The offer sheet: a concept that stretches back to 1986. In three decades as a part of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), 13 out of 35 offer sheets have been accepted, whereas the other 22 have been matched.
The first offer sheet accepted was for Gary Nylund in August 1986. The Maple Leafs accepted the offer from the Chicago Blackhawks of Ken Yaremchuk, Jerome Dupont, and a 4th round draft pick in 1987.
Offer sheets work much differently today.
The last offer sheet that was accepted was by the Anaheim Ducks on July 26, 2007, for Dustin Penner. The Edmonton Oilers offered him a five-year, $21.5M contract, and the Ducks accepted the compensation in the form of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick in 2008.
So have we seen the last of offer sheets in the NHL?
Among GMs, offer sheets seem to be frowned upon nowadays. On February 28, 2013, the Flames offer-sheeted Ryan O’Reilly of the Avalanche for a two-year, $10M contract. Colorado then matched their deal.
On July 18, 2012, the Flyers offer-sheeted Shea Weber for a ludicrous fourteen-year, $110M contract; the Predators then matched.
Before we delve further into the discussion of offer sheets, here is what must occur before a team can tender an offer sheet to a player:
- The player must have played at least 80 NHL games (or 28 if he is a goaltender).
- The player must be younger than 27 on July 1st of that calendar year.
- The player must be an restricted free agent without a contract for the upcoming season.
- The player must be tendered a qualifying offer by the current team by the Monday after the Draft or June 25th, whichever is later.
According to the current CBA, teams willing to part with restricted free agents by way of an opposing team’s offer sheet will be compensated based on the contract to which the new team signs the player. Below is the table of draft-pick compensation:
Cap Hit: less than $1,205,377 = No compensation
Cap Hit: $1,205,377 to $1,826,328 = 3rd round pick
Cap Hit: $1,826,328 to $3,652,659 = 2nd round pick
Cap Hit: $3,652,659 to $5,478,986 = 1st and 3rd round picks
Cap Hit: $5,478,986 to $7,305,316 = 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks
Cap Hit: $7,305,315 to $9,131,645 = Two 1st, 2nd, 3rd round picks
Cap Hit: greater than $9,131,645 = Four 1st round picks
Although the offer sheet is still a part of today’s CBA, they are overwhelmingly shunned by most, if not all, general managers. However, as we’ve seen in the past twelve months, anything is possible (i.e. Subban for Weber and Hall for Larsson trades).
With that in mind, will an NHL team tender an offer sheet to someone this summer? What about for Jonathan Drouin of the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning?
After being drafted 3rd overall in 2013 out of the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, Drouin had a rocky first two seasons with the Bolts—so much so that he even requested a trade in January 2016.
Putting the mess behind him, Drouin had a career year in 2016/17, putting up 21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points in 73 games, scratching the surface of his potential as an elite winger in this league, even at the age of 22.
Drouin is now a restricted free agent without a contract for the 2017/18 season. The Tampa Bay Lightning are at a crossroads financially with other key RFAs (restricted free agents) that Steve Yzerman would like to sign, like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Can Yzerman sign all three to cap-friendly deals and keep his club contending for a Stanley Cup, or will some other GM step in and offer sheet the budding superstar?
Given his credentials and high draft position, Drouin is likely seeking more than a bridge deal. Something around six to eight years in the neighborhood of $5.5-6M might be what he and his agent shoot for. Can Yzerman afford to pay Drouin that much?
If that is Drouin’s asking price, it would only cost another GM his team’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks. Does the cumulative value in those picks equal that of Drouin—the former 3rd overall selection in 2013? Food for thought, without a doubt.
If Drouin is tendered an offer sheet, the Lightning will have a week to match it. During that period, they are prohibited from trading Drouin’s RFA rights to another club.
What happens if Drouin is tendered an offer sheet for a $7M/year contract? Yzerman would be in a vulnerable position in which he is not holding the cards. He would be forced to match the incoming offer sheet or accept the draft pick compensation.
There is no replacing Drouin’s skill set. His hands are other-worldly, and he is finally starting to come around and validate what the Lightning’s scouting staff saw in him leading up to his draft year.
Steve Yzerman and company must get to work fast—before July 1st. If a contract is not agreed to by that point, Drouin will definitely be qualified. Even then, the other 30 NHL teams can still tender him an offer sheet. However, if a contract is reached before July 1st, then the Lightning will be safe to live another day with their appreciating asset.
An offer sheet would certainly shake up the landscape of the Tampa Bay Lightning -- and all of the NHL, that is for certain.
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