Every fan loves to play the role of Armchair General Manager during the off-season. They always think that they can fix all of a team’s problems within one off-season by making a series of big moves to shake up the franchise. You’ll see them make a lot of trade proposals that involve dealing spare parts for a star player (Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto + a pick for Bobby Ryan is the most popular one) and try to make major pushes at signing every top free agent and maybe one or two of those moves will actually happen. The fact is that most teams are likely competing with at least three or four other clubs when trying to trade or sign a player and it takes a lot of luck (or a lot of money) to actually get big signings done.
Acquiring star talent through free agency and trades is always tough to do for a small market team like Carolina, so another idea that has been thrown around is sending out an offer sheet to a restricted free agent who hasn’t made much progress in re-signing the team that currently holds his rights. An offer sheet is somewhat of a rarity in the NHL today as there have been only been seven since the lockout and only one of them hasn’t been matched (Dustin Penner to the Oilers in 2007). The popularity of offer sheets has now increased by a tenfold this past week with Shea Weber signing the 14-year, $110 mil. offer sheet that the Philadelphia Flyers sent him and there have been plenty new offer sheet proposals showing up on the Internet since then.
The offer sheet sent to Weber was especially rare because the Flyers found a loophole in the CBA where they could put the Predators in a position where they would be unlikely to re-sign him. The deal is extremely front-loaded and Weber will be paid about 72% of his overall salary in the first six years of the deal. He is also going to be paid over $26 mil. in the next 12 months, which is tough for a small-market team like Nashville to afford because that is a lot of money to pay someone up front. It isn’t as big of an issue for the Flyers, who are owned by Comcast and have pockets as deep as the Grand Canyon. This offer sheet is also rare because it’s not every off-season that one of the best players in the NHL is an RFA right in the prime of his career. Stamkos and Doughty were RFA’s last season, but they were much younger and somewhat less established than Weber is right now.
The Predators still have a chance to match the offer sheet but Flyers GM Paul Holmgren did a phenomenal job to make this as difficult as possible on the Predators. As a fan of a small market team, this worries me because it shows that teams with more money like the Flyers are not afraid to take advantage of smaller market teams. Although, the Hurricanes may not have a lot to worry about because they have most of their best players locked up for the next few seasons and will probably ink Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk to new deals before the threat of an offers sheet occurs. Then again, the chances of this happening to them with either of those players are slim.
Why? Because unless Skinner and Faulk develop into elite talents before their entry-level contracts run out. they can probably match whatever offer a team sends them. No one is going to offer them a long-term deal worth over $7 mil. a year at this point and if they do, they are taking a big risk because neither are worth elite money. Skinner might get an offer sheet in the $4-6 mil. range if he has a great season but it seems unlikely that even a team with a lot of money would do that right now, so I think the Canes will have plenty of time to lock-up Skinner before next off-season and shouldn’t be too worried about him signing an offer sheet.
This goes hand-in-hand with how rare offer sheets are in today’s NHL and why I do not think the Hurricanes will send an offer sheet to someone like Jakub Voracek or Evander Kane. Both the Flyers and the Jets know how important those two players are to their respective organizations and they aren’t going to let them go for nothing. Both players are worth at least $4 mil. under the current cap (Voracek may get less) and if a team decides to offer sheet them for anything north of $5 mil. on a long-term ticket is taking a big gamble. That’s probably what it will take to get one of these two players to sign an offer sheet and I still believe that their respective clubs will match whatever offer they get. This is why you don’t see a lot of offer sheets today. I have no doubt that GMs send them out more often than we think, but getting a player to sign one is the tricky part. With that in mind, it might be tough for Philadelphia to hang onto Voracek but I suspect that they will try to deal off one of their high-priced defensemen before letting him walk away for picks and nothing else. The Jets, on the other hand, will likely match whatever offer Kane signs to.
Teams have to make convincing offers to get players to sign offer sheets, which means that they risk losing at least a first round pick and that’s tough to do if the future of the club is uncertain. I know that Jim Rutherford wants the Hurricanes to be competitive as soon as next season but that isn’t a certainty even with the addition of one of Voracek or Kane. If the Hurricanes give up a first rounder for one of them, they could be giving up a pick in the top-15 if things don’t work out, which could possibly hurt the franchise as a whole in the long run. Things might be different if we KNEW this team was going to compete next season but we don’t know that right now.
I understand that in order to get great players, you are going to have to give up some value but you still have to assess a good risk from a bad one and at this very moment, offer sheeting Voracek or Kane at a price that neither their current teams can not afford would be a bad risk. Both teams have the money to re-up those players and are willing to make cap space for it so the only way a team can pry them away is by getting them to sign an offer sheet with a very high cap hit, which will cost the Hurricanes at least a first round pick. You decide if the result is worth the cost.
Now, if you will allow me to play Armchair GM for a second, what I would do to fill the Canes need for a top-six winger is sign a certain unrestricted free agent. I have already mentioned him countless times and have given the reasons on why I think he would be a great addition to this team. In fact, I have driven this point home so much over the last few months that I am not going to mention his name here because you should know who I am talking about right now. All we have to do is wait and see if Rutherford decides to pull the trigger. Honestly, if JR is looking to gamble, then this certain UFA would likely be his best option, not an offer sheet.