Kevin Allen: Could late offer sheet change the game in Ottawa or Vancouver?
Every offseason I read a speculation story about how this will be the season teams start handing out offer sheets like they were Halloween treats.
I always roll my eyes.
Through the years, I’ve talked to general managers often enough to know that there will never be a rush to hand out offer sheets because history shows they don’t work.
But I’ve felt differently this offseason because the salary cap is flat, multiple teams have cap issues and nobody can be sure that real dollar revenue will be as robust as it has been in the past. The confluence of those events made offer sheets look more possible than they have in the past.
We’ve already seen one offer sheet with Jersperi Kotkaniemi, and I’m not totally convinced that will be the only one we see.
With Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson and Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk still sitting out there as restricted free agents, I’m starting to wonder whether a team might take a run at one of those players through an offer sheet.
Vancouver’s vulnerability is that their salary cap situation will be a mess if they, for example, were forced to match a $10 million offer for Pettersson.
The Canucks would have next-to-nothing left to re-sign Quinn Hughes.
Meanwhile, Brady Tkachuk reportedly turned down what seems to be a fair offer (eight years, $8 million per year) from the Senators. Is that an indication that he is expecting something better from another team?
I see teams with Cap space that desperately could use either of those players and I wonder why we haven’t seen an offer yet.
The Columbus Blue Jackets desperately need a No. 1 center. The Anaheim Ducks could use one. Detroit, Nashville and New Jersey also have the cap space. Even the New York Rangers could do it with some roster trimming.
All of those teams could a player such as Tkachuk who gives a team the blend of offense and physical play that NHL coaches want.
We all know the reasons why those teams don’t want to do it: With the exception of probably the Rangers, those teams aren’t close enough to being competitive to take advantage of the player’s ability. It might be three years into a seven-year deal for Columbus, Anaheim, Detroit or New Jersey to take advantage of Tkachuk's or Pettersson's ability.
But didn’t Montreal’s run this past season remind us yet again that some teams are closer than we think they are?
The other argument is Vancouver or Tkachuk will match. Maybe they will. Probably they will. No teams wanted to let a player be poached.
But we won't know what they will do until a player accepts an offer sheet. You can't win if you don't play.
The reason why the offer sheet worked for Jesperi Kotkaniemi is that the Canadiens were lukewarm about the player. They aren’t sure whether he will ever be the player they hoped he would be. If that offer sheet had gone to a player like Nick Suzuki, they undoubtedly matched.
If you offer either Tkachuk or Pettersson $10 million, you are probably overpaying, but you keep the compensation to two first round picks, a second and a third. That’s not such a steep price that you would never do it, and yet it’s enough to possibly tempt the players’ team not to match.
This would be a bold play. But you don’t acquire established talented players unless you are bold and creative.
I don’t know if any of these teams with cap space will make a play for either of those players. But some of them have at least talked about it.