With July 1 coming up, free agency is just around the corner for many NHL players. However, there are both restricted and unrestricted free agents that are available to all 30 NHL teams.
Unrestricted free agents come on the open market and are free to sign with any team of their choosing, whether they want to play for a specific team, maximize their compensation or whatever their criteria might be based on.
Restricted free agents, however, do not have it quite that simple, as their current teams are able to match any contract offer any other team might throw their way. While in past years most GMs have frowned upon the practice, there occasionally has been a team willing to fight through the backlash it might cause to try and "steal" an asset away from an opposing team.
Recent examples of this include San Jose's Niklas Hjalmarsson being signed to a four-year $14 million offer sheet by the San Jose Sharks, only to have it matched by his original team (Chicago). In fact, seven of the last eight players who have signed offer sheets have been retained by their original team, the lone exception being Dustin Penner, who signed a five-year $21.5 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 26, 2007.
GM Kevin Lowe had been looking to make a splash and first set his sights on Tomas Vanek, who was signed to a seven-year $50 million contract, only to be matched by Buffalo a few weeks earlier. Lowe ended up overpaying for Penner, who ended up not living up to his contract and was dealt at last year's trade deadline to the Los Angeles Kings.
That's the thing with restricted free agency: Even if by some chance the offer isn't matched, you still have to pay the compensation and the player has to pan out. Beyond that, there is compensation that is given to the original team if they choose not to match the contract. The current compensation rules are as follows:
- $1,034,249 or below: No compensation
- $1,034,250-$1,567,043: A third-round draft pick.
- $1,567,044-$3,134,088: A second-round draft pick.
- $3,134,089-$4,701,131: A first and third-round draft pick.
- $4,701,132-$6,268,175: A first, second and third-round draft pick.
- $6,268,176-$7,835,219: Two firsts, a second and a third-round draft pick.
- Over $7,835,219: Four first-round draft picks.
Some of the names would easily be worth the cost of two firsts, a second and a third-round pick, so GMs better be careful they do not allow some of these players to hit the open market, even the restricted free-agent market.
I hope you enjoy the list...
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