1) For many years, the NHL's CBA allowed its teams the option of signing restricted free agents. But for a long time, such signing attempts only happened once in a proverbial blue moon. Most teams don't want to risk shelling out valuable first-round picks as compensation, and as important NHL GM's are a close-knit group so its almost an unwritten rule that you didn't sign Group II players. However there have been attempts (Ryan Kesler, Steve Bernier, Thomas Vanek, David Backes, Dustin Penner) to sign restricted free agents over the last few years. In an NHL that is increasingly geared towards building with young (cheaper-usually) and budding talent, as well as a dearth of decent UFA the league could see the verge of a new offseason frenzy that goes beyond the usual menu of trades and UFA signings. Here is our list of The Most Wanted - a list of high-profile Group II players that any NHL general manager may want to take a chance on.
2) Firstly what would the price (in compensation) that a team would need to be aware of?
An offer with a $1,034,249 annual cap hit or less: No compensation
$1,034,249 -- $1,567,043: Third-round pick
$1,567,043 -- $3,134,088: Second-round pick
$3,134,088 -- $4,701,131: First and third-round pick
$4,701,131 -- $6,268,175: First, second and third-round pick
$6,268,175 -- $7,835,219: Two first-round picks, a second and third
$7,835,219 and higher: Four first-round picks
3) Right off it seems to not be as prohibitive as one might think. Especially with the new way teams' have been extending contracts, thus making the actual 'cap-hit' minimal, a team could, lets say sign a star player for an average cap hit of 6 mil(for a 10 year front loaded deal, and only lose one 1st,2nd, 3rd rounder. Of curse the flip side of that is the team that owns the rights would likely match that kind of deal, but it does open up some possibilities for the mid level RFA's on teams that are close to the cap ceiling.
4) Now on to our list. No its not comprehensive and if we include a player who is arbitration eligible (not really a free agent) please let us know
- Steven Stamkos- The Lightning center is by far the best RFA forward available. The 21 yr old has scored 96 goals the past 2 seasons. Contrary to some reports the Lightning have enough cap space (14 mil) right now to match any offer sheets. We doubt very much Steve will be going anywhere and an offer sheet might just do Steve Yzerman a favour at this point. Steve is going to get big $$ for sure and be playing in Tampa come October!
- Shea Weber- The 6 year pro and Predator captain is one of the best defensmen in the NHL today. The Norris runner up is due a nice raise from the 4.5 mil he was making. (If Erhoff is worth 4.5 mil, what is he?) The question here is not whether Nashville has cap space (it has 24 mil right now) , but can the small market(revenue) team afford to match a potentially front loaded type deal? David Poile is one of the more respected GM's so we doubt a rival GM will attempt to poach Weber. ( Team opted for arbitration. Not a free agent unless team walks away from hefty award)
- Drew Doughty- The LA defensemen took a bit of a step backwards last season, but still was one of the better at his position and would be a welcome addition to any teams' backline. Coming off his entry-level deal Drew should expect a nice raise (team mate Jack Johnson got a nice long deal last season at 4.5 per) Cap issues aren't huge in LA, and we expect Drew to get signed well before training camp.
- Zach Bogosian- The Winnipeg Jet (hard getting used to writing that LOL) The big kid from Massena, New York is the 'poor man's Doughty' as one scout told me. He has all the tools and will be a Norris finalists some day, but right now is a step behind Doughty(as he was in the 2008 draft) That said, the kid is due a nice raise and would be worth an offer sheet for a team looking to upgrade their defense in the long term. The problem is Winnipeg (Atlanta)has plenty of cap space to match almost any offer
- Luke Schenn -Even playing on a bad Toronto team the past 3 seasons its apparent this kid is good. Perhaps brought up too soon, but he should be a fine defender for a lot of years. Toronto doesn't have cap space some other teams do, but we doubt that Brian Burke would allow 'his boy' to get away. I'm also not sold that Schenn would be worth throwing huge $$'s at.
- Brad Marchand-Yes, the same Marchand that was among the best players for the Stanley Cup champs this past spring.The diminutive 23 yr old had a nice 20 goal rookie season, but it was his strong playoffs that might entice a fellow GM to throw an offer sheet his way. The Bruins have the space to fit him if that would happen, but would the usually tight fisted Jacobs want to over pay a player?
- Karl Alzner- WE would have thought the Caps would have had their former first rounder locked up long term by this date, but what we're hearing is that Alzner is looking for a 5 year 30 mil deal and the Caps are only offering 3 years 8 mil. Quite a bit to make up. Recently they shed some payroll to try to toward off a possible offer sheet which would force George McPhee to trade assets he otherwise wouldn't. They still are right up against the cap max but would a rival GM think Karl is worth big time money?
- Micheal Frolik -The former Florida 1st round pick had a disappointing 3rd season after promising 20 goal campaigns in the sunshine state, prompting his late season trade to the former cup champs. He did manage 5 points in Chicago's brief 7 game playoff run and based upon past performance, his age (23) he could still be looked upon and a player worth looking into. With Chris Campoli also needing to be signed in addition to a decent back up goalie (will Turco return?) can/will Chicago match a potential offer sheet for the Czech forward?
- Josh Gorges -(Arbitration eligible)
- Kyle Turris-Has yet to live up to his draft position (taken 3rd overall in 2007) but has shown improvement in each of his 3 pro seasons. Has all the tools and a good work ethic but it would be interesting and a bit of a conflict of interest that a team is owned by the NHL might be the ones who decide on whether to match an offer sheet or even to try to dissuade a rival GM from doing so?
- Blake Wheeler-The 24 year old power forward who like Turris (a Phoenix draft choice) is so far been a bit of a disappointment from his draft position (5th overall in 2004) but he has scored 21 and 18 goals twice in his 3 NHL seasons, so many would still consider him a 2nd line RW. Is he worth taking chance with an offer sheet? Probably not in my opinion. As one asst GM told Fauxrumors, 'There's a reason this is his 3rd organization'. No further elaboration given
5) To sum up I'd have to say its VERY unlikely we'll see any offer sheets thrown to any of the above players. It might make for a good story/see papers/attract blog traffic, but it belies logic that any will be going anywhere this summer. The clubs involved either have plenty of cap space, or need to retain their marquis player to stay relevant or need to stay at the cap floor. The top end talent is too valuable to let go, and the lesser available RFA's are not good enough try to poach. Sorry folks, no big news here.