The Do’s and Don’ts of an Elias Pettersson Offer Sheet
The New York Rangers are bringing in a star, young center this offseason. I feel confident saying that, and I think many others do as well. The name everyone is excited about is Jack Eichel, and for good reason. Eichel is available, a stud, and it’s not a secret that he wants to play in New York. Lately in the Twittersphere, however, a new name has come up. Elias Pettersson. Pettersson, a star center on the Vancouver Canucks, was a target of the Rangers in the 2017 Draft, when they ended up with Lias Andersson instead. This is an opportunity for the Rangers to get their guy.
However, it’s complicated. Pettersson is a restricted free agent, meaning the Canucks can match any contract offer he signs with another team. Offer sheets are extremely rare in today’s NHL, but this is a perfect time for the Rangers to give one a shot.
The most recent offer sheet was offered by the Montreal Canadiens to sign Sebastian Aho. It was a laughable attempt that essentially secured a team-friendly contract for Aho’s Carolina Hurricanes. Here’s how the Rangers can have a decent attempt at signing Elias Pettersson.
DO: Offer More Money Than You’re Thinking
Here’s a hint. If the offer sheet number in your head per year is below the $10.97M cutoff that raises the compensation from two first round picks, a second round pick, and a third round pick, you’re not getting Pettersson. Not only can the Canucks find a way to match that, but that’s not nearly enough compensation for a star center. The Canucks would look disastrous if they didn’t match the contract, so they would agree to the deal and figure out their cap problems later.
Remember, teams can go over the cap limit during the offseason. Yes, Vancouver is in a terrible bind financially. No, they won’t shrug their shoulders and let their best player go for a bunch of lottery tickets because of that. Let’s be realistic here.
Thus, the contract must be $11M or more. That’s also conveniently a number that will get the Canucks nervous financially.
DON’T: Offer Pettersson A Lot of Years
The only thing young free agents love more than money is flexibility. The only thing teams hate more than shelling out money is losing their flexibility. This makes a short term offer to Pettersson perfect. Let’s say the Rangers offer Pettersson five or six years. Are the Canucks looking at being true Stanley Cup contenders in that time? Especially considering the number of pieces they would have to move to make his contract work?
Additionally, the contract walks Pettersson into unrestricted free agency while he’s still in his prime. So after he already signed a contract with another team, the Canucks would know he has the right to do so again in five or six years. This is the type of loyalty issue that the Canucks could point to if they failed to match the Rangers’ offer sheet.
Something about “the contract didn’t fit our window and the four first round picks allow us to create a roster with an environment of players who want to be here” blah blah blah. You get it.
Sure, it would be unfortunate for the Rangers to have to pay Pettersson more, again later on, but offer sheets are supposed to hurt. That’s the point.
DO: Give the Canucks An Idea of What’s Happening….But Not Too Much Time
I’m well prepared for people to hate this idea, but realistically offer sheets don’t happen because GMs hate catching each other off guard. They know they’re all humans and they don’t want to mess with the fraternity. It’s dumb, but it’s true.
There are two reasons why Chris Drury should give Jim Benning a little 24 hour window to know what’s going on.
One, Benning may realize he can’t match the Rangers offer and negotiate a trade that involves players and picks rather than four first round picks. This would help the Rangers in terms of asset management.
Two, if the Rangers acquired Pettersson for players and picks, they may be able to knock down the AAV a bit because he wouldn’t know yet what the team’s offer was going to be. Maybe the team can get an extra year or two on the deal as well.
There’s of course the possibility that Benning would rat the Rangers out to Pettersson’s agent, making them spend more, or trade Pettersson elsewhere, but it’s worth it to see if there’s a deal to be made.
DON’T: Expect It To Work
Look, if the Rangers offer Pettersson five years at $12M per year, the Canucks are going to have a very, very hard time matching that. Not only financially, but in terms of logistics. It’s entirely a player-friendly contract in a world where the Canucks desperately need team-friendly contracts.
But there are reasons offer sheets rarely go out, and there are reasons they rarely work. Teams do not want to lose star players in the first place, better yet watch them sign with another team while technically still under their own control. It’s embarrassing and makes everyone in the organization look weak.
The contract I’m suggesting would be disastrous for Vancouver to match, but they may deem it more disastrous to deal with the fallout of not retaining their star (and trying to replace him).
All in all, I don’t think the Rangers will offer sheet Pettersson. If they do, I don’t expect it to work. But enough with the 8 year, $8M per projections I’ve seen on Twitter. An offer sheet that he signs and the Canucks match needs to be a massively player-friendly deal. We shall see what happens.