Are NHL Offer Sheets Coming in 2019?

by | Dec 23, 2018 | Soapbox | 30 comments

The calendar hasn’t yet flipped to 2019 but already some pundits are speculating over which NHL players could become targeted for offer sheets from rival clubs.

Earlier this month, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston claimed there’s a “strong belief” inside the industry that Matthews will be a prime offer-sheet target if unsigned by July 1. He also suggested Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine could receive one as well.

Could a top young RFA, such as Toronto’s Auston Matthews, receive an offer sheet next summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

Johnston acknowledged Matthews and Laine would first have to agree to sign an offer sheet and there’s no certainty either guy will want to leave a contending team. Still, he considers it unlikely they would spurn a massive offer worth around $15 million annually.

His colleague Elliotte Friedman subsequently expressed his belief that offer sheets could be coming for several prime “grade-A candidates” next summer. While he didn’t elaborate who they were, he’s likely referring to guys like Matthews. Laine, Matthews’ teammate Mitch Marner and Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point.

Limited salary-cap space for several teams carrying superstar RFAs is fuelling that speculation. Assuming an $83-million cap for next season as recently projected by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the Leafs and Jets would each have over $26 million in cap space. While that seems like plenty of room, re-signing those young stars could take a big bite out of that cap space, leaving considerably less for other signings or roster additions.

With over $73 million invested in 15 players, the Lightning faces the tightest squeeze. Same goes for the Calgary Flames ($67 million committed to 14 players), who have a power forward in young Matthew Tkachuk due for a hefty pay bump.

Colorado Avalanche winger (and current NHL scoring leader) Mikko Rantanen will also be in line for a big raise next summer. While the Avs have plenty of cap room ($46 million tied up in 11 players) they might have a self-imposed cap lower than the league. If so, Rantanen would become a tempting target for an offer sheet.

Not everyone, however, believes we’ll see an offer-sheet signing next summer. TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently said he’ll believe it when he sees it because of so much previous talk on the subject that came to nothing.

McKenzie felt Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone was a prime candidate last summer to get an offer sheet. Had Stone received a one-year offer and the Senators matched it, McKenzie pointed out they wouldn’t be allowed to trade him this season, thus risking Stone’s departure via free agency next July.

McKenzie said some teams are believed to have considered signing Stone but ultimately no one tried it.

In the NHL’s salary-cap era, offer sheets are rare occurrences. The last successful signing took place in 2007 when Dustin Penner left the Anaheim Ducks for the Edmonton Oilers. The last player to receive an offer sheet was then-Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly in February 2013, inking a deal with the Calgary Flames that was quickly matched by the Avs.

Nearly two months ago, I examined the reasons why offer sheets seem to have gone the way of the dodo. An apparent reluctance to employ that tactic by management, fuelled by fear over having their own best players targeted, seems the main reason. Many players also appear disinterested in such deals.

In a recent interview, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said he’s not concerned about the issue. He pointed out that his club’s cap situation is set up to defend against offer sheet threats “with no worry at all.”

Dubas could intend to get Matthews and Marner re-signed before July 1. Or perhaps he’ll put his other re-signings on hold until he’s got both players under contract, ensuring sufficient cap space to match any offer. Or perhaps Dubas could shed a contract or two next summer to free up extra space.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, meanwhile, only has one young superstar to re-sign in Laine. Granted, re-upping Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers won’t be cheap, but they’re not on the same level as Laine. If push came to shove, Cheveldayoff could pass on Trouba or Myers, or perhaps consider dumping a contract or two via trade.

Lighting GM Julien BriseBois will probably attempt to channel former GM Steve Yzerman’s wizardry at getting their top players to accept less than market value on Point. He’ll remind the youngster that Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman all passed up the opportunity to make bigger bucks elsewhere to remain in Tampa Bay.

If Matthews, Laine, Marner, and Point are unavailable, Tkachuk could become a more attractive offer-sheet option. Still, it’s unlikely a rival club will pony up over $10 million annually for him.

The threat of an offer sheet remains a possibility next summer but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen. All of those pending RFAs could be re-signed before July 1, or they could simply be uninterested in accepting offers from other clubs, or the general managers could maintain their unspoken “gentleman’s agreement” not to try poaching away each other’s best young talent.

As a wise man recently said, I’ll believe it when I see it.

 







30 Comments

  1. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. If this coming summer doesn’t yield any offer sheets that process should be revamped. If I was the union I would be livid if this summer didn’t have any. It would reek of collusion and or a process so expensive it doesn’t yield the desired benefits for the players

    • I agree 100%.

  2. It would be funny if rival gm’s who lost out in the JT sweepstakes run up the leafs payroll with huge offer sheets to Mathews and Marner? But seriously if other teams had better scouts and management they wouldn’t have to resort to offer sheets as they would have good teams already!!!😉😂
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!⛄️❄️⛄️

    • Having better scouts doesn’t matter much when you pick top 5 in the draft. Unless they’re totally incompetent then they will get a great player.

      • Exactly, Fred. If a team at the bottom of the standings uses an offer sheet, I could see the other team considering the four first-rounders. Otherwise a bird in the hand…. especially if the bird’s name is Matthews or Point or Marner or Rantanen or Laine.
        The player in question needs to sign the offer sheet before anything else happens and every player mentioned above plays on a decent, young team. Would they give that up to play for a struggling team?
        Money talks but so does winning.

  3. I think these guys don’t wanna leave there teams but wouldn’t mind being offered sheeted. Guys like Mathews know there team will match it and they will get paid more then they were offered. I’m not saying there greedy but if there GM doesn’t pony up what the player thinks he worth it could happen.

  4. Changes I would like to see.

    1. Lower draft pick cost. Ie instead of 4 1sts it should be 3 etc.
    2. The draft picks do not have to be the original for the team.
    3. The picks could come same year… for example buff would surrender all three 1sts this season as part of meeting the cost.

    • Yet you are in favor of the hard cap?

      Sure, what would really help the game is for smaller markets to have their best players poached at young ages, and sign guys with 2 years of nhl experience to 9-13 million dollar deals.

      If anything needs to be fixed, it’s these type of deals being handed to RFA’s. It kind of defeats the purpose of drafting and development.

      • Hey buddy! Cap floor makes it a ok with me.

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking how are the precious teams that hover around the floor going to feel when their young affordable talent packs up and leaves for big markets?

      • By signing players well past their primes for too much money. That should keep people filling the seats and small markets thriving!

      • I have a better idea. No more draft positions, lottery.

        Every team gets to bid on prospects.

        Essentially ,that’s what’s being said here. So why go through the process? This will save teams the trouble of wasting 3 years developing its draft picks.

        And young players won’t have to wait 3 years to hit the jackpot.

      • What big market team has 10-15 mil cap space for an offer sheet? This balances the league more than unbalanced it. It’s notable that the posters opposed to opening up rfa are all from big market teams… mmmnnnnn

      • Let’s start with NYR’s…. you know, one of those teams that small markets cried about to get a cap in the 1st .mmmmmmm

        And you don’t think that all big market teams wouldn’t adjust to the new rules you’re suggesting should be in place…..mmmmmmmm

        Another well thought out idea!
        You’re all for the cap, all for small teams surviving (whether they sell 1 seat or not) say things like “no fans should lose a franchise “ which is hot garbage…. this is a business….sometimes you have to shoot a broken legged horse…. yet come up with this insane idea that there needs to be more offer sheets, and less penalties for poaching players?

        Brilliant!!!!!

      • The nhl is the healthiest it’s been in…. ever thanks to bettman and his policies. Teams always adjust to new policies but the current system is stacked towards big market teams… at the expense of the players.

        Winners make the league. Being able to use cap space as a weapon would level the playing field and be good for players.

        Hey! You enjoy the worst pizza in the world ny! Goodnight!

      • You enjoy those Pittsburgh beauty pageants! 🤮🤮🤮

        What would somebody from Pittsburgh know about food? Or indoor plumbing? Lmao

        My best guess is you’re 3-4 counties outside of Pittsburgh in Amish town?

    • All that accomplishment would do is turn the Panthers Canes Coyotes Senators with current ownership and others a farm system with their best picks being poached every 3 years

      • Referring to the original suggestion

      • May as well contract 3teams and givem a shiney new AHL team

  5. Really? Facts suggest otherwise. Most players worth paying for with a offer sheet are on big market teams. Try again fellas!

    • Really?? facts suggest that with lower restrictions a small market team that has insurance companies pay their players salaries to get to your cap floor are going to bid with a large market team? Do go on…. Lol

      • Cap prevents said overbidding. The floor and ceiling prevent the large market over advantage.

        Tell me. Toronto paying Mathews 15 mil? Good or bad for the large market team?

      • I hope to God you see where this is going right? Like I hate the cap and would love this to happen but…

      • Unfortunately you have too many horses in this race currently to give an unbiased opinion. You failed to answer the question. The sign of being run down a debate dead end.

        Check and mate. Goodnight!

      • Tell me how much revenue MLSE generate for the NHL? They should be punished so an owner can have insurance companies pay 10-20 mill on salary so the owner of the franchise only loses 50 mill a year?

      • You think a 15 mill contract means much to MLSE? How bout a small market

      • Typical “ check and mate” Millennial response”check and mate “ translation “ I literally have talked out of both sides of my mouth on this topic, I don’t agree, therefore I win!

        This is what happens to kids that get trophies for 12th place!

    • “Really? Facts suggest otherwise. Most players worth paying for with a offer sheet are on big market teams.”

      Yeah like Stamkos, Kucherov and Hedman in Tampa, Or Mcdavid and Draisatl in Edmonton, Laine in Winnipeg……Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh….

      I guess he sees all markets as “big markets “

      They have a really big arena therefore they identify as big markets. Even if population, attendance, Tv markets, demographics say the complete opposite!

      • Isn’t Arizona one of the top 20 makets in the US?

      • Selling milk to the lactose intolerant