6 Restricted Free Agents NHL Teams Should Give an Offer Sheet To

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2020

6 Restricted Free Agents NHL Teams Should Give an Offer Sheet To

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    Pierre-Luc Dubois
    Pierre-Luc DuboisJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    First, there was the Stanley Cup Final. Then came the NHL draft. Then there was the fiscal windfall that is the onset of unrestricted free agency.

    Now, it's time to turn your attention to restricted free agency, where teams will try to lure players away from their respective teams with offer sheets.

    If a restricted free agent signs an offer sheet, his team has seven days to match it. If the team does so, the player stays with that team and cannot be traded for a year. If the team chooses not to match, the acquiring team gets the player and surrenders a set package of draft picks to the other team based on the financial terms of the offer sheet.

    While offer sheets might seem like an effective way for teams to poach talent from rivals, they aren't frequently used. In fact, no player since Dustin Penner in 2007 has signed one and had it not matched.

    Although they aren't especially common, we've surveyed the restricted-free-agent market and compiled a list of players for whom an offer sheet might be worthwhile.

    All salary-cap information courtesy of Cap Friendly.

Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders

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    Jim McIsaac/Associated Press

    Age: 23

    2019-20 Salary: $832,500

    Statistics: 19 goals, 41 assists in 68 regular-season games; 5 goals, 12 assists in 22 postseason games

    If you watched the New York Islanders in the playoffs and liked what you saw, chances are it had something to do with the play of Barzal, a speedy center who was the league's top rookie in 2017-18.

    He led the Islanders in scoring during the regular season and was third in the postseason, all for the bargain-basement salary of $832,500.  

    It'd probably take a mega-offer to get New York to forfeit its young star, but if a team with extra cash is searching for a piece to build around, he fits the bill.

Ethan Bear, D, Edmonton Oilers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Age: 23

    2019-20 Salary: $700,000

    Statistics: 5 goals, 16 assists in 71 regular-season games

    Unless you're an Edmonton Oilers fan, you may not know much about Ethan Bear. But as any follower of the copper and blue will testify, he was a full-on revelation in 2019-20.

    The sturdy defenseman stepped into an injury-riddled blue-line corps with only 18 NHL games under his belt and averaged more than 20 minutes per night across 71 games, many in the team's top pairing.

    A would-be suitor could take advantage of the Oilers' cash-strapped status to perhaps overpay for him now, but he'd likely be a bargain two or three seasons down the road.

Anthony Cirelli, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Age: 23

    2019-20 Salary: $700,000

    Statistics: 16 goals, 28 assists in 68 regular-season games; 3 goals, 6 assists in 25 postseason games

    Pity the poor Tampa Bay Lightning. 

    From a celebratory lap in the Edmonton bubble to a boat parade in Tampa's Hillsborough River, the Stanley Cup champions are living the lives of kings. But there's bookkeeping work to be done, and quickly.  

    Because the Lightning have a cap situation that's among the league's most challenging, they'll soon have to deal with Cirelli, a 23-year-old who's excelled as a two-way forward and was a solid third-line option while making just $700,000 in 2019-20. He's another case where a team might overpay to pry him out but would eventually find itself with a possible Selke Trophy winner at a worthwhile rate.

Tony DeAngelo, D, New York Rangers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Age: 24

    2019-20 Salary: $925,000

    Statistics: 15 goals, 38 assists in 68 regular-season games

    A first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014, DeAngelo was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2016 and split a season between the NHL and AHL before heading to New York in a deal that sent Derek Stepan to the southwest in 2017.

    DeAngelo became a full-timer and played 61 games in 2018-19 before boosting that total to 68 games this past season while scoring 15 goals and 53 points—19 of which came on the power play.

    The point total was fourth among all NHL defensemen and trailed only Norris Trophy winners Roman Josi and Victor Hedman, as well as 2020 Norris finalist John Carlson. Power-play quarterbacks aren't easy to find, and it'd be worth the risk for an enterprising general manager to throw together an offer in the $4 million neighborhood.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Age: 22

    2019-20 Salary: $832,500

    Statistics: 18 goals, 31 assists in 70 regular-season games; 4 goals, 6 assists in 10 postseason games

    And this one, it seems, is already on the mind of Jarmo Kekalainen.

    The Blue Jackets general manager appears resigned to the idea that a team might take a run at Dubois, a skilled 6'3" center who was a point-per-game player in the playoffs and already has two 20-goal seasons on his smallish NHL resume.

    Columbus made two "soft" trades, in Kekalainen's words, to clear cap room in case an offer is extended to the 2016 No. 3 overall pick. And like with several of the players sharing this list, it'd make perfect sense for a rival general manager to make the sort of over-the-top play—let's say $7.5 million per year—that might yield a big-bodied cornerstone with scoring touch and playoff mettle.

Mikhail Sergachev, D, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Age: 22

    2019-20 Salary: $832,500

    Statistics: 10 goals, 24 assists in 70 regular-season games; 3 goals, 7 assists in 25 postseason games

    The Lightning's salary-cap travails were discussed in a previous slide.

    But they're no less challenging—and perhaps even more so—when it comes to Sergachev, a 2016 top-10 overall pick who's shown the stuff of a shutdown defenseman in the shadow of Victor Hedman.

    The young Russian didn't look at all out of place during Tampa Bay's championship run, and given that the team has less than $2.9 million in cap space and three restricted free agents to satisfy, it seems a prime opportunity for a rival to make a long-term grab for a potential blue-line stalwart at, say, $5 million per year.