of three Stanley Cup winning teams.

But his RFA saga would not end with this.

In the summer of 1994 the Blues had attempted to re-acquire Stevens, again a restricted free agent, and signed him to a four-year, $17 million offer sheet.

The Devils would ultimately match it, but were convinced the Blues had tampered with Stevens and spoke to him before his Devils contract expired. The league then launched an investigation and NEARLY FIVE YEARS finally reached a settlement that would see the Blues send $1.4 million and a first-round draft pick to the Devils as compensation for tampering.

Then-Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was not satisfied with that resulted and wanted more.

Via the New York Times:

”I don’t look at something of this nature as a triumph,” Lamoriello said yesterday in a conference call after Commissioner Gary Bettman handed down his decision. ”It’s a detriment to the N.H.L. I don’t think the compensation could be severe enough. My request was five first-round picks, plus damages.”

And…

”In a process of negotiations, when they are ongoing and you are speaking, you can usually sense when there is something else involved,” Lamoriello said. ”I sensed that I was talking to myself. I just felt as though there was something funny in the way things transpired, the way things went. I was the sole person that could be negotiating, but I felt very strongly reading some of the articles that did come out of St. Louis and things I was hearing, that something happened. Where there was some smoke, I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any fire.”

Rangers try for Joe Sakic

In the summer of 1997 the New York Rangers were coming off of a conference Finals loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and had just lost their captain, Mark Messier, in free agency to the Vancouver Canucks.

Their response: To sign Joe Sakic, at the time one of the league’s best players, to a three-year, $21 million contract that had as much as $15 million in signing bonuses up front. The compensation would have been five first-round draft picks.

The Avalanche refused to let their cornerstone player get away and matched the offer. They would go on to remain one of the league’s powers and would win another Stanley Cup with Sakic in 2001. The Rangers, meanwhile, stumbled through a seven-year run of mediocrity where they attempted to acquire every aging superstar in the league. Nothing worked and the team was consistently an expensive flop until finally returning to the playoffs during the 2005-06 season.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ron Burgundy keeps it classy during LA Kings broadcast

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In the grand tradition of having celebrities inside the television play-by-play booth, San Diego news icon Ron Burgundy joined Alex Faust and Jim Fox during the second period of Thursday’s Los Angeles Kings-San Jose Sharks game.

Burgundy offered his expert analysis during LA’s 4-2 win, revealing his fondness for Jeff Carter, letting the viewers know he was wearing his lucky underwear, and getting himself on the “Kiss Cam” with a burrito.

San Diego’s favorite son also made time to meet with Aiden Rose, a Make-a-Wish kid who was signed to a one-day contract by the Kings.

The Kings failed to score during the second period, but Burgundy did provide us with a glimpse into what one of his goal calls would look like:

And he didn’t even need a teleprompter!

Earlier this month “Mad Men” Jon Hamm was in the booth for his beloved St. Louis Blues and even got to call an Ivan Barbashev goal. At this point we’re probably going to see Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar calling a Chicago Blackhawks game. Party on.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning host Kings on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Tampa leads the NHL with 47 wins and 98 points this season. Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with 100 points (T-career high, set last year) and a career-high 70 assists. Both the Lightning and Kucherov are on historic paces this season

TB is the first team in NHL history to win at least 47 of its first 62 games of a season. They are looking to win their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy this season. The last team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and win the Stanley Cup was the Blackhawks in 2013, and before that was the Detroit Red Wings in 2008

Kucherov is on pace to hit 92 assists and 132 points this season. The last player with 90-plus assists was Joe Thornton in 2006-07 (92). Kucherov would become the first player with 130+ points since 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux (161 points) and Jaromir Jagr (149 points) both did so. 

The Kings are on a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) and sit in last place in the Western Conference with 52 points. They are having problems in all areas of the game right now – offense defense, the power play and penalty kill

Simply put, the Kings have struggled to score this year. They rank 30th in the NHL averaging 2.34 goals/game. In a season where around half the league is scoring three or more goals per game, it’s no shock that the Kings sit in the basement of the Western Conference.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Los Angeles Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Amalie Arena
When: Monday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Kings-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

KINGS
Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Ilya KovalchukJeff CarterTyler Toffoli
Brendan LeipsicAdrian Kempe – Jonny Brodzinski
Kyle CliffordTrevor LewisAustin Wagner

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Dion PhaneufMatt Roy
Paul LaDueSean Walker

Starting goalie: Jack Campbell

LIGHTNING
Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosJ.T. Miller
Tyler JohnsonBrayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony CirelliYanni Gourde
Adam ErneCedric Paquette – Mathieu Joseph

Victor HedmanDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Braydon CoburnAnton Stralman

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Rick Peckham (play-by-play) and Jim Fox (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.

NHL on NBCSN: Bolts look to extend win streak to nine against Kings

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

These two teams couldn’t be heading in more opposite directions. The Bolts are the best team in the league, while the Kings are the worst team in the West.

The Lightning have an opportunity to rattle off their ninth consecutive win tonight. During this winning streak, they’ve scored five goals or more in six games and they’ve given up one goal or fewer in four of their last five. They haven’t dropped a game in regulation all month (their last regulation loss came on Jan. 30).

They’re a machine.

If you try to focus on stopping Brayden Point‘s line which has NHL scoring leader Nikita Kucherov on it (easier said than done, by the way), they can come after you with Steven Stamkos‘ line. They’re also stacked on the blue line with guys like Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev and veterans like Braydon Coburn, Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi.

On top of all that, they have one of the best goalies in the game in Andrei Vasilevskiy. So when the Bolts come out of the game slow like they did against the Columbus Blue Jackets last week, they have a goalie that can bail them out of trouble until they wake up.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“Fans the last six years have been pretty fortunate to first get to enjoy Ben Bishop and how he helped our franchise, and then to see Vasilevskiy,” Jon Cooper said. “Vasy’s taken the baton and kept it going. It’s great watching Vasy come into his own in this league at such a young age (24). I couldn’t be happier for him.”

As for the Kings, they come into tonight’s game having dropped four in a row in regulation and seven in a row overall. They haven’t won a game in regulation since Feb. 5.

“It’s embarrassing,” Drew Doughty said after Saturday’s 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. “It’s the fact that we’re not playing with any pride. We have a chance to come back in the third period. We got four … shots on net. In a third period where, we’re supposed to absolutely blow everything on the table offensively, and we get four shots on net, and they score two goals. The fact that we’re not playing with pride and we’re not working for each other, that’s the scary part about what’s going on right now.”

There’s several issues in Los Angeles right now, but scoring has to be considered the biggest one. As of right now, the Kings have scored just 145 goals in 61 games. Only the Anaheim Ducks have scored fewer times in 2018-19.

The Kings have been out of the playoff race for a while, so they’ve traded away some of their older players, including Jake Muzzin, Nate Thompson and Carl Hagelin.

“We’re all real people, right? It’s going to wear on you when the team’s not doing well and there’s changes being made,” forward Jeff Carter said. “It’s just the reality of it. But when you step on the ice, you’ve got to play hockey, too. We’ve got to show up. You’ve got to do your job. Myself included, it’s been a struggle.”

Rick Peckham (play-by-play) and Jim Fox (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Standings slow down trade action ahead of deadline

By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

When the Maple Leafs sent a first-round pick and two prospects to the Kings for Jake Muzzin, it didn’t exactly open the flood gates a month before the trade deadline.

That’s because the standings are slowing everything down.

With less than three weeks until the Feb. 25 deadline, there are eight teams within five points of a playoff berth behind the 16 currently holding a slot. The NHL appears to be in wait-and-see mode, even though some big-name players are out there in the trade market. There are far more buyers than sellers right now as general managers wait to see what unfolds and how close they can get to contending.

”We’ll know better by Feb. 25 where we’re at,” said Florida GM Dale Tallon, whose team is 11 points out. ”We’ll go game by game and week by week and then we’ll decide before the deadline what we’re going to do. Performance will dictate what we do.”

The Panthers already made one move, acquiring picks and pending free agents Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan from the Penguins for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad. Of course, they could still try to acquire pending free agent winger Artemi Panarin and/or goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from Columbus.

Panarin and Bobrovsky are two of the hottest commodities who could be available, along with Ottawa forwards Matt Duchene and Mark Stone, Philadelphia winger Wayne Simmonds and Carolina winger Micheal Ferland. Need a goalie and don’t want to pay for a two-time Vezina Trophy winner like Bobrovsky? Edmonton’s Cam Talbot or Detroit’s Jimmy Howard are possibilities.

A lack of true sellers could drive up the prices and delay the falling dominoes.

”Sometimes it drags out a little bit,” Washington GM Brian MacLellan said. ”I think people get frustrated with it, but people are trying to get full value for things they perceive need to be getting full value (for), and it takes it to the end to figure out what is the actual value.”

MacLellan said the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals are active in trade talks. Their championship window is wide open now. For teams like the Flyers, the window isn’t yet open without some changes.

”We could both buy and sell,” Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said. ”Every decision we make, if we’re going to try to improve our team going forward and we can get that player now, great. …. To be better next year, we may have to try to get better this year.”

Plenty of calls should be going to Los Angeles GM Rob Blake, who acknowledged the Kings are ”at the bottom of the league.” They have a potential rental in forward Carl Hagelin and some older players with years left on their deals like Jeff Carter and Alec Martinez. It is a team in transition after winning the Cup in 2012 and 2014.

”We’re looking at a lot of different options,” Blake said. ”I don’t want to get into specifics of players, but we are actively looking at making moves for the future of the organization.”

MATTHEWS CASHES IN

Toronto agreed to terms with franchise center Auston Matthews on a $58.17 million, five-year extension. Matthews will make much of his money in signing bonuses during the length of the contract that counts $11.634 million against the salary cap through 2023-24. Matthews and the Maple Leafs agreed on something shorter than the eight years Connor McDavid got in Edmonton to keep his salary under $12 million. It remains to be seen what that means for teammate Mitch Marner and Winnipeg winger Patrik Laine in upcoming contract negotiations, both on cap-strapped teams wanting to win now where perhaps a shorter contract is better.

GAME OF THE WEEK

The San Jose Sharks visit the Calgary Flames on Thursday in a matchup of the top two teams in the Pacific Division.

LEADERS

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 37; Assists: Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), 59; Points: Kucherov, 81; Ice time: Ryan Suter (Minnesota), 26:45; Wins: Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 27; Goals-against average: Robin Lehner (N.Y. Islanders), 2.02; Save percentage: Jack Campbell (Los Angeles), .933.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports