It’s the time of year again when you can see potential for RFA offer sheets only to be let down. That doesn’t mean we can’t think up some interesting scenarios. For some teams it makes more sense than others. One team that I think could stand to gamble a little bit are the Buffalo Sabres. They got very lucky and will be getting their franchise defenseman to play alongside their franchise center. Their defense has been terrible for years now and I think there is opportunity on the horizon.
If I’m Jason Botterill I think about putting my first three draft picks of 2019 in play to improve the team. I have two different paths for the Sabres to take. Neither may work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try.
The first situation would be for the Sabres to send offer sheets to both Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck. This is an old Travis Yost strategy from a few years back with the LA Kings. He suggested that a team give a double offer sheet to pending RFA’s Tyler Toffoli and Martin Jones. He staggered the offers so that the Toffoli one would be for a 1st and 3rd round pick while the Jones one would be for a second only. This would put the Kings in a situation where they’d really have to think about the money they were spending. I would offer a first and third round compensation to Jacob Trouba and a second to Connor Hellebuyck.
Here are the updated compensation packages for RFA offer sheets per Elliotte Friedman in his 31 thoughts article:
So that would have Trouba at $6,088,980 and Hellebuyck at $4,059,322. The flaw in this plan would be the players declining the offers because they want more. It’s probable that this wouldn't work because the salaries are too low for the Jets not to match.
The other plan would be to just target Jacob Trouba only and give him an offer in that $6,088,980-$8,118,641 range and use up all three picks on Trouba. This would put the Jets in a tough spot with looming Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor contracts on the horizon. The Jets could potentially match any offer, but it wouldn’t be on their terms.
Giving up your first three draft picks sounds pretty rough, but not when you look back at what some of them are. Jason Botterill would be gambling that the Sabres wouldn’t be a high probability lottery pick in 2018-19, but I am inclined to take that gamble based on Dahlin’s addition and other potential upgrades to the roster.
Here is how the Sabres used the first three draft picks of previous seasons
Trade (part of O’Reilly deal)
Trade (part of Neuvirth/Halak trade)
Trade (part of Pysyk deal)
Trade (part of Beaulieu trade)
Obviously you are banking on not drafting in the top five or else none of this RFA stuff makes sense. You can see that parting with your first three picks in the draft for a quality RFA can make some sense.
Another part of my Jacob Trouba offer sheet would be predicated on trading Rasmus Ristolainen. I would target the Edmonton Oilers and Oscar Klefbom. The Oilers can’t help but make bad trades and I do think Ristolainen’s trade value is higher than his actual value depending on the team you target. Edmonton would be one of those teams. Here’s a comparison of Trouba and Ristolainen.
Team effects do play a role here, but I don’t think enough to bridge the gap between the two players.
Using this plan of attack the best case scenario would have the Sabres top four defense with Rasmus Dahlin, Jacob Trouba, Oscar Klebom, and Marco Scandella. Not too shabby from where they were.
A worst case scenario is that you make Winnipeg’s GM angry and force their hand into contracts they didn’t negotiate with Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen still on the team and all of your 2019 draft picks still in play.
I would try to gamble using this strategy and hope for the best. It seems like a low risk high reward situation.
Thanks for reading!