An Offer They Can’t Refuse?

Yesterday rumor maven Spector presented the following in his mailbag section:

My thanks to “John” for the following: Glen Macnow, a former sports reporter for the Phila Inquirer (hockey)and a current talk show host on WIP radio, said that he hears that the concept of not pursuing restricted free-agents, as was the case last year, may be changing. Macnow said what he hears is that the Flyers may make a significant offer to Thomas Vanek, thus forcing the Sabres to match. If they do not, the Flyers get themselves a young scorer. If they do, it makes it all the more unlikely that the Sabres can keep Drury or Briere, or even both.

An interesting rumor, sure, but does it have anything to do with the Caps?
It may.

As the Summer Of Change (SOC) draws ever closer, we’ve heard†Caps’ management say that not only will they be bringing new players into the fold, but will be doing so aggressively, considering all avenues in adding talent to the roster. One of those avenues may be tendering an offer sheet to another team’s Restricted Free Agent.
Tendering an offer sheet to another team’s RFA has been a relatively rare occurrence, with last year’s Ryan Kesler sheet from Philadelphia being the most recent, and traditionally tendering an offer sheet seems to be frowned upon by the hockey community, despite being a legal and agreed-upon path of player acquisition. The stigma on tendering an offer sheet seems to be that the GM in question who does it is somehow violating the unwritten code between the league’s management, poaching players, particularly young ones, from peers’ rosters. Such a violation is speculated to result in an unwillingness from the management community at large in dealing with the general manager who broke ranks, or that the offending GM will have his young RFA’s poached in return.
The guess here is that is going to change, and offers similar to Philadelphia’s to Kesler will become more common.
Any team losing a player to another team’s offer sheet is entitled to draft pick compensation, as seen below (taken from the CBA):

  • $660,000 or below None
  • Over $660,000 to $1 million Third Round
  • Over $1 million to $2.0 million Second Round
  • Over $2.0 million to $3.0 million First Round and Third Round
  • Over $3.0 million to $4.0 million First Round, Second Round, and Third Round
  • Over $4.0 million to $5.0 million Two First Rounds, Second Round, and Third Round
  • Over $5 million Four First Rounds

The ‘sweet spot’ seems to be in the $1 million to $2 million range†– for instance, Marek Svatos made $1.05 million this season. An offer sheet similar to Kesler’s could pay him up to $1.99 million, and the offering team would only lose a second-round pick if Svatos signed and Colorado didn’t want to match.
And there the two conditionals make their appearance: Firstly, did the player sign the offer sheet, and secondly, does the team match?
Number one is pretty easy†– there doesn’t seem to be much downside to a player signing an offer sheet if he considers the offering club to be a good destination. Once he gets that offer sheet and signs it, he’s going to be paid that amount, wherever he ends up playing. If the player thinks†he can make more than the offer sheet, then it wouldn’t make sense for him to sign, however. (Svatos might be a good example of that.)
Number two isn’t quite as simple, as the targeted team suddenly has their budget thrown out of whack, with a new pay rate suddenly changing the landscape of negotiations. This can be especially problematic for teams who are close to the salary cap ceiling, as their balance sheet suddenly takes an unexpected turn. Can they afford to pay the new price to the player in question? Is it wise to?
With teams seemingly valuing draft picks less than ever, we could see clubs willing to pay the price for a player now, and leaving the drafting and developing to other teams. Organizations with plenty of draft picks and/or prospects in their system might feel they are in a position where they can afford to pass up adding to their pool of developing talent for a year in order to secure the services of a current NHLer.
The kind of team that would tender an offer sheet would seem to have a comfortable amount of cap space, a solid base of prospects and draft picks, and a desire to improve in the short-term.
Remind you of any team you know?
All salary numbers taken from

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7 Responses to An Offer They Can’t Refuse?

  1. usiel says:

    Buffalo will match any offer sheet I would think. Most teams will match on their good young players. In the end I don’t think we’ll see much RFA action but I could be wrong, heh.

  2. Caps Nut says:

    David “Bud” Poile had the right idea when it came to RFA offer sheets “I’m not going to do their job for them.”
    The other issue with the offer sheets is that is can skew your own salary structure both directly and indirectly as much as it throws the other team out of whack.
    Your structure is directly effected if the team does NOT match your offer sheet and you get that player. By definition FA’s are overpaid whether or not they change teams restricted or unrestricted. Overpaying one player on your roster leads you to overpay another player on your roster and the whole thing begins to spin out of control.
    You are affected indirectly should the team match because your own and other players point to the contract that was matched and they use it against you in contract negotiations especially if you’re stupid enough to throw a big offer sheet around before arbitration.
    Personally I think this fad of rejecting draft picks over FA’s will fall out of favor rather quickly. As the Blues signing Shanahan away from New Jersey as an RFA showed us, just because you don’t have the picks doesn’t mean that the NHL cannot come up with compensation.

  3. chanuck says:

    Personally thought it a D@#k move by Bobby Clark. Could have one reason he had to quit. Maybe other GMs started to freeze him out. The other reason being that the Flyers sucked.

  4. Mark Tucker says:

    A very interesting thought.
    I do wonder about being blacklisted, though. Bobby Clarke did it last year for Ryan Kesler (Hardly a Svatos or better), and you would have thought he committed an unforgivable act. Maybe Bobby was just one step ahead of everyone else. 🙂

  5. maruk says:

    So let me get this straight, loyalty to fellow GM’s trumps doing your own job well? It’s one thing to give, as a silly example, A-Yash an A-Rod contract. But it’s quite another to make a shrewd judgment to give the right RFA the right offer. GMs who exploit inefficiencies in the new marketplace will be the ones who succeed.

  6. I don’t see Vanek getting an offer from the Flyers – it is amazing how these things get started. If you knew how the Joni Pitkanen rumors started last year with the Oilers you’d ‘pee’… Kimmo is tops on the list, then watch for TWO big name centers…and maybe a trade at the draft?? Macnow has 5 plus hours to fill…theres only so much Eagles mini camp to talk about:)

  7. CurlyBill says:

    The Caps offered RFA Dave Manson from Edmonton years ago. Glen Sather matched the offer, but he was furious. He never made a trade with the Caps after that. This isn’t a big loss if it’s a team or two… but you certainly don’t want something like this to come back and haunt you.

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