Offer Sheet Targets for the Oilers

There has been a lot of speculation that this summer could mark the return of the offer sheet to the NHL landscape. Players are peaking at earlier and earlier ages, and young RFA stars are getting PAID as a result. There are quite a few young stars that are RFAs this summer including names like Marner, Point, Laine, Connor, and Boeser. Some of their teams are in cap trouble, which has sparked rumours that teams could be aggressive with offer sheets this summer.

For those that are unfamiliar with offer sheets, a team can offer another team’s RFA player a contract. If the player agrees to sign the contract, then the team that currently has his rights has the option to match the contract or to receive the designated compensation from the new team. That compensation is based on the annual average value of the contract (the value is calculated using a maximum 5-year term if the contract is 5 years or more). The compensation list is as follows (as per Elliotte Friedman):

$0 – $1,395,053: No Compensation
$1,395,054 – $2,113,716: 3rd round pick
$2,113,717 – $4,227,437: 2nd round pick
$4,227,438 – $6,341,152: 1st round pick, 3rd round pick
$6,341,153 – $8,454, 871: 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, 3rd round pick
$8,454,872 – $10,568,589: 2 1st round picks, 2nd round pick, 3rd round pick
$10,568,590 or more: 4 1st round picks

The Oilers were the last team to successfully use an offer sheet to acquire a player (Dustin Penner from ANA, the spark of the infamous barn fight threat from Brian Burke to Kevin Lowe). Calgary tried to get Ryan O’Reilly from Colorado with an offer sheet, but Colorado matched it and then traded him.

There are a few reasons why we rarely see offer sheets. It is the most snakey thing that a GM can do within the rules, and the potential for burning bridges with fellow GMs is real (just ask Brian Burke). Using an offer sheet is a good way to get another team into cap trouble, which could make that player available in a trade (O’Reilly situation) or make another player from that team available as a cap casualty.

To me, it wouldn’t make sense to submit an offer sheet on an inexpensive role player. Inexpensive players become available through more traditional trades or through the UFA market regularly, so why bother risking a relationship with another GM for a contract that would be easy for that team to match because it wouldn’t break the bank?

In order for an offer sheet to work, the contract has to be too rich for the other team to match. In other words, someone would have to really over pay for a player with an offer sheet. For example, if Marner is asking for $11 million, and a team submits an offer sheet on Marner for $11 million, the Leafs would likely just match it because that’s probably close to where the real number will end up being. That would just save Dubas some time and stress from not having to negotiate the deal himself. If a team is going to get Marner with an offer sheet, then they would likely have to give him McDavid money or even more, which doesn’t make sense. Would you give up 4 1st round picks to have the most expensive player in the league on your team with little reason to believe that he is the best player in the league? That’s not a move that I think many teams would make.

In my opinion, I don’t see any of the big RFA stars being moved via an offer sheet this summer because they are all asking for big money since players are peaking younger these days, and these guys are putting up big numbers now. Their asking prices are already through the roof, so I don’t think a team is going to be able to scare anyone with a massive number. Even if that were to happen, I don’t think many teams would be willing to give up the necessary compensation. If the player is available, then a deal that is less impactful on the future of a team is likely possible through a package of picks and current prospects or roster players. Honestly though, those star RFAs are so valuable that I can’t see any of their teams not matching any potential offer sheet.

However, an offer sheet could be a way to take advantage of a cash strapped team.

A team could submit an offer sheet on a moderately impactful player from a team that has limited cap space. They might be more willing to part with a moderately impactful player than with a star. The other possibility is that a different player from that team could become available.

I have put together a list of players that the Oilers could potentially acquire with an offer sheet this summer. These players would be classified as middle 6 if not top 6 forwards. Expected cap hits are what I think it would take to pry the player loose and they are entirely speculative. These values are going to be higher than what real market value dictates they will get because a team would just match if the offer sheet reflected market value. (thanks to CapFriendly for cap information and stats).

Washington Capitals

The Capitals have just over $10 million in cap space, and they need to add 7 players to their active roster. They only have 8 forwards signed for next season. They have a couple of intriguing RFA forwards that I’m sure that they would like to re-sign; but an offer sheet could put a wrinkle in their plans.

Jakub Vrana
Age: 23
24 G – 23 A – 47 P in 82 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $863,333
Expected Cap Hit: $6M
Compensation: 1st and 3rd

I really think the Capitals would match any offer sheet given to Vrana because he’s a damn good player, but signing 6 useful players with just over $4 million in cap space would be a difficult task.

Andre Burakovsky
Age: 24
12 G – 13 A – 25 P in 76 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $3M
Expected Cap Hit: $4M
Compensation: 2nd

Burakovsky got a 2-year, $6 million bridge deal the last time around, and he regressed in both of those years. That is why there are trade rumours surrounding Burakovsky. I don’t think he is worth $4 million, which is why the Capitals would probably not match this offer sheet. It would be a big over payment for a player that might be available for less or the same compensation via trade.

It would make more sense to put the offer sheet on Vrana because that would basically ensure that they have to trade Burakovsky. That would also increase the odds of Brett Connolly and Carl Hagelin going to market (which is highly likely already).

Toronto Maple Leafs

Mitch Marner could become their 3rd player to get $11 million or more this summer (Matthews and Tavares). They appear to have some big dominoes falling with talks of Zaitsev and Marleau being traded, and with Gardiner likely heading to the UFA market; but they have a couple of other young RFA forwards that might need to be sacrificed this summer.

Kasperi Kapanen
Age: 22
20 G – 24 A – 44 P in 78 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $863,333
Expected Cap Hit: $5.5M
Compensation: 1st and 3rd

Kapanen had a fantastic season in his first full year in the NHL. He showed well on a line with Matthews early in the year. This kid can absolutely fly! He can fill the net, and he kills penalties.

Andreas Johnsson
Age: 24
20 G – 23 A – 43 P in 73 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $750,833
Expected Cap Hit: $5M
Compensation: 1st and 3rd

He had a similar performance to what Kapanen did in this his rookie season, although Johnsson didn’t get the same fanfare that Kapanen did. He’s a year older than Kapanen though, so his cap hit would be slightly lower.

I’m sure the Leafs would like to keep both of them, but they could be offer sheeted or included in trades as incentive for a team to take on a bad contract like Zaitsev or Marleau. An offer sheet on one of these two RFAs could also spell the end of Nazem Kadri in Toronto.

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas is seeing the impact of their early success as a franchise in the form of a cap crunch this summer. They are already over the projected $83 million cap for next season, and they only have 19 players on their active roster. They have one really interesting RFA on their team…

Nikita Gusev
Age: 26
17 G – 65 A – 82 P in 62 GP (KHL)
Previous Cap Hit: $925,000
Expected Cap Hit: $6.5M
Compensation: 1st and 3rd

This would be a huge roll of the dice for Holland or any other NHL GM considering this offer sheet. Gusev hasn’t played in the NHL, but his NHLe based on his performance last season is 79 points! Vegas has a skilled player on their hands here, but Vegas had a bad experience with Vadim Shipachyov in their inaugural season. Given the fact that Vegas is a contender without Gusev in their lineup and their current cap issues, they may not be trying really hard to get Gusev signed and in their lineup. He can go back to Russia and earn more money, and Vegas would still retain his rights. I could definitely see Vegas parting with Gusev if the right circumstances presented themselves, such as an offer sheet or a trade.

Calgary Flames

Calgary is by no means in dire straits with their cap situation, but they are flirting with it. They have approximately $14 million to work with and an active roster of 19 players. Matthew Tkachuk is an RFA and he will be due a big raise. There are rumours around the Flames moving Brodie or Hamonic, which would help the cause, but an offer sheet on their other decent RFA might make them sweat a little bit…

Sam Bennett
Age: 22
13 G – 14 A – 27 P in 71 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $925,000
Expected Cap Hit: $3.5M
Compensation: 2nd

Bennett has had to alter his game a bit after being taken one spot after Leon Draisaitl in 2014. His production hasn’t taken off, but he has developed in to a decent 3C. I find it funny that the kid that couldn’t do a pull-up at the combine gets described as “tough” during broadcasts sometimes, but to his credit, he has shown a willingness to get his nose dirty. I think there are better options out there for the 3C spot, but Bennett is still young and he is skilled.

Boston Bruins

Just like Calgary, the Bruins have about $14 million in cap space to use next season and their active roster is at 19 players. They have Marcus Johansson as an UFA that they might be interested in re-signing after his strong playoff run. They also have RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo on defence to re-sign. They have one other RFA that could be of interest and who has had his name pop up in trade rumours in the past…

Danton Heinen
Age: 23
11 G – 23 A – 34 P in 77 GP
Previous Cap Hit: $872,500
Expected Cap Hit: $4.2M
Compensation: 2nd

Heinen’s production came down from his 47-point performance from 2017-18, but he is still a young player that has speed and that comes from a winning organization. I’ve got his expected cap hit at $4.2 million because I wouldn’t want to give up a 1st and a 3rd for Heinen. He’s good, but not that good.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think offer sheets are the best way to go about acquiring talent because you have to over pay to get a team to not match the offer, and it can burn bridges with other GMs in the league. Using an offer sheet this summer would also mean having to give up draft picks from the 2020 draft, which is supposed to be an awesome draft. It would hurt to give up high picks in that draft.

However, it is a perfectly legal way of doing business, and it is one of the only ways to get a team to even think about parting with good young talent. Vrana and Gusev are the two most interesting names that I’ve talked about here. I think Washington would instantly match any offer for Vrana. I think there’s a greater chance of prying Gusev out of Vegas with an offer sheet, but he would likely be too expensive and too much of a risk for Holland.

The draft is just 3 weeks away! This period leading up to the draft is likely going to be busy. Now that I have presented all of the players that the Oilers could potentially target, I have a better idea of what might happen. Next week, I’m going to take a stab at predicting what the Oilers roster will look like next season. I’ll show you what I think the roster SHOULD look like given what I’d like to see happen, and I’ll make a guess as to what the roster WILL look like nest season.

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