The Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet brought to life something long thought to be dead: a GM would use one of the more exciting tools at their disposal and steal away a restricted free agent from another team. Of course, this action was largely retaliatory and the play of Kotkaniemi hasn’t justified the payment by any means. Still, it was enough of an action that it seems talking about offer sheets in earnest is warranted again. Especially with Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, and possibly even Pierre Engvall being targets and there isn’t any shortage of appealing RFAs that the Leafs should consider looking at as well.
By the numbers, there are 278 restricted free agents this summer. That seems like a lot of players to choose from but we’ll shrink that number quickly. Of those 278, 44 are arbitration eligible, and that in most cases means either the player or club will elect arbitration and they will become ineligible for an offer sheet, or they won’t be qualified out of concern for their potential arbitration ruling and they will become unrestricted free agents.
Of those RFAs remaining, only 141 of them played a game in the NHL last season probably making them the more worthwhile players to consider signing. Again not all of these players will be qualified, but that 141 likely represents closer to the total of RFA offer sheet eligible pool.
Some of the interesting names out there include Jason Robertson, Martin Necas, Noah Dobson, Josh Norris, Kirby Dach, Barrett Hayton, Kaapo Kakko, Ryan McLeod, and pretty much every other first time eligible RFA. There are good players available, and some of them might not require an excessive about of compensation to bring in, it’s just a matter of which teams have the means to do so.
|Compensation Range||$1,386,490 or below||$1,386,491 to $2,100,742||$2,100,743 to $4,201,488||$4,201,489 to $6,302,230||$6,302,231 to $8,402,975||$8,402,976 to $10,503,720||Over $10,503,720|
|High Compensation for 7 year deal||$990,350||$1,500,530||$3,001,063||$4,501,593||$6,002,125||$7,502,657||$7,502,658+|
|Draft Picks Required||None||3rd Round Pick||2nd Round Pick||1st & 3rd Round Picks||1st, 2nd, 3rd Round Picks||2 1sts, 2nd, 3rd Rd picks||4 1st Round picks|
|Teams ineligible||None||BUF, CGY, DAL, FLA, MIN, NYR, PIT, WAS||BOS, CLD, PHI, STL, TB, TOR, VGK, WPG||BUF, CGY, DAL, FLA, MIN, NYR, PIT, TB, WAS||BOS, BUF, CGY, CLD, DAL, FLA, MIN, NYR, PHI, PIT, STL, TB, TOR, VGK, WAS, WPG||BOS, BUF, CGY, CLD, DAL, FLA, MIN, NYR, PHI, PIT, STL, TB, TOR, VGK, WAS, WPG||FLA, TB|
From the table above you can see that half the league is excluded from offer sheets between the range of $6.3M-$10.5M. That’s got to make Calgary feel a little more secure about Matthew Tkachuk, especially since St. Louis is on that list. That also limits the threat for other high-enders like Jason Robertson, Jesper Bratt, and Kevin Fiala.
For the Leafs part in this, they won’t be able to offer sheet anyone that would require a second round pick, so that window above and also the much more doable $2.1M-$4.2M range.
When it comes to the threat of an offer sheet on Liljegren or Sandin, the Bruins, Lightning, Golden Knights, Blues, Avs, and Flyers being excluded from options is a good group to take off the table. The Jets are in there too, but I’m not sure how much of a threat we should perceive the Jets when it comes to offer sheets. A quarter of the league is ineligible to go after the Leafs promising young defensemen, we can take that as a win.
As for who the Leafs can target or should target, well…I guess they could have a lot of fun with 1 year, $2.1M offers and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s a thing we see a bit of around the league. The Oilers having McLeod as an RFA means that a team can go with a 1 year $2.1M deal on him that the Oilers would likely have to match and worsen their tight cap situation. In the event they don’t match, McLeod is a speedy bottom six center who seems like a perfect replacement for Ilya Mikheyev on the penalty kill. Some nice little revenge on the Oilers for not flipping the Leafs a pick for the rights to Hyman last summer.
We’ll file this under things that won’t happen.
In fact, much of this won’t happen for another reason beyond draft pick eligibility, and that’s cap space. There are presently 13 teams that are within $10M of the cap ceiling, and while that might be manageable for some of them, that’s going to prevent them from playing fast and loose with their money. Other teams like Colorado, Calgary, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. That leaves a lot of rebuilding, non-playoff or bubble teams, and then the Kings and Rangers, although the Rangers aren’t far off the cap ceiling either with Kakko, Strome, Vatrano, Georgiev, and Copp either needing to be re-signed or replaced.
It is with those teams like Seattle, Detroit, or Chicago that things start getting interesting. They might not look like contenders today, but they have an opportunity to make a splash through unrestricted free agency, the draft, and trades first to make their case for being a destination for RFA to sign an offer sheet.
Still this is three teams and at best each is able to pull off one offer sheet, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to play the odds that they either won’t or at the very least won’t target your RFA. Negotiating with RFAs under the threat of an offer sheet seems more and more misguided the more the topic is explored, and while the thought of Sandin and Liljegren receiving offer sheets does creep into our heads because if something bad can happen it will usually find a way of happening to the Leafs. It doesn’t seem like it’s worth negotiating under the assumption one is coming.
And if one does. Take it out on someone else with an offer sheet of your own. There are plenty of good players potentially available without having to give up assets beyond a bit of excess cap space.
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