5 Restricted Free Agents NHL Teams Should Sign To an Offer Sheet

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured Columnist IVJune 29, 2022

5 Restricted Free Agents NHL Teams Should Sign To an Offer Sheet

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    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09:  Kaapo Kakko #24 of the New York Rangers skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

    The NHL's annual free-agent signing period begins at noon ET on July 13. While unrestricted free agents can sign with any team, a restricted free agent can only change clubs if he is traded, doesn't receive a qualifying offer (thus making him an unrestricted free agent) or signs an offer sheet from a rival team.

    The player informs his current team once he's signed an offer sheet, giving it seven days to match it. If the club doesn't match it, he is free to join his new team, while his former squad receives a predetermined number of draft picks as compensation.

    On May 18, the NHL released its annual average value scale for offer sheets in 2022. Per Sportsnet, the compensation is as follows:

    • $1,386,490 or below: No compensation.
    • Over $1,386,490 to $2,100,742: Third-round pick.
    • Over $2,100,742 to $4,201,488: Second-round pick.
    • Over $4,201,488 to $6,302,230: First-round pick and third-round pick.
    • Over $6,302,230 to $8,402,975: First-round pick, second-round pick, third-round pick.
    • Over $8,402,975 to $10,503,720: Two first-round picks, a second-round pick and a third-round pick.
    • Over $10,503,720: Four first-round picks.

    General managers rarely employ the offer-sheet tactics because they're often matched. Since the salary-cap era began in 2005, only two players have been successfully signed away. Dustin Penner inked a deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 2007, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed with the Carolina Hurricanes last September.

    Nevertheless, it's possible that at least one of this summer's restricted free agents, such as New York Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko, will sign one. Here's a look at Kakko and four other potential candidates teams should sign to offer sheets this offseason, including what it could cost to get a deal done.

    Did you agree with our list? Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments section below.

Noah Dobson, New York Islanders

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    ELMONT, NEW YORK - APRIL 29: Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at UBS Arena on April 29, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    After two seasons of adjusting to the NHL, Noah Dobson enjoyed a breakout performance in 2021-22. The 22-year-old defenseman finished third among New York Islanders scorers with 51 points in 80 games, leading them in time on ice per game (21:28) and blocked shots (154).

    Dobson is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello could use that to his advantage, forcing the young blueliner to accept a two- or three-year contract worth between $2 million and $3 million per season.

    That would leave Dobson with little leverage unless he refuses to report to training camp or signs an offer sheet worth around $5 million per year. With $12 million in salary-cap space and 18 players under contract, the Isles can afford to match. However, it wouldn't leave much to bolster an offense whose 2.79 goals-per-game average tied for 22nd in 2021-22.

    Rival general managers could be wary of signing Dobson to an offer sheet. In November 2020, The Athletic's Eric Duhatschek indicated Lamoriello "commands a healthy level of respect—and fear—from his peer group." Still, there's always a first time for everything. Perhaps one of them will feel emboldened enough to take the chance.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Winnipeg Jets

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    WINNIPEG, MB - APRIL 24: Pierre-Luc Dubois #80 of the Winnipeg Jets keeps an eye on the play during second period action against the Colorado Avalanche at Canada Life Centre on April 24, 2022 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

    Pierre-Luc Dubois has been with the Winnipeg Jets for just one-plus season. However, the 24-year-old center is already looking ahead to unrestricted free agency. Last Wednesday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman (h/t theScore's Josh Wegman) reported that Dubois informed management of his plans to test the market in 2024.

    Dubois will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights July 13. He's completing a two-year contract he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets before they traded him to the Jets in January 2021. His annual salary-cap hit is $5 million, though he earned $6.7 million in base salary in 2021-22.

    The Jets have time to convince him to stick around considering his value to their roster. The 6'2", 205-pound Dubois is a versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing and puts up solid offensive numbers, tallying 28 goals and 60 points in 81 games in 2021-22.

    Friedman also reported the Jets hope to keep him for a long time. However, his intent to test the 2024 UFA market could make him open to an offer sheet this summer.

    It might cost around $8 million annually on a long-term deal to sign him. With $18 million in salary-cap space but only 13 players under contract for 2022-23, Winnipeg could be reluctant to match that type of offer.

Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers

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    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09:  New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) enters the ice prior to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 9, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Selected by the New York Rangers with the second overall pick in 2019, Kaapo Kakko has been slow to blossom into the scoring star he was projected to become. In what was expected to be his breakout season in 2021-22, injuries limited the 21-year-old winger to 18 points in 43 games.

    However, he showed signs of improvement during the 2022 playoffs, with five points in 19 games.

    Kakko is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Rangers are carrying $11.9 million in cap space, with forwards Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp slated to become unrestricted free agents. General manager Chris Drury could use his leverage to sign Kakko to a two-year bridge deal worth around $2.5 million annually in hope of leaving enough cap room for Strome or Copp.

    However, there's concern among some Rangers followers that Kakko could sign an offer sheet. Following the Blueshirts' elimination from the Eastern Conference Final, the New York Post's Larry Brooks observed the young winger was a healthy scratch in the series-ending Game 6 defeat. He wondered if that might make Kakko willing to entertain offers from rival clubs.

    Earlier this month, Kakko seemed to downplay that idea.

    "I like to play here, so I don't think so,” he told reporters.

    Nevertheless, a rival GM could explore that option to see what it would take to pry the young Finn away from the Rangers.

Andrew Mangiapane, Calgary Flames

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    CALGARY, AB - MAY 26: Calgary Flames Left Wing Andrew Mangiapane (88) skates with the puck during the second period of game 5 of the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers on May 26, 2022, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Calgary Flames have two stars to sign in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Both are coming off career-best performances and could cost a combined $18 million to re-sign, taking a big chunk out of the Flames' $26.9 million in cap space for 2022-23. That could make it difficult to re-sign Andrew Mangiapane.

    A versatile, hard-working forward who can skate on either wing, the 26-year-old Mangiapane is completing a two-year contract worth $2.4 million per season. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he's also a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility.

    Mangiapane has steadily developed into a reliable second-line scorer for the Flames. He netted 17 goals in 68 games in 2019-20 and 18 goals in 56 games during the coronavirus-shortened schedule in 2020-21. Last season, he tallied a career-best 35 goals along with 55 points to finish fourth among Flames scorers.

    Should Gaudreau and Tkachuk sign contract extensions, a rival team could approach Mangiapane with an offer sheet worth $5.5 million per season. That could prove too expensive for the Flames to match, as it would leave little remaining cap space to fill out the rest of their roster, including signing RFA defenseman Oliver Kylington to a new deal.

Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes

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    RALEIGH, NC - MAY 14: Carolina Hurricanes Right Wing Martin Necas (88) warms up prior to game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes on May 14, 2022 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Katherine Gawlik/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Katherine Gawlik/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    A 41-point performance in 53 games by Martin Necas during the shortened 2020-21 campaign raised expectations of a breakthrough performance by the Carolina Hurricanes forward. Instead, he managed 40 points in 78 games and was held to just five assists in 14 playoff contests last season.

    According to the News & Observer's Chip Alexander, Necas said earlier this month that he and head coach Rod Brind'Amour need to trust each other more. The 23-year-old forward is coming off an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. He indicated he'd like to stay, but Alexander speculated he could be playing elsewhere next season.

    Necas could become a trade candidate if he and Hurricanes management fail to work out a suitable agreement. It could also entice a rival club seeking a promising young scoring forward to pitch him an offer sheet.

    Given Necas' lack of leverage, an offer sheet worth $4.5 million per season would be a more lucrative deal than what he might otherwise get with the Hurricanes. With $19.4 million in salary-cap space and free agents such as Tony DeAngelo, Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter to re-sign or replace, Carolina might be unable or unwilling to match.

    Stats via NHL.com with salary information via Cap Friendly.