One very interesting aspect of free agency that almost never seems to come to fruition is the offer sheet to a restricted free agent. In fact, there have only been six players who signed offer sheets since the lockout, and only one –Dustin Penner– that wasn’t matched. Penner is the most famous of offer sheets, as Brian Burke went on a rampage that the Oilers did not properly warn him about signing Penner.
So, based on Burke’s argument, as long as a team gives fair warning, like Burke did with Phil Kessel, then it’s a-okay to target RFAs. This year, there are many names that qualify for restricted free agency, but the big names include the likes of Shea Weber, Evander Kane, Mike Green, Kris Versteeg, Erik Johnson, Mayson Raymond, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, and Dmitry Kulikov. There’s some solid talent to be had.
First things first, compensation for poaching an RFA is as follows:
- $1,110,249 or below – No Compensation
- Over $1,110,249 to $1,682,194 – 3rd round pick
- Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 – 2nd round pick
- Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 – 1st round pick, 3rd
- Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 – 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd
- Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 – Two 1st Round picks, 2nd, 3rd
- Over $8,410,976 – Four 1st Round picks
One thing to remember is that this compensation is based off of a maximum of five years on the contract. What this means is that if the Rangers were to offer Shea Weber a ten-year deal worth $50 million ($5 million a year), the compensation amount is based off of a five-year $50 million deal ($10 million a year).
The teams that have trouble signing their RFAs are the teams with limited cap flexibility, be it internal cap or league-mandated cap. Clearly Nashville falls into this category with Weber. Also the Blues fall into this category with an owner-mandated cap and both Oshie and Perron out on the RFA market. Winnipeg (Kane), Vancouver (Raymond), Florida (Versteeg, Kulikov), Washington (Green), and Colorado (Johnson) all have plenty of room to sign their RFAs.
So the three main players that might be targeted are Weber, Oshie, and Perron. The Rangers have over $21 million in cap space* and need for defensive and scoring depth. Considering Perron is more of the Ryan Callahan type of player, that leaves Weber and Oshie.
*-I’m ignoring the summer cap space because that is essentially voided by Wade Redden.
The cost for Weber would be astronomical. Assuming it would cost roughly $7.5-$8 million annually to sign him, that would cost the Rangers two 1sts, a 2nd, and a 3rd for his services. Granted that isn’t really much to pay for Weber, but the cost is more in the cap hit than it is the draft picks. So for all intents and purposes, let’s eliminate Weber from this as well due to cost constraints.
That leaves Oshie, a 50 point player last season. The 26 year old center also has relatively decent defensive metrics, so he’s not exactly a one dimensional player. Comparable contracts for him fall in the Brandon Dubinsky range of about $4 million a season. That cost is a 1st and a 3rd round pick for a player that is entering his prime and could provide some secondary scoring.
However the risk of poaching an RFA is that it may happen to you when you are in the same situation. Let’s remember that the Rangers have five key RFAs (Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer) coming up after next season. It’s definitely a risk, and when you narrow the RFAs down to the realistic possibilities, it may not be worth it.