When the NHL's free-agent period begins July 1, the focus will be upon the fate of the top unrestricted free agents. Another group worth watching this summer will be the best restricted free agents. While the rights of these players remain with their respective teams, the possibility exists one or more could sign an offer sheet from another team.
Restricted free agents (RFAs) can hold contract talks with rival teams on the day following the NHL draft, which is June 29 this year. That's also the due date their respective teams can send them qualifying offers. RFAs become ineligible to receive offer sheets once they've either signed a qualifying offer or head to arbitration.
An offer sheet is, in fact, a contract negotiated between a player and a rival club. Offer sheets are usually a rare occurrence. Since the implementation of a salary cap in 2005, only eight NHL players signed offer sheets, and of those only one, Dustin Penner, was successfully signed away.
This season, however, could be different. NESN.com's Nicholas Goss reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projects the salary cap for 2014-15 could increase from $64.3 million to between $69-$70 million. Following a season in which the salary cap was artificially lowered from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, some general managers might test their luck with an offer sheet. The lack of quality depth in this summer's UFA market could also be a motivating factor.
Here's a listing of 10 restricted free agents who could receive offer sheets, how much it could take to sign them and possible scenarios by which they could be signed away.
Note: Player stats via NHL.com. Salary information via CapGeek.com.