Despite no specific news arising to make this into a topic, offer sheets have been, well, a bit of a topic around new hockey media today.
Looking within the network, Chris Gordeyko of Oilers Nation wrote a quick and dirty expression of concern about their second best player (to the best on earth, of course), Leon Draisaitl:
Did you guys hear? Leon Draisaitl’s ELC ends this year and as of July 1st, he becomes a Restricted Free Agent for the first time in his career. This means a lot of things. It means Drai is now graduating out of his beginner shorts and is putting on his big boy pants. This summer, he will sign his first big contract of his NHL career which is really exciting, right? Unfortunately, along with the responsibility of wearing big boy pants in the NHL, Leon Draisaitl also makes himself eligible to be offered sheet’d. Offered a sheet? Offer sheeted?
My response on Twitter was pretty succinct:
That got me to thinking; if the Leafs don’t find a way to spend some of that sweet, sweet abundant 2017/18 cap space at via a trade in June or in the first few days of unrestricted free agency, maybe they should use their flexibility for evil. Sweet, sweet, win/win evil.
Now, I should note that before I managed to turn around and get this article together, Tyler Dellow of the Athletic brought offer sheets into the Leafs discussion. He was much more targeted, though, looking at Colton Parayko as a player who could make the team better:
Colton Parayko could be such a player. The Blues are in an uncomfortable spot vis-a-vis the salary cap, with a projected $4.46-million in salary cap room for next year, with three roster spots left to fill. One of the three is Parayko. To work with round numbers, let’s assume that the Blues spend $1.46-million to fill two of those spots. That leaves them with $3-million to get Parayko signed.
As far as going after Parayko specifically goes, that’s probably a situation that makes a lot of sense if Toronto can’t get their hands on a defenceman sooner. I have my own personal preferences in this arms race (I’m decidedly pro-Shattenkirk and if that can’t happen, I’m still all about the Mike Green dream), but certainly, if Toronto were to go offer-sheet happy and lacked that top defenceman still, Paryako would be a great target #1.
Dellow makes the following points that run universal:
- The maximum punishment of four first round picks sounds incredibly steep but isn’t quite as bad as it’s made out to be. While losing multiple high picks can be a problem, Toronto genuinely doesn’t appear to be in a position where that’s likely to happen. These Leafs have a very different makeup and projected trajectory than the 2009/10 team did when Brian Burke traded for Phil Kessel; there are multiple star players already in place, a deep pool of legitimate prospects, and a solid support staff. Realistically speaking, the Leafs are already in a cup contention window; giving up four cracks at 22-31 isn’t that significant, especially if the team can find other ways to amass second and third round picks, which are still generally undervalued by teams, or continue to find free agent prospects in other leagues.
- The Leafs, having owners with more money than God in Bell and Rogers (Larry Tanenbaum still is there too I guess), are in a unique position where they can pay players up front. That matters for the fallout of an offer sheet; they can lean heavy into an offer sheet that’s paid largely in a signing bonus. Some teams can’t afford to throw that money out there instantaneously, limiting their ability to match. Even more importantly, though, if you’re going for a massive one-year deal like Dellow suggests for Parayko, that lessens the qualifying offer for the following season, so you’re not stuck racing against the clock to avoid offering them another 1-year, $14 million contract as the baseline come the next summer.
- If you’re going the loaded one-year route, this is realistically the only shot you have at doing this if the goal is to have the other team walk away and give you the player. Next summer, Toronto has William Nylander, Connor Carrick, and a few various maybes coming up as RFAs, and will need to re-sign or replace UFAs in James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov. If you’re going to eat a mega-deal in anticipation of signing a better one later, you do it this year.
Where I differ from Dellow most in this conversation is that care that much about whether I get the players involved or not. I don’t want to be stuck committing big money to medium players, so this wouldn’t be a full-out spree of blood, but as it presently stands, there might be a few very solid players that are ripe for the picking in a few weeks:
|Player||Team||Age||POS||GP||G||A||PTS||SH%||5v5 P60||CF% Rel|
What jumps out here with this list are the teams involved. Looking at just the forwards I’ve got here, we see…
- Two players from the Western Conference Champions (Arvidsson & Johansen of Nashville)
- A superstar on the biggest long-term Cup threat to the Leafs (Draisaitl of Edmonton)
- Four players from 2016/17 Presidents Trophy threats (Kuznetsov of Washington, Granlund & Niederreiter of Minnesota, Wennberg of Columbus)
- One from a known free agency threat (Zibanejad of the NY Rangers)
- Five players from divisional rivals (Drouin, Palat & Johnson of Tampa Bay, Galchenyuk of Montreal, Pastrnak of Boston)
Basically, everyone in question plays for a team of an elevated threat to the Leafs. Be it brief (NYR), repeatedly (TBL, MTL, BOS), in the thick of the playoffs (WSH and maybe CBJ) or at the end of the tunnel (EDM and, if you believe NSH are for real, maybe them again), these are teams that the Leafs aren’t going to want to succeed in getting better any time soon.
So why not inhibit them?
Restricted free agents tend to get fleeced at the negotiating table because, frankly, they don’t have a ton of choice. It’s considered against the ethical code of veteran GM’s to toss around offer sheets (famously, Brian Burke once challenged Kevin Lowe to a barn fight over Dustin Penner). While there was at least one in every year from 1990 to 1998, there have only been nine accepted ones in the 19 years since; and only one of those (the aforementioned Penner offer) was accepted.
Offer sheets do, to an extent, intertwine with Leafs history. Toronto has offered two, to Mike Craig in 1994 (accepted and turned into a trade), and Mattias Ohlund in 1997 (rejected). Lou Lamoriello has never signed a player to one, but he’s been involved in them twice; matching an offer from St. Louis for Scott Stevens in 1994, who wanted their star defenceman back after sending him to the Devils three years prior as compensation for (…wait for it…) Brendan Shanahan.
With that in mind, maybe it’s worth sending over some market value offer sheets to some players, especially if the salary cap remains flat as expected. Draisaitl gets into the $8+ million range? As mentioned at the beginning, that makes McDavid’s extension that much more difficult in the year that follows. The Lightning need to sign a ton of players going into this offseason and have just $17 million to do so; why not make sure that Yzerman can’t play contract chicken once again with Palat, Drouin, and/or Johnson? Habs fans will probably lose their minds to see Galchenyuk go to Toronto; go long-term now and put the ball in Bergevin’s hands. Want to make the Rangers second guess their expected push for Shattenkirk? Put them in the situation room with a Zibanejad offer as soon as noon hits.
If the teams match, you’ve probably committed them to something a little heavier on the balance sheet than they’ve expected, inhibiting their ability to add depth. If they don’t, well, you’ve added a good player at market value that you can probably move in a couple of years when the crunch hits. You’ll give up picks, but as the current compensation table shows, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll end up a loser if you’re just offering deals on the upper end of reasonable.
|2005 Averaged Salary||2017-18 Averaged Salary||Draft Pick Compensation|
|$660,000 and below||$1,295,571 and below||No compensation|
|$660,001 to $1,000,000||$1,295,572 to $1,962,986||3rd Round Pick|
|$1,000,001 to $2,000,000||$1,962,987 to $3,925,975||2nd Round Pick|
|$2,000,001 to $3,000,000||$3,925,976 to $5,888,960||1st & 3rd Round Pick|
|$3,000,001 to $4,000,000||$5,888,961 to $7,851,948||1st, 2nd & 3rd Round Pick|
|$4,000,001 to $5,000,000||$7,851,949 to $9,814,935||1st (x2), 2nd & 3rd Round Pick|
|$5,000,001 and above||$9,814,936 and above||1st Round Pick (x4)|
The obvious drawback here? Making other General Managers angry and not want to make deals with you afterwards. At the same time, though, Lamoriello is heading to the last year of his deal with many expecting him to step down afterward, so he doesn’t have a lot of need to maintain clout for much longer, not to mention that Toronto doesn’t exactly have a lot of outside acquisition left to do before they hit the maintenance stage. They can risk a few rivals who probably wouldn’t make a big deal with them anyway being a little frustrated; they’ll only need everybody on good terms when it’s time to shift around the support players that need raises, and if those players make enough of a name for themselves on deep runs, GMs will call you anyway.
It’s a bit sociopathic, but that’s the way I’d go about things if there was still a truck full of money at Toronto’s disposal in July and no real other avenues for upgrading the team. Though with that said, I’d probably get that William Nylander advance-extension done first. Just so he doesn’t get any ideas about upping his asking price.